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.
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
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
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
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,
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!