Beautiful Right out of the Gait

Beautiful Right out of the Gait

Blonds, brunettes and red heads, bangs, bobs and you name it, these pretty babes are all about the hair! Of course I’m talking about Icelandic Horses. And don’t call them ponies around a Viking if you know what’s good for you!

The Icelandic horse was originally brought to Iceland from Scandinavia by settlers back in the 9th and 10th centuries, and because Icelandic law has prevented the further importation of horses since 982 AD, the breed has remained pure throughout the last millennium. These hardy animals have had to endure the cold and wind, food shortages, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, so the ones you see today are as rugged as it gets.

An Icelandic Horse stares down the camera, in West Iceland.

An Icelandic Horse stares down the camera, in West Iceland.


While they are rather small, some would say pony sized (but again, not in front of a Viking!), they are always classified as horses. This may be because their weight and weight-carrying abilities are more horse-like than pony-like. It also may be because the Icelandic language simply doesn’t have a word for “pony”. I suppose it would sound too much like “puny”, and no self-respecting Viking would have a puny anything.

An Icelandic Horse poses in a snowstorm, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland.

An Icelandic Horse poses in a snowstorm, on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland.


By the way, did you know that Icelanders do not pronounce “Viking” the way we do? They pronounce it “vee-king”, perhaps with a bit of a “w” sound on the “vee” part. Doesn’t sound nearly as fierce that way, does it? But I suggest you don’t say that to a Viking, either.

Anyway, back to the horses. Icelandic horses are known for their sure-footedness and their ability to cross rough terrain, like, I don’t know, lava fields? What makes them especially unusual is that, in addition to being able to walk, trot, and canter/gallop (Icelandic registries consider the canter and gallop the same), they can have two unique gaits, a four-beat lateral ambling gait known as the tölt, known for its explosive acceleration and speed, and the fast and smooth “flying pace”, the skeið or flugskeið. (Please don’t ask me to pronounce those!) While not all Icelandic horses can perform this last gait, some that do can reach speeds of up to 30 mph.

An Icelandic Horse shows off her best side, in West Iceland.

An Icelandic Horse shows off her best side, in West Iceland.


As you can see from these images, they are also able to stand still quite nicely when being photographed. And, they’re quite curious and friendly. Any time I stopped next to a field of horses, they always came over to say “Hi”. OK, they probably came over to see if I had any apples (I did not).

An-Icelandic-Horse-apparently-in-bad-need-of-a-haircut-poses-on-the-Snæfellsnes-Peninsula-Iceland

An Icelandic Horse apparently in bad need of a haircut poses on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland


Today, Icelandic horses are used mostly for competition and leisure riding, though farmers still use the breed to round up sheep in the Icelandic highlands. And tourists. No, no, they don’t round up tourists (though they probably should), they use the horses to keep tourists entertained and to generate revenue, with riding farms located all over the country.

Well, that’s about it. I’ll leave you with this image of a couple of Icelandic horses standing out in a rather substantial snowstorm. Well, it was substantial for me, but this was taken when it was only October, so I imagine these two guys have seen much worse in the dead of winter!

Two Icelandic Horses pose in a snowstorm on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Two Icelandic Horses pose in a snowstorm on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland

Happy trails!

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6 Responses to “Beautiful Right out of the Gait”

  1. Lorraine says:

    Wow! Very beautiful indeed! I want to braid their hair. Thanks, Ed.

  2. Louise says:

    I’m glad you found something to photograph!

    • Ed Leckert says:

      Yes, Louise, it was tough, but I did find something. The last image of the pair of horses has already sold a print and also been invited by Getty Images, so I feel pretty good about that. Now, where to go next?

  3. Carmen says:

    They look like ponies to me, or maybe unicorns without the horn. 😉

  4. Cheryl says:

    Such noble horses! I shared these with my daughter, a former equestrian competitor and horse owner, it will make her day. Gorgeous!

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