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The Icelandic Horse

Unique Breed with Unique Gaits
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The Icelandic Horse

Unique Breed with Unique Gaits

The Unique Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland from ponies taken to Iceland by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries. Horses were highly honoured in Norse mythology, a custom brought to Iceland by the country's earliest settlers. Selective breeding in isolation from other horse breeds over the centuries has developed the famous and unique Icelandic horse breed into its current form. Of course natural selection has also played a big role in this development, as the harsh Icelandic climate and rough terrane eliminated many horses through cold and starvation.

In the late 18th century during the aftermath of the volcanic eruption at Laki much of the breed was wiped out. The Volcano Laki erupted over an eight-month period between 1783 and 1784 from the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano, pouring out an estimated 14 km3 (3.4 cu mi) of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous hydrofluoric acid and sulfur dioxide compounds that killed over 50% of Iceland's livestock population, leading to a famine which then killed approximately 25% of the island's human population.

The Icelandic horse is a "five-gaited" breed, known for its sure-footedness and ability to cross rough terrain. As well as the typical gaits of walk, trot, and canter/gallop, the breed is noted for its ability to perform two additional gaits; Tölt and Skeið.

The first additional gait is a four-beat lateral ambling gait known as the tölt. This is known for its explosive acceleration and speed; it is also comfortable and ground-covering.

The breed also performs a pace called a skeið, flugskeið or "flying pace". It is used in pacing races, and is fast and smooth,with some horses able to reach up to 30 miles per hour (48 km/h).