IceHorse Rescue

IceHorse Rescue

Recently we have heard that several Icelandic Horses
have ended up in auction houses and feedlots--
possibly going to the slaughter house.

Topper Before

Thru this forum, we will try to find
out about these horses
and in some way, help them.

We have several people on our Icelandic
Horse Email list who are looking forward
to owning an Icelandic Horse.

Possibly, this will be a way to unite
those horses without homes
with people who want them.

There are not many Icelandic Horse
rescues or rehabs available.
The situation doesn't come up that often.
Additionally, any horses available,
may not be suitable for "family" situations.

However, you can leave your name and email
in the Guest Book "just in case".

Here are a couple of rescue stories:

Topper, Rescued Icelandic

Fafnir, Icelandic Horse

Saint Skutla, A Rescue

Tootsie, Rehab

Von, Long Island Herd

Simba, A Rescue

Other pages:

A Horse's Prayer

Stolen Horses

Rescue Links


Icelandic Horse Connection

Horses for Sale


One of the earliest groups of Icelandic Horses were imported to the United States around 1960, to the Wisconsin area. There are a few breeders in North America who have been involved with Icelandic Horses for approximately 25 years. More information on the history of the horse, can be found on the History page (History).


Many breeders and importers in North America are relatively new to the breed (Breeders). Since the breed is relatively new to North America, some people would like to see that the horse is traditionally bred, raised, trained, ridden, and shown as in Iceland. Others feel that the horse is very adaptable and can be bred, raised, trained, ridden, and shown very well in American methods.


Currently, there are approximately 3,000 to 3,200 Icelandic Horses in the United States. Only about 1/3 of these are registered with the USIHC (Registry). Imported Icelandic Horses whose financial obligation has been met, come with a laminated certificate from Iceland. Some of these are subsequently registered with the US registry--mostly the breeding stock; imported geldings sometimes are not registered due to the additional expense. However, there are some Icelandic Horses in North America that are unregisterable due to different circumstances. Due to these different circumstances, it is difficult to track the breed and have an accurate count.

There are approximately 80,000 Icelandic Horses in Iceland.


According to the Breed Standard (Standard), Icelandic Horses should be approximately 12-2 to 13-1 hands. There are some that are smaller (we have a gelding that is approximately 12-1 hands) and some that are larger (and a gelding that is 14 hands). There is one Icelandic Horse in Canada that stands 15 hands. Some breeders are attempting to breed larger Icelandic Horses so that they are more readily accepted by adult North American riders. It has been suggested that breeding for size may lose some quality in gait, but there is no substantiation of this at the moment.


The gaits of the Icelandic Horse can be a combination of: walk, trot, tolt, canter (gallop), pace. Icelandic Horses can be 3, 4, or 5 gaited. Some Icelandic Horses are "natural tolters"--what this means is that the tolt is their gait of choice, and they may, or may not, do any of the other gaits. Some Icelandic Horses can be "pacey"--this means they are extremely lateral, see the chart on the Gaits page (Gaits). This paciness is generally not a comfortable gait to ride, but some Icelandic Horses who are pacey have a smoother pace. Pacey Icelandic Horses may not be able to trot, or they may have an uncomfortable trot. If pace is their gait of choice, they also may have trouble with the canter/gallop.

As mentioned, some Icelandic Horses are 3 gaited (walk, trot, canter); this may be due to unfortunate breeding, conformation, or training (Training). There are also Icelandic Horses who are strong in all 4 or 5 gaits.

The gait of "pace" is generally known as the "flying pace". Additional information on the pace can also be found on the Gaits page (Gaits).


Icelandic Horses can be very versatile and used in almost every discipline there is. Common sense will dictate that Icelandic Horses may not be the best for roping, but the larger, stronger Icelandic Horses may be able do it. Also the more lateral Icelandic Horses will not be chosen for dressage or jumping, along with the "natural tolters" depending on the strength of their other gaits. The more mellow and quieter Icelandic Horses can be good as therapy horses, and for family horses. For pictures of Icelandic Horses in different disciplines, please see the Versatility pages (Versatility). Some Icelandic Horses are "viljugur" (more willing to go fast), which translates to "goey". These horses are desirable to those experienced riders who like forward horses or who do endurance.


