Horseback riding is kind of a hobby that is full of magic. There is undoubtedly something special in this activity. It has then become one of the most requested options in the country. The benefits of horseback riding are countless. It shapes the character, teaches humbleness, and makes us more emphatic. For some people, it is just a sport, just like trekking or swimming, for others, a form of spending time, but there is also a group of people for whom it is something beyond that. That activity turned into their passion and love. Riding horses engages all the senses and make you see the environment from a completely different perspective; you end up appreciating it even more. It is delightful, and at the same time, a healthy way of spending our free time. It will help you relax your body and strengthen your muscles.
Horses are brilliant and beautiful animals, so there is nothing to be afraid of, and it is worth it to combine this activity with your regular itinerary and plans. One of the most well-known horses in the world is the Icelandic horse. Besides riding tours in Iceland, which attract hundreds of tourists, it is also a part of the Icelandic identity, as an unofficial symbol of the country. Let’s find out more about the Icelandic horse and riding tours you can take during your journey around the island. We will start with some interesting facts about these unique creatures, which you should know, shall we?
The Icelandic Horses
The most important thing you should know is that the Icelandic horse is the only horse breed in Iceland. The Icelandic law does not allow the import of any other kind of horse. Even those who were already taken out from the island, are not allowed to enter Iceland again. It can be compared to Icelanders keeping the purity of their language. Natives of Iceland try their best to avoid their horses from mixing with other breeds. It is not only a matter of race, but there are health reasons involved too. Keeping the breed pure will prevent Icelandic horses from getting any kind of new disease they are not prepared for, and that might kill them. That is why this bread of horses does not take part in the International Federation of Horse Racing.
For Icelanders, horses are essential animals. Thus, They show great respect for these animals. From the beginning of the settlement, they were not only a means of transport but mainly a companion and faithful friends.
The horse meat is also known to have a great taste and is quite appreciated in the food market. Some of the horses in Iceland are only bred for consumption. It might seem shocking and cruel for some people, like who would eat horse, right? Anyway, we had to mention this fact, so you know that you have such a possibility too.
Are Icelandic horses ponies?
Icelandic horses are often compared and named as ponies. Their size does match the size of a pony, which is around 130-145cm. They are formally, however, registered as horses, and we do not recommend you to refer to them as ponies in front of any Icelander! Try to avoid this word when speaking with some locals, if you still want to make some friends here. There is no word like „pony” in the Icelandic language, which can give you an idea of what a great insult it is for Icelanders.
They look incredibly charming, which makes you want to squeeze them, but they are also sturdy and able to survive even in very harsh winters. That is why you should as well show them more respect and do not treat them as ponies. Meeting them while traveling around the well known Ring Road is common. They are very friendly and gentle, so there is nothing to be afraid of when approaching them. If you happen to meet them, you will see how soon they will come close to you! They are known as curious animals and will take a chance to meet new people. You can go ahead and touch them and pet them. However, do not pass the fence and do not feed them as it can only harm them. Do not miss the chance of taking a selfie with them. They are incredibly photogenic! Their character was shaped in that way due to a lack of natural predators in their environment.
Horse riding tours in Iceland
One of the most peculiar things about Icelandic horses is the fact that they have two additional gaits. In addition to walking, trotting, and gallop, they can also tölt and skeið, which makes riding tours even more exciting. No other horse breed in the world can do five gaits; usually, they can only do three or four.
Tolt is a four-bar, quick, but smooth walk, which makes the ride very convenient for the rider. You can do very long distances riding, without getting tired. The order in which the horse put the legs is front right, rear right, front left, rear left. One of the legs always touched the ground.
The Skeid, also called flying pace, is more like a gallop, but the horse is rising the limbs not diagonally. Both legs from one side rise at the same time.
While the tolt is pretty natural for the Icelandic horses, not all of the horses in Iceland can do skeid. It requires specialized training. These additional gaits of Icelandic horses make them so special and unique.
For those who like horse riding, Iceland offers a fantastic experience. And this is not only because of their smooth trot and because they are merely cute but thanks to Icelandic landscapes in which it will be done. There are many companies in Iceland offering the horse riding tours guaranteeing a fantastic experience you will never forget. I haven’t met a person who did not want to ride an Icelandic horse. You should put a riding horse day tour on your bucket list and plan it accordingly. Horseback riding in Iceland became extremely popular, which is why it is recommendable to book your visit in advance to make sure you can join the group.
One says that it is not possible to fully experience the beauty of Iceland if you do not see it from the horseback. As mentioned above, it gives you the possibility of watching the Icelandic landscapes from a very different perspective and make you even feel like a Viking!