The Icelandic horse was introduced by the first Nordic settlers, and has been kept virtually unchanged due to the physical isolation of the country and current strict regulations which forbid the import of horses and the return of Icelandic horses that have left the country. They are compact and muscular, and grow a thick coat for winter. They were an important provider of overland transportation before roads and bridges, and even today are instrumental for sheep round-up in remote locations.
In addition to working, recreational riding and showing of the horses is a popular sport for Icelanders, and there are many locations that offer excursions for tourists from an hour to multi-day tours. There were a couple of women on our flight back to the States that had been on a photography tour that spent time on a horse farm. The horses are known for having five gaits. Besides the usual walk, trot and canter/gallop it has the tölt or running walk, and the skeið or flying pace. The tölt is said to be so smooth one could drink a beer without spilling a drop, so is very comfortable for long distance travel.
Although we passed by several places that offered it, we did not go riding, but there were some horses in the fields near by the summer house, so I was able to look at them more closely. They seemed intelligent and mildly curious, although somewhat reserved. Or maybe that was since I didn’t have any treats to offer. Very beautiful, and quite the variety of colors. It was fun seeing the young ones – super cute!