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about Icelandic horses

Walk. Trot. Canter. Tölt. Pace.

The Icelandic horse has five natural gaits, its special gaits - tölt & flying pace - making it a fascinating ride. Tölt, a four-beat gait with a big speed range, will carry the rider smoothly over long distances. It is so comfortable that the rider can hold a filled cup without spilling a drop - a fact often celebrated at shows in fun classes & as a crowd pleaser. The exhilarating flying pace is the king discipline with the fastest horses running at almost 35mph over short distances.

These sure-footed horses are bred to be spirited, willing, arduous & hardy. They average around 13.3 hands & will safely carry adults. Their gaits are their specialty, but their versatility will allow for use in other disciplines like endurance, jumping, driving & dressage. This horse is an easy keeper, highly social & will thrive living outside in herds.

The charismatic horse originated on the remote island of Iceland, where the purity of the breed & the complete lack of equine diseases have been preserved through an import ban for over 900 years. Any horse that leaves the island will never be able to return. Registered Icelandics abroad have to prove a complete lineage back to the home country.

The best horses of Iceland compete every two years at Landsmot, while the World Championship travels between European countries but will never be able to take place in the horse's country of origin due to the import ban.

The 5 Gaits


This famous specialty gait is incredibly smooth & comfortable, ranging from slightly faster than walk all the way to top speed of around 20mph. Horses are naturally born with it & foals can be observed tölting in the pasture. Correctly ridden, this gait should be effortless & bubbly with good hind-end engagement allowing free & light movement of the front legs.

In this gait, every hoof hits the ground at an even interval, resulting in a clear four-beat. The horse rotates through one or two leg support: one – two diagonal – one – two lateral,… The fact that there is always at least one hoof on the ground & the gait is therefore lacking suspension, makes it so comfortable. Deviations towards a longer diagonal phase (trotty) or lateral phase (pacey) are not desirable & can be signs of tension, stiffness or lack of self-carriage.

Flying Pace.

This is a racing gait & considered the absolute pinnacle of the sport. This is a lateral gait, performed up to 35mph. It is natural to Icelandics with the right gene combination, so called 5-gaiters. A good pace is comfortable, powerful & fast with good suspension. It should be almost two-beat with a slight (!) delay acceptable in high speeds. Stiff pace with lack of suspension & speed (piggy pace) is undesirable.


The “opposite” to pace, trot is a diagonal gait with suspension. It should be two-beat.


Walk is – like tölt – a clear four-beat gait with no suspension. The horse has three feet on the ground, then a diagonal support, three feet on the ground, followed by a lateral support… Accordingly, diagonal/trotty walk or lateral/pacey walk should be avoided.


Canter is the only non-symmetrical gait. It is a three-beat gait, in which the horse rolls from one hindleg over a diagonal to the opposite front leg & then lifts off into a jump.

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