The Icelandic horse and the Icelandic people through the ages


The Icelandic horse has been with the people of Iceland ever since the first settlers came here in 874 and it has adapted very well to nature and weather on this small island in the North Atlantic Ocean. When the horses came here they were „regular“ size but now they are significantly smaller than the average horse and that is due to the rough conditions here. The smaller horses could navigate through mountains roads and withstand the sometimes brutal weather here with more ease and therefore nature played its part.

The Icelandic horse has played an important role in the history of Iceland and its people. They have been called „the most useful servant“. In earlier times, the Icelandic horse would go and get the midwife for a birth and would also drag the coffin when a death struck, so it is fair to say that the horse followed the man from his cradle to the grave. With the first car coming to Iceland in 1904 the usability of the Icelandic horse decreased. Today the horse is almost only used for fun-riding but 500 years ago it was vital to the survival of the Icelandic people. The horse was very important for the Vikings as those who had horses had a big advantage to those who didn‘t, especially when a battle broke out. The horse was a symbol of the Vikings power and was very respected. There have been found graves where a horse, with a saddle and all, has been buried with its owner.

Icelandic horse riding

The Icelandic horse is also a big part of Norse Mythology where it is a symbol of fertility and the protector of literature. The most famous horse from Norse mythology is, without a doubt, the eight-legged horse of Odin, Sleipnir. In ancient stories, Sleipnir is said to have created Ásbyrgi (a glacial canyon in the north of Iceland) due to its horseshoe-shape.

Today, you can still see some effect of Norse stories in the Icelandic horse community as many horse riding clubs and a lot of horses get their names from these stories. In conclusion, it is fair to say that the Icelandic horse has been vital to us and we owe him a lot. Thankfully, the people of Iceland have treated the horse well and with the dignity it deserves. It is so important that we protect it from any threats possible as it would be very sad to see this lifelong companion of the Icelandic people be gone.