The Icelandic horse: for vikings, farmers and travelers alike

Meet Iceland’s enchanting horses and discover the gentle nature of this hardy breed.


Photo by Brent Darby

Icelandic Horses are one of the oldest breeds of horse on the globe and the closest connection we have to the very first domesticated horses. They are believed to have been transported by Vikings who settled in the country over a thousand years ago. Surprisingly, for at least nine centuries, no other horses have been brought to Iceland, and so there is only one type of horse living in Iceland: one of the purest and healthiest breeds in the world.

The Icelandic Horse has played an important role in the life of Icelanders for centuries and its presence is well documented in Norse mythology. Many horses owned by the Norse Gods featured in these ancient mythical stories. The historic importance of these Norse myths can still be seen today as many riding clubs bear the names of mythical horses.

The Vikings are said to have treated their horses with the utmost respect as these brave creatures played a prominent part in Viking warfare. Often, a warrior killed in battle would be buried alongside his mount.


Book your adventure in the Hotel Rangá reception, or by email at hotelranga@hotelranga.is.

For centuries, the Icelandic horse was the locals’ only transportation method and horses worked hard carrying materials, food, people and mail across the rugged countryside.

The Icelandic horse is an inherently hardy breed and lives outside all the year round. Their impressive strength and ability to endure all weather means that they are well suited to traverse rivers, lava fields, steep mountainous terrain and even glaciers.


In more recent times, the role of the Icelandic horse has changed. Now, these unique animals are best known for their surefootedness, stamina and good nature, making them the perfect partner for riding and exploring the Icelandic environment. The eye-catching beauty of the Icelandic horse is unmistakable with their varied colourings from smoky black, to yellow dun, and, of course their unique movement or gait know as the “tölt.”

The tölt is a natural four-beat-gait that is extremely smooth to ride but also extremely powerful. The fifth gait, also unique to the Icelandic horse, is called the flying pace. It is is a fast, high speed gait where the horse moves the front and hind foot on the same side at the same time – an exhilarating ride that can only be experienced while riding an authentic Icelandic Horse.


Riding excursions are available to both novice and experienced riders. To book your Icelandic Horse expedition contact the Hotel Rangá reception.

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