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Icelandic Horse Connection

The Icelandic Horse, A Mixture of Breeds

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The Icelandic Horse as we know it today, came about from a mixture of breeds.

The Vikings took whatever horses they had at the time to Iceland, most likely the short ponies so that they would have less chance of falling out of the boats crossing the sea. These horses may have been some of the horses native to Norway, such as the Dole Horse of Norway, the Nordland Pony, and from Britain the Celtic Pony, the ancestor of the Exmoor and the Shetland, possibly some Fjords, and some Eriskay Ponies of Scotland, maybe Mongolian / Oriental influence, most likely including any type of cross breed.

Subsequent to the original settlement, other horses were brought in for many years, adding to the mixture of breeding. In essence, the Icelandic Horse (Pony) is a mixture, a heinz 57.

The combination produced, eventually, the Icelandic Horse (Pony); some gaited, some not.

The people of Iceland would ride the ponies either at the trot or the pace (stepping pace). They had no real knowledge or access to knowledge about gaits, range of gaits, how to bring out gaits naturally, or how to breed for gait.

In the export to Europe of the foals intended for slaughter for meat, it appears that opportunistic people got involved with Icelandic ponies. These new promoters may have been people who were not successful in the Warmblood world. It could be that they weren't horsemen themselves.

Combined with the naivete of the owners of Iceland about horsemanship and gaits, and the new promoters of the breed, myths started to abound.

The Icelandic pony was outfitted with narrow saddles as they seemed to gait better that way. Unknowing of the biomechanics, the narrow saddles caused ventroflexion from discomfort.

They were outfitted with tight nosebands as the riders did not know how to fit a bit to the horse, nor how to train a horse to carry a bit. The nosebands did two things: kept the horse's mouth closed on the bit that was causing him discomfort (thereby hiding the problem), and created more tension for the horse by restricting his breathing, reflecting in more tightness in the back and neck, which in turn *enhanced* gaitedness.

The ponies needed protection on their front feet from forging, due to poor conformation and / or poor riding. These *protection* boots became weighted; in addition to the heavier shoes.

Heavy contact.... sitting on the horse's loins.... my gosh, no horsemanship at all!

There is absolutely no finesse, in my opinion, in this type of riding!

The people claimed it was a "naturally" gaited horse; yet there were all of these artificial and mechanical gait enhancements!

It makes no sense, no sense at all, to do this to the horses in breeding evaluations, as these traits (added tack and force) are not inheritable!

Words were applied to the pony incorrectly, such as "collection" in tolt. They just did not know the definition and that the frame of tolt was antithetical to collection.

People assumed the horse did only a specified four or five gaits, and no matter what, even if the horse preferred fox trot, he was not allowed to do it, and people would spend years and years forcing the horse to tolt.

For the most part, altho there may be exceptions, I don't think anything was done with the intention to do harm to the horse; it has been a case of ignorance. Ignorance which has lead to abuse of the horse.

Here's a challenge:

~~To all owners, trainers, certified trainers, professional riders, and master teachers:

Prove you have a "naturally" gaited horse.

Take off the shoes; throw out the nasty nosebands; have a reputable farrier trim the hoof the conformation of the horse), throw out the saddles, sit in the sweet spot on the horse's back, use one piece of horse tail hair as reins attached to a sidepull, and show us that your horse is naturally gaited!

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