Icelandic Pony

Scientific NameEquus ferus caballus
Common NameIcelandic Pony (also known as Icelandic Horse)
Care LevelModerate
Lifespan25-30 years
Adult Size13 to 14 hands (52 to 56 inches) at the withers
DietHerbivore (Hay, grasses, grains)
TemperamentFriendly, spirited, hardy and versatile

History & Domestication

The Icelandic Pony, often referred to as the Icelandic Horse, boasts a rich and storied history that spans over a millennium. It is believed that the first Viking settlers brought this breed to Iceland in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. The harsh and often unpredictable climate of Iceland has played a significant role in shaping the breed’s resilience and adaptability.

Over the centuries, Iceland has maintained strict biosecurity laws, especially in regard to their beloved ponies. Since the 10th century, it has been illegal to import horses into Iceland. This restriction has ensured that the Icelandic Pony remains one of the purest breeds in the world today.


In stature, the Icelandic Pony stands between 13 to 14 hands (52 to 56 inches) tall at the withers. While their size categorizes them as ponies in many countries, Icelanders refer to them as horses. This is not just due to their powerful build, but also the breed’s spirited nature and immense strength.


Typically, Icelandic Ponies enjoy a lifespan ranging from 25 to 30 years, although some have been known to live even longer. Their hardiness, shaped by the tough Icelandic environment, coupled with responsible breeding practices, contribute to their long life expectancy.


Breeding of Icelandic Ponies is tightly regulated to preserve the purity and characteristics of the breed. These ponies are known for their late maturation, often not being ridden until they are four or five years old. This allows for their bones to develop fully, ensuring they have a long and productive working life.

Unique Features

One of the most distinctive features of the Icelandic Pony is its ability to perform five gaits, whereas most horse breeds only have three. Apart from the common walk, trot, and canter/gallop, Icelandic Ponies can also tölt and pace. The tölt is a smooth four-beat gait that offers a remarkably steady ride, while the pace, or “flying pace,” is a speedy two-beat lateral gait.

Behavior and Temperament

Icelandic Ponies are renowned for their friendly and docile nature. They are also spirited and energetic, showcasing a balance of vigor and gentleness. Their intelligence and eagerness to please make them a favorite among riders of all experience levels.


Handling an Icelandic Pony is typically a pleasure due to their cooperative nature. Their strong bond with humans, formed over centuries of partnership in the challenging Icelandic terrain, ensures they respond well to gentle and consistent handling techniques. Training rooted in positive reinforcement yields the best results with this breed.

Grooming Needs

Their thick double coat, which protects them from the cold Icelandic climate, requires regular grooming, especially during shedding seasons. Brushing not only helps maintain the health and shine of their coat but also allows for bonding time between the pony and its owner. Regular hoof care is equally essential.

Diet & Nutrition

Accustomed to the sparse vegetation of Iceland, these ponies thrive on a simple diet of hay and grasses. In environments outside Iceland, a balanced diet that replicates their native intake, supplemented with vitamins and minerals, ensures their health and vitality. Overfeeding can lead to health issues, so it’s important to monitor their weight and adjust their diet accordingly.


While Icelandic Ponies are incredibly resilient to cold temperatures thanks to their thick double coat, it’s essential to provide them with shelter during extreme weather conditions. Conversely, in hotter climates, they might need shade and possibly even clipping to help them manage the heat.

Common Health Issues

Generally, Icelandic Ponies are robust and have few breed-specific health concerns. However, like all horse breeds, they can be susceptible to general equine health issues such as laminitis or colic. Their hardy nature often sees them avoiding many common illnesses, but regular veterinary check-ups are essential.

Habitat Requirements

Having roamed the vast landscapes of Iceland for centuries, these ponies thrive in spacious environments that allow them to graze and roam freely. If confined to smaller spaces, regular exercise is crucial to maintain their physical and mental well-being.

Cost of Care

Owning an Icelandic Pony requires a commitment of time and resources. Costs include initial purchase, which can vary based on lineage and training, and ongoing expenses like feeding, veterinary care, hoof maintenance, and boarding. As always, potential owners should budget for both regular care and unforeseen expenses to ensure their pony’s well-being.

Icelandic Pony FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)