The Icelandic horse is a unique, relatively small horse breed that came to Iceland with the Vikings approx. 1100 years ago. As a breed, Icelandic horses are famous not only for their resilience and strength as a breed but because they display 5 not 3 types of gaits. A gait is a style of walk. Traditional horses display walk, trott, and canter/gallop; however Icelandic horses also display tölt and flying pace. They are especially famous for their tölt, a smooth four-beat lateral ambling gait, which is very comfortable and can be very fast.
Pound for pound they are the strongest breed in the world. The breed can appear in 42 different color combinations, with over a hundred variations. They have a heavy double layer coat protecting them from the harsh climate of Iceland.
Iceland has very strict laws about its horses and their protection. To keep Icelandic horses disease free and guarantee breed purity, Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return. You can’t import or bring saddles from overseas or horse materials of any kind.
Horses are treasured in Iceland and deep mythology surrounds them from the time of Vikings. In Norse mythology, Sleipnir (“the slipper”) is an eight-legged horse ridden by Odin. Sleipnir is Odin’s steed and is described as the best of all horses. Sometimes he is ridden to the location of Hel (similar to Hell in the Catholic religion).