"Amongst gods and men, that horse is the best," says the 13th-century Prose Edda written by Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson. Against a backdrop of stunning glaciers and volcanoes, it is easy to appreciate the tough, smooth-gaited horses shaped by the demanding elements and the freedom of Icelandic nature. There are almost 100,000 Viking horses in Iceland, many of which are wild and roam the countryside during summer time.
The Vikings arrived in Iceland more than a thousand years ago, bringing their horses with them. When these settlers created the world’s oldest surviving Parliament in the year 930, one of their first acts was to prohibit further importation of horses. Today, more than ten centuries later, the breed remains pure and if a horse leaves Iceland it cannot return.
The Icelandic Viking horse is renowned for being sturdy, independent, friendly, spirited and sure-footed. The Icelandic horse possesses five natural gaits: the Walk, Trot, Canter, Tolt, and Pace. The tolt is a fifth gait specific to only a handful of breeds in the world and provides a smooth ride that feels like gliding. In fact, riders often demonstrate this smooth gait by carrying a tray of drinks at full speed without spilling a drop!
The Icelandic breed is known by horse enthusiasts all over the world and is particularly loved for its wide range of colors, which is a distinguishing characteristic of the Viking Horse. The Icelandic language has more than 100 names for the various colors and patterns of the horses which include unusual shades of dun, cream, silver, roan and pinto.
The horse is also distinctive for its thick and often double-sided mane and long tail. Beginners and seasoned riders alike are enraptured by the Icelandic horse, and riding tours are available from one hour to more than a week.
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