The Icelandic horse has been called the indispensable servant since the island was first settled, and has served that role beautifully through the ages.
Icelandic horses are traditionally kept in big herds while growing up. Most Icelandic horses in the world are kept outside or in open stables their whole life all year around, and only the riding horses in Iceland are usually in stables over the winter. In spring, as soon as there is enough grass in the pastures the horses are let out to graze through the whole summer and autumn.
In Iceland, people who keep their horses in the same areas in the summer gather together and often ride their riding horses in big groups to the summer pastures. This is something many horsemen are looking forward to over the whole long winter: a long spring ride with friends, horses full of excitement, while honoring the traditional way of traveling.
Many riders in Iceland consider the summer travels the highlight of the year. That is what the whole winter training has been aimed for and many hours spent with friends discussing and planning the next summers trip over coffee cup or something else. This method of traveling involves a group of people setting off from one location with a lot of horses, usually 3-5 horses per person, for a set destination. The extra horses run free and line up behind the riders in the front, while a few riders stay in the back to make sure everyone follows. Regular change of horses makes sure no one gets overworked and after few days of traveling like that, the horses build up an amazing stamina as well as joy of running. Together, both horses and their riders experience this unique sense of freedom that nothing compares to.
Organized trips are offered all over the country and one can choose between trips lasting a day or up to several weeks. Going on one of these extended trips through the spectacular Icelandic landscape is the experience of a lifetime. This is a perfect opportunity for rider and mount to become really acquainted with each other. It is when man and horse become one.
It is still a tradition in Iceland to give the riding horses an “autumn break” where they are not ridden for several weeks, often 2 - 3 months. During this time the shoes get pulled and the horses roam around big - or even huge - pastures, often in big herds. As the weather is getting colder and the horses are putting on their full winter coat, many riders report that their horses also change behaviour during this time of the year. They often seem almost like a bit sleepy, play less and have less energy while ridden. The horses of Iceland are well adapted to the climate of the country and one aspect of that is making the most of the short summers, to collect fat so that they can survive the long and often harsh winters. This is the time of year to start working with the youngsters, who are started at 3,5 years under saddle.
Stable areas in Iceland
After the autumn break the anticipation of getting the horses back in training builds up. Iceland is unique in having stabling villages by every single town where the people from that area keep their horses. These stable-villages consist of several stables, mostly privatly owned, built right next to each other, sharing the facilities around that the local riding club supports and sustaines, including trails, oval tracks, pace tracks as well as outdoor and in-door riding arenas. The "kaffistofa", or Coffee-room, is indispensible in each and every stable, often in the shape of a fully equipped (and heated!) kitchen and dining area. This is both practical and provides endless social opportunities for quick visits between the stables, as well as company to go out for a hack together and general team spirit.
The Icelandic horse is the manifestation of Icelandic nature; authentic, pure, powerful and free. Read more
Riding the Icelandic horse
The Icelandic horse provides riders with an intimate link to nature. Read more
Tack & Equipment
Icelandic horses are usually ridden with tack designed specially for the breed. Read more