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  • Writer's pictureRobin Black

Icelandic Horses are a Pure Joy to Ride

Iceland's only breed of horse is not a pony.


A fun afternoon riding friendly Icelandic Horses. Of course, there is always a barn dog, too!
A fun afternoon riding friendly Icelandic Horses. Of course, there is always a barn dog, too!

Traveling to Iceland from Denver to Reykjavik took a mere 7 hours on Icelandair. The weather can be unpredictable even during the summer months. Nome, Alaska and Reykjavik, Iceland share the same latitude at 64 degrees north. We dressed in layers and were comfortable.


Our small group booked at two-hour riding tour from a local stable not far from the trout-fishing lodge where we were staying. Other tour companies will provide transportation, guidance in English, and warm overalls, rain gear, riding boots and helmets.


Sturdy and sure-footed Icelandic horses walking before we encouraged them to shift into 5th gear (flying-pace).
Sturdy and sure-footed Icelandic horses walking right before we encouraged them to shift into 5th gear (flying-pace).

Much has been written about Icelandic horses delivering a fast-paced, smooth and exhilarating ride. The riders on our trip definitely found these small and sturdy horses to be very sure-footed over the rocky, volcanic terrain. Icelandic horses have five gaits. We had fun experiencing all five gaits, including two unique gaits, the tölt and the flying-pace. It was amazing to ride at such a fast pace and not feel the ground beneath.





A rider is preparing to mount an Icelandic horse to ride to the sea.
Preparing to mount an Icelandic horse to ride to the sea.

An American rider was pleased to connect with his Viking heritage and thoroughly enjoyed our horseback riding tour. Should you decide to take an Icelandic adventure, there are many tour companies in Iceland that offer horseback riding by the hour, day or longer. The "Lava Horseback Ride" or an online only special "Laxnes Horseback Tour" through Icelandair both start at $138






Two Icelandic horses grazing on pastureland with volcanic mountains in the background and a large body of water.
Dramatic view of the volcanic mountains that surround many bodies of water and pastureland.

Icelandic horses developed as a breed during the 9th and 10th centuries when Norse settlers brought a breed of ponies to Iceland. Because no other breed of horses have been permitted to be imported into the country, Icelandic horses live long and healthy lives.









A brown and white uniquely marked Icelandic horse walks away from the camera.
One of many beautiful Icelandic horses with unique markings

Standing only an average of 13 to 14 hands and weighing between 730 to 840 pounds, breeders and registries refer to Icelandics as horses. Icelandic horses come in many colors have very unique and beautiful markings, along with fluffy-thick and gorgeous manes.


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