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Icelandic basic information

One of the main attractions of the Icelandic horse is its versatility. It is a five-gaited horse, making it exceptional in comparison with other breeds. In addition to the three basic gaits, the walk, the trot and the canter, the Icelandic horse masters both the pace and the tölt.

The Gaits
The walk is a four-beat gait. The horse is relaxed, but moves ahead briskly, putting each foot down independently. This gait is very important in training, especially when preparing for the tölt, because the feet move in the same way in the tölt as in the walk. The walk is also good to release tension and to get the horse to work in a more focused manner.

The trot is a two-beat gait where front and hind legs on oppositesides of the horse move together. The trot is used a lot in basic training, before the horses have mastered the tölt. It is useful when working on the horse's balance and teaching it to work with the rider. The trot can be difficult for horses that tend toward the pace, but it is important to train the trot as well as the other gaits.

The gallop or canter is a three-beat gait, ridden at various speeds. A slow gallop is comfortable for riding and is common all over the world with the different breeds. A fast gallop tends to liven up the horse, increasing its willingness and enthusiasm to work. It is good to allow horses in training to sprint short distances, both to enhance the above mentioned factors and simply because they enjoy a good run now and then.

The tölt is the specialty of the Icelandic horse. It is a remarkably smooth four-beat gait in which the horse moves its feet in the same order as in the walk. When tölting the horse's hind legs move well under the body, enabling the back to yield and the forepart to rise. A beautiful tölter has high foreleg movement and carries its head in a dignified, free manner. Other breeds, such as the American Saddlebred, have a similar gait, sometimes called the running walk or rack. Enthusiasts all over the world agree that no horse can manage this gait as naturally and beautifully as the Icelandic horse.

The smoothness of the tölt is its main attraction. At shows and demonstrations, Icelandic horses are often ridden in the tölt while the rider holds a full glass of beer in one hand and the reins in the other, without spilling a drop. The tölt can be ridden at any speed, from a gracious slow tölt, where the horse's tail wiggles up and down showing the rhythm of this remarkable gait, up to a very fast tölt, where the horse can easily keep up with a galloping or an even a pacing horse.

The pace is a two-beat gait, well known in the international racing world. When pacing the horse moves both legs on the same side together. In most countries pacers are raced in front of a sulky, but in Iceland the rider is mounted on the horse, This type of racing is one of the oldest and most popular equestrian sports in Iceland. Not all Icelandic horses can pace, but those that manage all the five gaits well, are considered the best of the breed.

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