When we arrive at the stables we are met by our riding guides, which will help us to get our riding gear (helmet, boots and raincoat if needed), and to saddle the horses and fix the stirrups. Now it is time to try out the friendly Icelandic horse, riding through the beautiful Icelandic landscape.
For more than a thousand years, from the settlement of the country in the late 9th century to the early 20th century, the small but amazingly strong Icelandic horse has played a vital role in Icelandic history. Dubbed “The most useful servant”, many Icelanders credit the horse for the survival of the Icelandic people. The settlers brought with them horses from Norway and the British Isles, strong and muscular they served their masters in war and peace.
In recorded Icelandic history, which spans over 900 years, no horses have been imported to Iceland. In the 11th century import was made illegal, so the present day horse is very similar to what they were 900 years ago. This isolation has preserved certain traits lost to other European horses. Among these are the five gaits the horse is famous for.
In Iceland these gaits are used depending on terrain and preference of the rider. While most horses have three gaits: walk, trot and gallop, the Icelandic horse has two extra gates. Icelanders call them tolt and skeid (pace), with the tolt gate being better known throughout the world. The tolt is a gait in a quartered beat with equal intervals and is a gait that, with unaltered footfall can escalate its swiftness from a mere step to great speed. You can hear the tolt distincly as a constant four-beat staccato and if you watch a horse in tolt you can see that the horse carries the rider smoothly in an even four-beated rythm, perfectly still in his saddle, without the tossing movement of the trot.