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Defintion of Gaited

A horse that performs a foot fall pattern outside the normal walk, trot, jog, canter, or lope is gaited. If a horse single foots, ambles, paces, tolts, or does a running walk or rack it is ‘gaited’.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Icelandic Horse

The sturdy Icelandic Horse, is a breed native to... as you may have already guessed... Iceland. This breed incorporates as many as five different gaits.The gaits include the walk, trot, and canter. In addition, he must also have the tolt (running walk, single-foot, or rack). The fifth gait, the flying pace is very highly valued, but, is not always present in all Icelandics.

Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. In their native country they have few diseases, and Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return. The only breed of horse in Iceland, they are also popular internationally, and sizable populations exist in Europe and North America. The breed is still used for traditional farm work in its native country, as well as for leisure, showing, and racing.

The Icelandic Horse developed from ponies taken to Iceland by Scandinavian settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries, the breed is mentioned in literature and historical records throughout Icelandic history, with the first reference to a named horse appearring in the 12th century.

Selective breeding over the centuries has developed the breed into its current form. Natural selection has also played a role, as the harsh Icelandic climate eliminated many horses through cold and starvation. In the 1780s, much of the breed was wiped out in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. The first breed society for the Icelandic horse was created in Iceland in 1904, and today the breed is represented by organizations in 19 different nations, organized under a parent association, the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.

This horse is not a very tall animal, the ideal size in the breed being between 12.3 to 14 hands. In fact using height as the primary consideration, many would consider him more properly classified as a pony (a pony being defined as an equine 14.2 hands or under). Breeders and the breed registries always refer to the Icelandic as a horse. Also, in the Icelandic language the animal is only ever called a horse, as there is no word in the language for "pony".

However, don't let this fool you into thinking the Icelandic is limited in his ability! He is quite capable of carrying larger riders as easily as smaller riders and children.

The Icelandic Horse comes in many coat colors, including chestnut, dun, bay, black, gray, palomino, pinto and roan.

His gait is so smooth, that the rider can carry a glass of champagne during the ride, and not spill a drop! If ever the opportunity comes your way to see the Icelandic in action, I can say that you will not be disappointed!

There used to be an annual event here in Western North Carolina called The Southern Horse Fair. At that event, you could spend the day and get to see many breeds from around the world that you would otherwise only know by name. Twice, a group from New York came down with their Icelandic Horses and they were wonderful to watch. My only regret is that I have never had the chance to ride one.

For more information on the tough, and versatile Icelandic Horse, visit the web site of the United States Icelandic Horse Registry or the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.

Below is a video of Icelandic Horse's demonstrating their gaits.

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