Do you know what the best way to irritate an Icelander is? If you want to have a nice chitchat with someone or want to keep a long-term Icelandic friendship, remember: never ever call an Icelandic horse a pony, even… if it looks like it. The word pony doesn’t even exist in Icelandic, so imagine how big discredit for horses it is in the Icelanders’ eyes.
Horses are very important, respectful animals for all Icelanders. The whole nation expresses great esteem for them. They were very brave and faithful companions in the hard times. Icelandic sagas are full of stories about horses, about their courage, acts of bravery and an extraordinary relation between them and humans. In the old days horses were always buried next to the grave of their owners and when they died before them, there was a mourning in the household. Today, you can find horses on almost all Icelandic farms, but they are kept mostly for pleasure – Icelanders simply love horseback riding. In the autumn horses also sometimes help with sheep gathering.
Icelandic horses maybe don’t have such an elegant look like their cousins from the other parts of the world, but they are extremely charming, friendly and just jolly. Maybe they look lovely and compared to other horses more childish, but don’t be misled – in fact, they are extremely strong; real athletes in the animal world. They can survive the most severe winters, the craziest snow storms and the most vicious winds. Unlike other breeds, Icelandic horses have additional gait called tölt. It’s a four-beat lateral gait with only one foot carrying the weight at a time. Tölt provides a smooth and very comfortable ride, so you can feel as if you were almost flying in the air.
When you travel around Iceland, you will see literally thousands of horses. Many farms offer excellent horseback riding tours, so it’s a great opportunity to get to know these fantastic creatures. Iceland from the saddle looks really stunning and for sure it will awake in almost everyone a true Viking soul. Jump on the saddle!