It has been said that some of the ancestors of the Icelandic Horse were the native
breeds of Scotland: Shetland, Highland and Eriskay. During the time that the
Vikings took the horses to Iceland, the easy gaits (foxtrot, tolt, rack, runningwalk,
amble, singlefoot, pace, etc.) were common throughout horse breeds in Europe.
There is scientific, historical and archeological evidence of the existence of
these gaits at that time.
A pony is usually described as being under 14.2 hands. But more than that,
there are particular characteristics that define a pony. The Icelandic Horse
generally carries these traits.
Several pony breeds also like to be called "horses", for example the Caspian
Horse and the Norwegian Fjord Horse. These two examples accept and use the
"pony" word in talking and writing about their equines. Often the words horse
and pony are used interchangeable.
It has been said that the reason the Icelandic Horse is NOT a pony is because
it is the only equine in Iceland. It has also been said that there is not a
word for "pony" in Iceland, therefore it's called a horse.
No matter the reason, there is no need to be offended by the "pony" word!
Ponies have great attributes!
Compared to horses, ponies often exhibit thicker manes, tails and overall coat,
as well as proportionally shorter legs, wider barrels, heavy bone, thick necks,
and short heads with broad foreheads.
The following pony characteristics apply to all pony breeds, including the
Here is a group of pictures of ponies and horses. It should be obvious to a
eye which one is a pony and which one is a horse.
Included in the pictures are: Welsh, Dales, Fjord, Fells, Icelandic,
Walker, Quarter, Appaloosa, Warmblood, Thoroughbred.
From: PHYLOGENETIC NETWORK PROVIDES ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS REGARDING THE
ORIGINS OF TODAY'S HORSES by Thomas Jansen und Hardy Oelke
"Of the genotypes which correspond with geographic areas, cluster C1 is the
most striking one: It is geographically restricted to central Europe, the
British Isles, and Scandinavia, including Iceland. 17 of 19 documented
horses of the C1 type are North European ponies: Exmoor pony, Norwegian
Fjord pony, Icelandic pony, and Scottish Highland pony. Furthermore, 14 of
27 insufficiently documented horses of C1 type were ponies, including
Connemaras. Two ancient Viking horses were also found to have the C1 type.
Another mtDNA type, cluster E, consisted entirely of Icelandic, Shetland,
and Fjord ponies."
From: Mitochondrial DNA and the origins of the domestic horse
Thomas Jansen, Peter Forster, Marsha A. Levine, Hardy Oelke, Matthew Hurles,
Colin Renfrew, J�rgen Weber, and Klaus Olek
The clearest association between cluster and breed is evidenced by cluster
C1 (n = 48): in our sample, it is geographically restricted to central
Europe, the British Isles, and Scandinavia, including Iceland. A
total of 17 of 19 documented horses with C1 are northern European ponies
(Exmoor, Fjord, Icelandic, and Scottish Highland). Additionally, 14 of 27
undocumented horses (3) with C1 are ponies, including Connemara ponies. The
cluster is younger than perhaps 8,000 y, but definitely older than
1,500 y, because C1 was also found in two ancient Viking horses.
Furthermore, mtDNA cluster E (n = 16) consists entirely of Icelandic,
Shetland, and Fjord ponies. Taken together, this suggests a common late
glacial or postglacial origin for these pony breeds.