Ponies and smaller horses tend to have longer lifespans than normal sized horses. The story of Tulle, an Icelandic Horse that supposedly lived to more than 50 years of age, can be found on the Tulle page (Tulle). There are several horses in North America in their early 30's. One of these was in the Great American Horse Race in 1976, (GAHR), another is Skutla (Skutla), and another is Von (Von). Generally, in Iceland, older horses are sent to slaughter if they are past their working age.

Load Capability

There are several opinions as to what the maximum rider weight should be for Icelandic Horses. Some people believe that Icelandic Horses can carry large sized riders for many hours in the saddle. Others are against this thought. Icelanders usually take several hand-horses with them when they go on long rides, and change horses periodically. There is a little more information on this subject in the FAQs (FAQs).


Icelandic Horses come in all colors except appaloosa coloring. All types of pinto markings are available, as well as duns, roans (rare), and silver dapple.


All Icelandic Horses around the world, no matter what country in which they are born, should have an Icelandic name. Here are a few examples of Icelandic Horse names below, and there are more name translations on the Names page (Names).

  • Ljufur: Kind, gentle
  • Skumur: White bird with gray plumage
  • Tryggur: Loyal, faithful
  • Dyggur: Faithful
  • Gaefur: Good-natured
  • Faxi: Mane
  • Blesi: Blessed
  • Epona: Goddess
  • Saela: Happiness
  • Oma: Chime
  • Glod: Embers
  • Kissa: Kiss


There are many ways to train the Icelandic Horse, and training methods vary between countries and cultures; also depending on the use of the horse. In general, in North America riders ride differently than they do in Iceland and requirements for a riding horse are therefore also different. Further information can be found on the Training pages (Training).


Before deciding on a trainer, decide which methods you would like to use with your Icelandic Horse. Check your local areas for natural horsemanship trainers, and gaited horse trainers. Audit clinics to see what is available and who you may, or may not want, to work with your horse. Check the Trainers Directory (Trainers) also.


A small portion of North American Icelandic Horse owners are into showing Icelandic Horses. Some of those who show may be strictly into the international rules of showing Icelandic Horses. There are some owners who show their Icelandic Horses at local shows or gaited horse shows and follow the local show rules (Utah Fair). Most Icelandic Horses in North America are purchased for trail riding.


Icelandic Horses are usually very willing and calm on the ground. Under saddle, they can be mellow or hot depending on training or temperment.

Icelandic Horses are really tied to their herds and enjoy being with other Icelandic Horses. Transitions to new living circumstances and pasture mates can be difficult for some Icelandic Horses. They can become depressed, or show nervousness under saddle (Transitions).


Icelandic Horses can be outfitted with tack according to the discipline for which they are being used; keeping in mind that the equipment, above all, should fit well. Traditionally, Icelandic Horses are ridden in snaffles; however, many Icelandic Horses have low palates and cannot tolerate a regular snaffle. There are some bit alternatives on the Bit page (Bits). Use of the noseband is a subject that gets quite a bit of discussion which you can read on the NoseBand page (NoseBands).

Saddles, of course, must fit the horse above all else. An Icelandic saddle is not a requirement for an Icelandic Horse. If one choses to get an Icelandic saddle or any saddle, be sure not to mail order a saddle only by name (Saddles). The saddle should be fitted specifically to the horse it will be used on.

Sweet Itch (Summer Eczema)

Some Icelandic horses can be prone to sweet-itch (summer eczema) since they have no immunities to this when imported from Iceland. Domestic born horses do not seem to have a problem with sweet-itch. Supplements of ground flax seed seem to help some horses; in severe cases, they are blanketed from head to toe with a special blanket (Sweet-Itch).


There is an upper level age limit at which time Icelandic Horses can no longer be exported from Iceland. That limit may be in the early teens. All horses should be checked and/or x-rayed for spavin before export. Export costs are approximately \$2,000 US for shipment to NY, plus boarding (after quarantine) and domestic transportation costs to final destination.

Horses are shipped in special cargo boxes, several horses to a box, which is loaded into a climate controlled cargo area of an airplane. Flight is approximately five hours from Keflavik to NY. Purchases are usually held until enough horses are ready to make the flight at the same time.

Please visit the website of Carla Person,
the Animal Communicator Consultant to
the IceHorse Rescue: Spirit Healer

We understand that not every horse
can, or should be rescued, possibly
due to health reasons or violent behaviors.

Topper, After

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Icelandic Horse Webring
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JudyRyder Duffy

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