A breed apart...
The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland. Although the horses are small, at times even pony-sized, most registries for the Icelandic refer to it as a horse d. Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. The Icelandic displays two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. These gaits are Tölt and Flying Pace. Tölt is a four beat running walk that has a large speed range and no moment of suspension. Therefore, the gait is extremely smooth, making the breed very popular for long distance trekking. Flying Pace, in contrast is a two beat lateral gait that is extremely fast. While all Icelandic Horses should have Tölt, not all possess the Flying Pace.
Developed from ponies taken to Iceland by Scandinavian settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries, the breed is mentioned in literature and historical records throughout Icelandic history; the first reference to a named horse appears in the 12th century. Selective breeding over the centuries has developed the breed into its current form. Natural selection has also played a role, as the harsh Icelandic climate eliminated many horses through cold and starvation.
Icelandic horses weigh between 730 and 840 pounds and stand an average of 13 and 14 hands high, which is often considered pony size, but breeders and breed registries always refer to Icelandics as horses. Several theories have been put forward as to why Icelandics are always called horses, among them the breed's spirited temperament and large personality, and the lack of a word in Icelandic for "pony". Another theory suggests that the breed's weight, bone structure and weight-carrying abilities mean it can be classified as a horse, rather than a pony.
The breed comes in many coat colors, including chestnut, dun, bay, black, gray, palomino, pinto and roan. There are over 100 names for various colors and color patterns in the Icelandic language.They have well-proportioned heads, with straight profiles and wide foreheads. The neck is short, muscular, and broad at the base; the withers broad and low; the chest deep; the shoulders muscular and slightly sloping; the back long; the croup broad, muscular, short and slightly sloping. The legs are strong and short, with relatively long cannon bones and short pasterns. The mane and tail are full, with coarse hair, and the tail is set low. The breed is known to be hardy and an easy keeper.
Members of the breed are not usually ridden until they are four or five years old, and structural development is not complete until age seven. Their most productive years are between eight and eighteen, although they retain their strength and stamina into their twenties. An Icelandic mare that lived in Denmark reached a record age of 56, while another horse, living in Great Britain, reached the age of 42. The horses are highly fertile, and both sexes are fit for breeding up to age 25; mares have been recorded giving birth at age 27.
The horses tend to not be easily spooked, probably the result of not having any natural predators in their native Iceland. Icelandics tend to be friendly, docile and easy to handle, although also enthusiastic and self-assured.