icelandic horse history
Icelandic horses are one of the purest breeds of horses in the world, descended from the horses brought to Iceland by the Vikings. It is thought that the Vikings chose only their best horses to make the journey in the long boats to the new colonies.
The Icelandic horse has adapted perfectly to Iceland’s harsh environment. Its genetics have survived through volcanic eruptions, famine and plagues that ravaged the human and equine populations. Natural selection has played a huge part in shaping the horse as it is today.The presence of horses in Iceland played an important role in the success of the settlement of the country. They remained the only form of land transport until the mid 1900’s, worked with farmers to cultivate land, delivered the post and freighted goods.
Icelanders take great pride in their horsemanship and breeding. Selective breeding programs in Iceland started around 1879. Breeding shows and competitions are held throughout the year both in Iceland and abroad. Horses were exported to many countries where they have gained traction, to become around the 3rd most popular breed in Europe.
FEIF, an international group of Icelandic horse enthusiasts governs the breeding standards of the Icelandic horse among its associated members. Worldfengur is an international database for Icelandic horses and only 100% purebred Icelandic horses can be registered.
Icelandic Horses in Australia
The first Icelandic Horses we know of in Australia arrived on the boat the Venus into Melbourne 27th January 1863. We assume more may have made it downunder after that but few records have come to light. So it seems that Uncle Clyde was one of the first people we know of to bring in breeding horses into Australia and set up a proper Icelandic horse stud, some 130 years after those first 4 horses made the journey by sea from Liverpool to Melbourne. Small imports from NZ, Canada, USA and Germany gradually followed by other icelandic horse enthousiasts. In 2015 Megalong Valley Icelandics imported, the biggest group of Icelandic horses with new genetics since the original Haldane herd. They are based in the Blue Mountains, NSW.
Imports of new bloodlines over the years have set Australia up well for breeding fabulous pleasure riding and possible competition horses in the future. Frozen semen has now been imported from Denmark and being used in Australia to further improve the genetics with top class stallions.
The Australian Icelandic horses and owners are spread out from WA to QLD and down into TAS. By far the biggest population of horses and breeders are currently in Victoria and NSW.
The Icelandic Horse Association of Australia (IHAA) was established in 2009 at Haldane Icelandic horses with a core group of Icelandic horse breeders and owners getting together to form a group to promote and preserve the unique qualities of the breed. The IHAA is now an associate member of FEIF the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.
The Australian Icelandic horse owners are a passionate and friendly group of people always keen to help out newcomers to the breed. Connect with the IHAA and other Aussie Icelandic horse owners on facebook.
Icelandic horses have adapted well to the Australian conditions. Some horses in the hotter climates may need to be clipped to cope with the heat and in QLD it is possible that horses born outside of QLD may be suseptable to QLD itch ( summer eczema) if they move there requiring rugging or extra management to reduce symptoms. Those born in QLD usually have some immunity.
Most icelandic horses are kept for pleasure riding or some hobby breeding.
Besides us there are also a couple of other smaller breeders in the country who sometimes have horses for sale or offer other services. See our links and resources page for more icelandic horse information.