When travelling everyone has their must-see attraction and must eat a thing. Iceland is no different. You probably have at least 10 things on your Iceland itinerary, but one thing most visitors have in common is to pet the Icelandic horse.
The Icelandic horse is a breed of horse developed in Iceland. Although the horses are small, at times pony-sized, most registries for the Icelandic refer to it as a horse. Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. In their native country, they have few diseases; Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return. The Icelandic displays two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. 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 sheep herding work in its native country, as well as for leisure, showing, and racing.
Developed from ponies taken to Iceland by the Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries, the breed is mentioned in literature and historical records throughout Icelandic history; the first reference to a named horse appears in the 12th century. Horses were venerated in Norse mythology, a custom brought to Iceland by the country’s earliest settlers. 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 at Laki. 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.
When petting the horse please keep a few things in mind; here is a letter from a horse owner:
I´m a horse owner and I live in Iceland.
I and others would like to ask you to do us horse owners, and the horses in Iceland a big big favour, and think about that if travellers show certain behaviour around horses in Iceland it can end up doing them serious harm, and also cause accidents to people. 🐎🐎🐎🐎🐎🐎🐎🐎🐎
-Please never feed horses without permission from the owners. The things that you are giving them can make them sick or kill them. They have a very sensitive digestive system, and even though that food you feed them seems harmless to you it can cause horses that have never eaten it before to die.
-Don´t stop if you see horses on the field and start petting them, they can bite and kick. They also learn pushy and obnoxious behaviour, which can seriously hurt a person that wants to ride them later. Repeated visits of tourists into horse fields can ruin expensive training that we the horse owners have paid for, and cause accidents later.
-sometimes when people are feeding horses they start to fight and then they can hurt each other. And it’s very expensive to go to the Vet with horses. They can also hurt so badly that they can not survive.
– Don’t go over a fence were horses are.
– Don’t open gates and go into the field where there are horses. You will probably not close the gate in the right way, and then the horses can open it when they’re rubbing an itch away, thereby walking out of the pasture, and can easily get into traffic, where car accidents can happen, resulting in the horses dying, and possibly accidents or death to the drivers.
– Don’t stop your car on the road to see the horses. So many tourists have caused serious car crashes when they do that. The horses are also curious and can start pushing and cramming on the fence, which can result in them climbing over it, breaking it, or a foot can get stuck in a wire, which can result in such a serious accident that the owner has to put the horse down. When there is a lot of snow and you start walking over the snow and over the fence, the horse might follow the track back when you’re gone, going straight into the traffic, with possibly horrible results. You will probably never see the result of your behavior because you’re gone when the result happens.
In Iceland, we have so many expensive breeding mares, geldings and stallions. We need to have them for ourselves, to take care of their training and safety. Remember that you would hardly walk into a private garden in a city to mess with the pets there. Please show the same respect in the countryside here, to the farm animals here. Don’t be rude.
But we understand that you love our beautiful horses and of course there are places where you can get close to them and enjoy them. There are fun solutions 🙂
For example 1)…You can stop in the middle of Geysir and Gullfoss on a farm that names Brú. ( google: Horse petting at Margeiri, Bru’s Farm )
They have special horses that “work” for travellers who are fans of the Icelandic horses.
They sell a special horse treat that you can give them. Don´t give them something else.
2)…..There is another place between Hveragerði and Selfoss were you can see horses, its name is Fákasel.
3)…..There is a place in Borgarfjörður, Sturla-Reykir, where you can for a very small fee (1200 ISK per person) visit the horses, give them treats that are healthy for them, pet them, take selfies, and talk with the farmer that will be your guide there and can tell everything you want to know about the Icelandic horse.