Icelandic Horse,    Gaited Horse Extravaganza by Doug and Jennifer Hamilton ---


(Read brightly with energy!)  

            We would now like to present to you the oldest pure-bred example of naturally gaited horses in the world...the Icelandic horse.


          Derived from the naturally gaited horses of northern Europe, the Icelandic horse is the breed of horse that the Vikings used in their exploration and conquest of Europe during the Middle Ages.


        When the Vikings set out to explore and settle the lands of the North Atlantic, they took their beloved horses with them in open boats, across the raging seas.  As space was limited, only the best of their horses were chosen to make the trip.  Only the hardiest survived the voyage!


        Twelve hundred years ago, Viking settlers brought these horses to Iceland.  In the old Icelandic Sagas, the written histories of Medieval Iceland, the Icelandic horse plays a large role.   Known as "The Bridges of Iceland",  these horses were important to the survival of the settlers  carrying their owners through the wild, rugged backlands quickly and safely and comfortably!.


        Around 900 AD, a law was passed in Iceland that stopped the further importation of horses and livestock to stop the spread of disease.  The law specified that  horses could be exported;   however,  once a horse left Iceland, it could never return to the island nation...     This law is still in effect today.



        Consequently, isolated for over 10 centuries, the Icelandic Horse has adapted to the harsh climate and rugged geography of their volcanic island;  located just below the Arctic Circle.   Icelandic Horses are now known as the thoroughbreds of the North, as there are few breeds of horse so purely bred  as the Icelandic Horse.


        Historically,  the Vikings, and now the Icelanders,  have valued these horses for  their  smooth,  natural,  running walk  called the tolt  -- which you see the horses doing here---and their  thrilling, racing gait called the flying pace.


        The Icelandic Horse is naturally gaited.  This means that no artificial devices are necessary to obtain the tolt and flying pace.   Accordingly, the shoes on these horses you see here are regular weight and the bits are mild snaffles.


                 (Demonstration of Gaits) 


                ( Horses  will show gaits according to the reading of this script)



        Icelandic Horses can be ridden at all five natural gaits... most Icelandics  by their nature,  are either  4-gaited  or 5-gaited.  The first gait  is the regular 4 beat walk. The walk should be relaxed, even, and ground covering.


                                (short pause as walk is demonstrated,)


        Their second gait is the trot....a two beat, diagonal gait.   Their trot is usually soft enough to be ridden without posting.  The trot makes it possible for Icelandic horses to be used in activities common for three gaited breeds, like dressage and driving.              

                                ( Short pause for trot ...move on to tolt )


        The third gait, and best loved, is the smooth running walk, called the tolt.   Tolt, for an Icelandic Horse,  is a 4-beat, lateral gait which can be quite slow...about the speed of a fast walk or jog trot.  Tolt is a traveling gait, valued for its comfort for the rider when going distances.     


                                (pause  1/2 lap of arena)


        The tolt can also be fast... up to 20 mph in top competition horses. The experience of riding fast tolt is exhilarating for the rider and beautiful to behold.


                                (pause, 1/2 lap of arena)


        Their fourth gait is the canter.  In Iceland, the canter is often not collected, but is left  free and reaching. This gait is also often very smooth for the rider as well.


                        (pause as canter is demonstrated,  approx 3/4 lap)



         The horses are now slowing down to a  tolt again and will demonstrate the last gait natural to the Icelandic horse.


        The fifth gait, the Flying Pace, is called the Gait of the Gods.  It is not found in all Icelandic Horses.   Flying pace is a sprinting gait usually done on a straight-away.  In Iceland, horses are raced under saddle at this gait and can reach speeds up to  35 mph.                                   





        An Icelandic horse is like a fine sports car:  smooth, maneuverable, and with five gear options!  Yet, like a fine sports car, don't be fooled by their small size. The  Icelandic is a smaller breed of horse, averaging between 13 and 14 hands;  however, they carry  200 pound riders for long distances. 


        Their size and temperament make them "user-friendly";  ideal family horses and  exciting show horses as well.


        Established as a favorite pleasure horse in Europe, ever greater numbers of Icelandic horses are being imported into North America  as the demand continues to grow.  Here in the Midwest, farms breeding pure-bred Icelandics are on the rise, too.


        It's only natural that the horse of the Vikings has turned from conquering lands to conquering hearts around the world.   Thank you for inviting us to this year's Horse Fair, and for giving us this opportunity to share our horses'  history and exciting future in the United States.







        And now with personal greetings, our riders today have been:



Jennifer Hamilton on the gelding, Mimir


Kristina Gelfand on the mare, Lipurta


Kerstin Vak-holtxe on the mare, Freyja




Doug Hamilton on the stallion, Sorli