Icelandic Horse Breed: What Makes It So Special?

icelandic horse pictures

The Icelandic horse is an ancient, hardy breed that has been used for centuries as a mount and working animal in its native Iceland. The breed is known for its strength, agility, and kind temperament. It has become popular worldwide as an ideal riding horse due to its sure-footedness and smooth gait.


The Icelandic horse is believed to have been brought to Iceland in the 9th century by Viking settlers and has remained relatively unchanged since that time. The breed was kept isolated, with a very little introduction of other breeds, which allowed it to remain genetically pure.


Icelandic horses are generally small to medium in size and have a double-layered coat that is ideal for keeping them warm in the harsh Icelandic winters. 

Icelandic horse size

The Icelandic horse stands between 12.2 and 14 hands (50 and 56 inches). Its weight typically ranges from 730 to 840 pounds.

The lifespan of the Icelandic horse

The Icelandic horse has an average lifespan of 35 to 40 years. However, with good care and nutrition, these horses can live much longer. The oldest reported Icelandic horse was an incredible 59 years old.

Icelandic horse temperament

The Icelandic horse is known for its gentle and friendly nature, making it an ideal riding companion for novice riders and children. They are also very sure-footed, which makes them well-suited to traverse uneven terrain.

Colors of Icelandic horses

The Icelandic horse is known for its many color variations. There are five main colors accepted by the Icelandic Horse Society, including chestnut, dun, black and white.

What is the Icelandic Horse Used for?

The Icelandic horse is a versatile breed, and they are used in many different disciplines. They are often seen in dressage, show jumping, eventing, rodeo events, and long-distance races. Icelandic horses are small but strong and known for their five gaits; walk, trot, canter/gallop, tölt, and flying pace. They also make great trail horses, as they are sure-footed and able to traverse rough terrain with ease.

Price of Icelandic Horses

The price of an Icelandic horse can vary greatly depending on the individual’s age, sex, and condition. Prices typically range from $5,000 to $20,000 USD. Potential buyers should do their research and select a reputable breeder when looking for their perfect horse.

Regular Monthly Icelandic Horse Expenses

Owning an Icelandic horse requires regular maintenance and care. Monthly expenses typically include tack, farrier visits, vaccinations, worming, hay, and bedding. These monthly costs can vary greatly depending on the individual horse’s needs and activity level.

  • Boarding – Boarding an Icelandic horse can be expensive, depending on the facility. Prices range from $400 to $1,000 per month and may include additional services such as feeding, grooming, and exercise programs.
  • Feeding – Feeding an Icelandic horse typically costs around $200 per month. This cost can increase depending on the type, quality, and quantity of feed used. Supplements may also be necessary for horses with special dietary needs.
  • Veterinary Care – Veterinary care for an Icelandic horse can be expensive, especially if the horse needs extensive treatments or medications. Routine annual vaccinations and checkups should cost around $200 to $300 per year, while emergency surgery or other treatments could potentially run into the thousands.
  • Hoof Care – Hoof care is essential for the health of any horse, Icelandic horses included. Regular farrier visits should be scheduled four to six times per year, at a cost of around $150 to $350 per visit.

FAQ About Icelandic Horse

What is special about Icelandic horses?

Icelandic horses are especially known for their five gaits, which can perform better than other breeds. These gaits include the walk, trot, gallop, tölt (a four-beat lateral ambling gait), and skeið (a very fast diagonal gait). Aside from their unique gaits, Icelandic horses are known for their intelligence, gentle disposition, hardiness, and endurance.

How do Icelandic horses stay warm?

Icelandic horses have a double-layered coat that helps them stay warm in cold climates. This coat also allows them to shed water, keeping the horse dry and comfortable. They are also able to curl up into tight balls while sleeping, which helps conserve body heat.

Can Icelandic horses carry adults?

Yes, Icelandic horses can carry adult riders. Although they are small compared to other horse breeds, their strength and endurance make them suitable for a variety of riding activities such as endurance rides, dressage, and even light jumping.

What are Icelandic horses called?

Icelandic horses are called “ponies” due to their small size, but they are actually classified as a horse breed.

Can Icelandic horses jump?

Yes, Icelandic horses can jump. Although they are not usually seen competing in show jumping events due to their smaller size, they have been known to successfully compete in some light-jumping competitions.

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