3 Questions First-Time Riders Ask Before Booking Iceland Horseback Riding Tours
1. How comfortable are Icelandic horses?
The Icelandic horse is considered the oldest gaited breed in the world. A gaited horse uses a unique four-beat intermediate gait that is natural to the breed. These “ambling” gaits are faster than a walk, but usually slower than a canter.
A gaited horse is much more comfortable to ride than a non-gaited horse because of the non-jarring liquidity of movement. The best Icelandic horses have a very long stride and significant lift with their forelegs. Icelandic horse owners can demonstrate the smoothness of their horses tölt by riding at the speed of a gallop without spilling a cup of water in their hand.
Icelandic horses are much less jarring to the rider than non-gaited breeds thanks to these smooth gaits. Beginner riders find this movement particularly helpful while learning to follow the horses movement—it’s more just like cruising. This is one of the reasons equestrian tourism has become so popular in Iceland in recent years. Novice riders, or those with existing health conditions, appreciate the soft movements of these fantastic little horses.
Icelandic horses are cherished for their ability to perform not one, but two unique gaits.
The tölt is a comfortable, ground-covering four-beat ambling gait.
This gait is perfect for moving over the tussocks and rough moorlands of Iceland, and provides a steady ride when completing long distance travel.
The “flying” gait (flugskeið).
The second gait is the beautifully named “flying” gait (flugskeið), a high-speed movement, which is used for short distances. This speedy two-beat lateral gait has a moment of suspension between footfalls. Not all Icelandic horses can do flugskeið, and it requires significant training. Good horses who can perform the flugskeið are highly sought after, and this movement is the holy grail of speed and comfort in the Icelandic riding world.
The Vikings were one of the first civilizations to systematically breed horses that were comfortable, as well as hardy and resistant. It is easy to comprehend why this type of horse would have been often sought out by those exploring vast distances or conquering new worlds.
2. What are the weight limits for an Icelandic horse?
We get it. You want to bring your friend horse riding in Reykjavik – but you’re worried whether the vertically challenged Icelandic horses (never, ever, to be called ponies) can handle carrying them in the saddle. You have probably heard from Icelandic lovers, that these gutsy lightweights have carried full-sized Vikings for centuries.
But, perhaps you have heard the old military saying that horses should only carry 20% of their weight, and want to know if this is the case with Iceland horseback riding?
Holar University decided to study the effect of weight on Icelandic horses. The same person rode eight different horses, all of which were fully-grown and in good condition. During this study, lead weights were gradually added to the saddle and the rider’s vest. By the end of the test, the horses carried a maximum of 35% of their own weight, or 128 kg. All the horses were able to handle the increased weight and after the exercise none of the horse demonstrated uneven movement or any evidence of pain, soring or lameness. The horse’s condition was positively evaluated both before the study, then 24 and 48 hours after the study. The study encompassed 266 horses and included both mares and stallions.
Please note: Mr Iceland does still have a weight limit for rides, so please enquire about this when booking.
3. How comfortable is the tack?
Have you ever been on a riding holiday where the saddle was so hard, you were walking like John Wayne for two weeks afterwards?
When you go Iceland horseback riding with Mr. Iceland, not only are the horses wonderfully comfortable to ride, but so are the saddles.
Icelandic horses should be ridden with tack designed especially for the breed, so all our Viking horses are fitted with custom Hrimnir Icelandic saddles.
These saddles were created by a team of professional saddlers, trainers, and veterinarians who worked in unison with world-famous Argentinian saddle designer ‘Ruiz Diaz’ to make a saddle that fits horse and rider and provide optimum comfort for both.
Icelandic horses can be notoriously tricky to saddle correctly, so MrIceland invested in saddles with long flat panels that promote even weight distribution on the horse’s back to avoid soring, pinching and restricted movement. The generous gullet space provides unrestricted airflow around the horse’s spine and back muscles and the custom twist gives riders terrific contact and optimum communication with the horse without sacrificing comfort.