Sunday, 27 June 2010

Monday Ice: The Icelandic Horse

For the next few weeks I will highlight a few of the animals that seem to have a great impact on the culture and traditions of Iceland.  To start off we will take a peek at the Icelandic horse...they have quite a unique look compared to other horse breeds, small in stature but I think large in heart.

Icelanders are very pragmatic when it comes to food and food sources, as a nation that needs to import much of its foods they have learned through need to make the most of what they have.  Most animals in and around Iceland are consumed and the horse is no different, it is a significant part of the Icelandic diet.  I tried it several times on my last trip, previously discussed here and it is one of my favourite meats.  Very tender and lean and readily available at the local co-op/supermarket.  However the Icelandic horse has a much greater hold on the hearts of Icelanders than just a food source.

Outside of Reykjavik there are horses everywhere, they really are a part of the landscape and most people still ride although now mainly for leisure and competitions but horses are still used on farms to round up the sheep.

It differs from other horse breeds as it is capable of 5 gaits.  The tölt is a smooth four beat gait where at least one foot is on the ground. It is a joy to watch and apparently to ride as it is smooth enough to drink a beer while riding! Plus for the more experienced the faster tölt or 5th gait can crack a flying pace. Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return, this keeps the breed pure and disease free.

This video demonstrates the various gaits and to up the degree of difficulty they are trotting on ice!

There are many popular horse riding tours for tourists in Iceland and it seems like a great way to see the country up close.

I have promised myself when I return I will learn how to ride, these horses look like the gentle type that would suit me!  This little 5 year old learning dressage makes it look so easy!

Now for the finale and closing credits of the fabulous Sigur Rós Heima series which concluded its tour in the capital Reykjavik.

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