Iceland Horse

Iceland Horse

Origin: Iceland.

Height: 12-13hh; occasionally bigger.

Color: Usually gray or dun. Also dark brown, chestnut, cream, palomino, and occasionally black, piebald, and skewbald.

Character: Docile, friendly; though, like all small pony breeds, it is very independent. It has a remarkable homing instinct and can be ridden for great distances by a borrower in the sure knowledge that when it is turned loose it will directly find its way home. It responds better to the voice than the usual aids of horsemanship and is mostly controlled by the voice alone.

Physique: One of the toughest of all breeds, extremely hardy and rugged.Large head, intelligent eye. The short, thick neck on a short, stocky body; strong, clean legs, hard feet. Abundant mane and tail. It possesses exceptionally good eyesight. Riding ponies are taught an ambling gait, very popular in medieval times but now a rarity except in the Americas.

Iceland was first settled in 871 AD by Norwegians who were at odds with Harold Fairhair, who had proclaimed himself king of all Norway the year before and was not unanimously popular. Until that time no larger animal than the Arctic Fox was to be found in Iceland, but the Norwegian immi. grants brought ponies and other domestic livestock with them, and subsequently, ponies from Norse colonies in Scotland, its islands, and the Isle of Man were introduced with new settlers. These hardy, homogenous Northern pony types interbred to become the Iceland pony, though four separate types are still just about recognizable to the connoisseur. One of these, the Faxafloi, bred in the southwest of Iceland, looks quite like the Exmoor pony.

An Icelandic specialty, possibly connected with the Norwegian cult of Frey but much more probably arising out of a need for excitement and the lack of game animals to satisfy a basic bloodthirstiness, was horse fighting. The sagas are full of it; “Starkad had a good horse of chestnut hue and it was thought that no horse was his match in a fight” starts off the story of the battle of that horse and Gunnar’s brown described in the Saga of Burnt Aljal, which began as a blood feud and ended in a massacre. Owners were expected to go into the ring to assist their stallions during these fights and were not allowed to touch their opponent’s horse (though they were just as likely to be savaged as their horse was).

Since Iceland until recently had no roads and very few tracks smooth enough for the passage of wheels, the value of the Iceland pony for pack and communications purposes was inestimable. This was heightened on one-way journeys by the pony’s ability to go home by itself. Up until this century, the ponies were also exported to the British Isles to work in the coal mines and as pack and Draft animals, and, in the teeth of strong competition from the good native British breeds, were much in demand for their strength, endurance, and good nature.

Modern attempts to refine the Iceland pony with Thoroughbred blood have failed since the offspring appear to inherit the good qualities of neither parent. Today’s Iceland pony divides loosely into pack, riding, and Drafttypes, with an emphasis on the first two, though all are fit to ride if the occasion warrants it. Since beef cattle cannot endure the hard Icelandic winters ponies are also used for food, separate herds being kept for meat and for work.

See more: History of Irish Cob

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *