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Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horse

This is an Icelandic Horse. Interestingly, they're called "horses" even though they only average 13 - 14 hh. That's because of their performance and sturdiness. This particular specimen named "Krummi" (pronounced: kroo-mee — an Icelandic name) is boarded where I board my own horse.

Icelandic horses can run as fast as any full size horse and I can attest to that fact (maybe even faster). They can also carry the same loads or weight of riders as typical horses. Icelandics can also take the extreme cold weather better and you can see Krummi's winter coat (which normally looks somewhat blacker — evidently he sports "red highlights" :-) Of course, this thick coat comes from historic acclimation to Iceland's harsh winters in the North Atlantic. While it's much lighter in weight during the summer months, it's still heavier than the coat of a typical horse and that's likely due to Iceland's summer high being only in the 50s Fahrenheit.

As a riding horse, Icelandics are very sure-footed and can have up to five natural gates: Walk, Trot, Canter, Tölt, and Pace (also called the "skeid"). I find these two additional gaits very intriguing. The tölt has four beats like a walk, but it can be at the speed of a very slow trot, perhaps 7MPH or as fast as a medium gallop with speeds of up to 27 MPH. At any speed, it's very smooth. Most Icelandics have this gait, though a few have only the common three (walk, trot, and canter).

The skeid gait is less common and is also known as the "Flying Pace". It's called "flying" because there are times when none of the feet are on the ground. The left legs move forward together while the right legs move backward together — then they reverse. This is done at speed so the legs have time to move while the horse is suspended in the air and it's not unusual for the horse to be traveling at 35MPH at this gait. I'm told it takes a rider some time to learn to sit and move properly when at the skeid.

Icelandic horses are reputed to be the most pure breed in existence today because the country outlawed all other breeds and the import of any horses in the 1,200AD timeframe. That ban continues and horses can only be exported. With no other breeds existing on the island of Iceland, the Icelandic Horse is kept very pure genetically.

Clearly, I need to "fanagle" a ride on Krummi and try these gaits. It's intriguing enough to ride with his owner and watch her enjoying Krummi, but I want to experience it for myself — I'll let you know how I make out.

Besides being an avid trail rider, Jerry Tardif is a technology consultant and a horse and nature photographer in SE Connecticut — see his work at: www.jerrytardif.com. He is also co-founder and President of QueryHorse.

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