Have you ever ridden an Icelandic horse, or are you planning to? It is an amazing experience to try while you are visiting Iceland. Icelandic horses are beautiful and exceptional creatures. For over a thousand years, the Icelandic horse has only been bred within the boundaries of Iceland. They are very tough and have adapted to survive in harsh weather conditions, yet they are very friendly and gentle with people. But what makes Icelandic horses even more unique are their gaits. All horses have three of them while Icelandic horses can do five in total.
Every horse in the world has walk, trot, and canter gaits. Icelandic horses can add two more - the tölt and flying pace. Whether you have ridden a horse before, or don't have any experience and knowledge about horses at all, that is just fine. Let us explain each of the five gaits you can expect to see only if you ride or watch the Icelandic horse.
Like humans and other animals, a walk is the most common and natural movement for horses. Two of the horse’s hooves always touch the ground, and all hooves move forward at an even pace.
Also called the diagonal gait, the trot is a movement when the horse lifts a hind leg and a front leg at the same time, and in mid-stride has all four of its hooves suspended off the ground.
During the canter, in the odd sequence, four hooves lift and touch the ground, while two legs at the same time bear the horse’s full weight. This gait is usually arduous for the horse.
Tölt is a very smooth, four-beat lateral and natural gait for Icelandic horses. While riding tölt, the speed can be from very slow (up to 32km/h), there is no worry that you will feel uncomfortable at any moment.
The fifth gait, typical only for Icelandic horses, is the flying pace. This is a very fast movement, where a horse can go up to 48km/h during a short distance - from 100 to 200 meters. Not all Icelandic horses can do flying pace, and of course, those who do manage are automatically considered to be the best of the best.
Don't hesitate to go for a ride on an Icelandic horse. There is so much more to write about them because Icelandic horses are simply wonderful. But for now, don't forget - Icelandic horses might only be 132-142cm tall, but they are not ponies, they are real horses, only smaller.:-)