Description of the Icelandic Horse Breed


The Icelandic horse breed originates from Iceland where it has been bred, without any known introduction of foreign genetic material, since the island was settled around the year 900 AD. Its closest relatives today are assumed to be the native horse breeds of Scandinavia and horse breeds of the British Isles. The Icelandic horse is pure-bred with all ancestors traceable to Iceland.


The height of the Icelandic horse generally ranges from 125 to 145cm when measured with a stick at the highest point of the withers. The average for mares is 136cm and for stallions 138cm. The grown Icelandic horse weighs around 300 to 400kg.


Most known horse colors and markings can be seen. The most dominant colors are chestnut, black and bay but grey and tobiano are also quite commonly found. More than one hundred color varieties may be found in the Icelandic horse breed.


Conformation may vary considerably but a typical Icelandic horse is rectangular and compact in shape. Typical of the breed is a sloping croup, a long, thick mane and tail, and a thick, protective coat in winter.


The Icelandic horse is a riding horse. The horse is unique in its gaits and virtually all Icelandic horses have tölt in addition to walk, trot, and canter/gallop. Many horses have the additional gait of very fast (flying) pace. As a riding horse it is extraordinarily versatile - a capable, willing horse for pleasure riding, and for sport competitions, suitable for adults and children. The horse is tough, independent, yet sociable and easy to get on with, is self-assured and has good staying power.


The horse matures slowly and is generally not completely grown until the age of six or seven. It has a long active life span (25-30 years is not unusual).


The overall health of the Icelandic horse is very good. Fertility is high and both sexes can be fit for reproduction up to the age of 25 to 27 years.

Breeding Goals - The Ideal Horse

Specific breeding goals


Generally, the breeding goal is the more lightly built, athletic, Icelandic horse with a strong and supple body. The conformation should give an optimal base for gaits and self-carriage and at the same time aim for generally accepted aesthetic aspects described in detail below.

Riding abilities

Guidelines for the Ideal Measurements of a Fully-grown Icelandic Horse

Height at the withers Stallions 132-136 cm (13-13.2 hands)
Mares 128-135 cm (12.2 – 13.1 hands)
Saddle-dip 7 to max. 10 cm (3-4") lower than withers
Croup The same height as the withers
Length About 3-10 cm (1-4") longer than the height at the withers
Depth of Chest 60-65 cm (23 1/2 - 25 1/2 ")
Width of Chest 35-40 cm (13-3/4 - 15 ¾")
Width of Hips 45-50 cm (17-3/4- 19-3/4")
Width between the hip joints 40-50 cm (15-3/4 - 19-3/4") at the most 4-5 cm (1-1/2 – 2") less than the hip width.