Sunday, October 18, 2009

Icelandic horses - gaited training

There is no wonder that these horses more than often get problems with kissing spines and spavin (spatt på svenska). Spavin is hereditary in icelandic horses and it is teached in swedish ferrier education that the icelandic horses got this as a frequent defect when breeding for pace. I know that the pace is considered a natural gait and maybe did this happen (if it's correct) when enhancing the pace by breeding? I did not know/heard anything about this before so tell me if this is questionable!

In my opinion, riding is for the horse - not the rider. I like the idea of training my horse in a way that's good for the horses' body, musculature, tendons and ligaments - actually everything in the horse. Because I want my horse to last. I do not like how many people train their horses more for their own sake than for the horses'. They get broken down. Especially in these gaited horses' training - it is absolutely impossible for the horse to move in a good and collected state. (See also previous blogging about Tennessee Walking Horses)

In for ex. tölt, one want the horses to walk in an extravagant gait with their forelegs lifted high, this means that their heads need to be high, and this is not really a problem unless the back at the same time lowers (which is really the consequence in a non collected horse). When speed is added and the hind end only acts through pushing the horse forward - it is impossible for the horse to collect itself. The hind end is further back pushing on - rather than getting in under the body and lift the back musculature and the rider.

This is a flying pace though, a two-beat lateral gait with a moment of suspension between footfalls; each side has both feet land almost simultaneously (left hind and left front, suspension, right hind and right front)

As a consequence the horses' back is lowered. The physiology say: hind end out, back lowers, head goes even higher, more weight is transferred to the fore end leading to decreased amount of collection.

I also question the thing about adults riding icelandic horses. I just want to know WHAT, really, it is that say that these small ponies are able to carry adults. The vikings were not very tall as most of us think, but on the contrary they wore a lot of heavy clothings, gear and packing. I'm also thinking whether or not the vikings had enough horses so they could shift the tired one out for another fresh one.

A swedish veterinarian who is a specialist in icelandic horses, said in an article that the discovery of a horse having spavin, is most often discovered AFTER the spavin has healed! Icelandic horses does not seem to show that much pain, which furthermore has been discussed a lot in articles. The icelandic horse has no natural enemies and thereby has no need to show for ex. fear in the same way as other horses do. There are a lot of text about this and other differences in expression. They act differently than other horses.
If this is so, how about carrying a too heavy rider - would they show that pain/exhaustion? Or is this the reason why they just go on until they eventually brake down, in either kissing spines or spavin?

This is why I'm a skeptic about this way of riding. I have NOTHING against icelandic horses at all! I've seen some been riding in the academic art of riding where they do collect the horse - and I guess that will increase their ability to carry a heavy rider - but that's specualtions. Here are some pictures showing this great collected state:

Katrin Wallberg, source:

Unknown, source:

This is all for now. I don't see any harmony in the way of riding in the video above. I like seeing harmony, but all I see is a lot of tension and force.



IceRyder said...

Very interesting blog post!

I agree with several of your points.

Personally, I don't think that Icelandic Horses are built for dressage (kind of like making a pig sing, it only frustrates you and makes the pig mad).

I think Icelandic Horses may be perfect for western style riding.

Check out my blogs.

Bonden said...

Thank you!

Well, I'm not an expert on conformation and neither do I know what this horse is built for ;) Obviously it works fine in the higher schooling, it does have a tilted pelvis, short back and frame and should thereby have some simplicity in collecting itself. But imo I think it's quite small - just to fit I mean ;)

A friend of mine read the magazine Cavallo, and this friend told me that they said that horses' conformation differ quite a lot, more than one would expect when analyzing it closely.

The way you collect a thoroughbred is not the same way you collect a spanish/iberian horse. Because the thoroughbred has longer legs/body and is built totally different. Not to mention their necks.

One can collect iberian horses when mostly focusing on getting the hind end in under the body to carry and the head position will more or less come by itself. While thoroughbreds need to be relaxed and loosened up in their head and neck before more collecting can be done - all just to get the whole frame correct.

As said earlier, I'm not an expert on how, exactly, different breeds are built and put togehter in detail and therefor it's impossible comparing different breeds' capacity for different types of riding. And that's why I can't really say how the icelandic horse is suited for dressage compared to other horses (or itself solely).

But I do like to know!

And my non-expert-opinion is written at the top of this comment =)


Anonymous said...

Icelandic horses are said to have denser bones and larger joints for their size than other breeds, which gives them an ability to carry a higher percentage of weight. Most breeds can carry 1/5 of their weight, but Icelandics can carry up to 1/3. Of course, it varies by each individual horse's build and whether the rider moves with the horse vs rides like a lump.

The Icelanders also usually swap out horses if they are riding long distances.


Bonden said...

Thanks for your answer! I will, whenever I have som free time, investigate whether or not there are some scientific studies on this, and when I know I'll blog about it. I've also heard different things claimed to be the reasons why, but unfortunately I don't recall whether it was only smalltalk or investigated results.


xose pi said...

Hola, Bonden... Mucho tiempo sin leerte. Hoy entro en tu blog, y me encuentro...


Qué bonitos!!

Me encanta la penúltima foto, con el caballo con los pelos (las crines) volando.

Yo tengo un video muy bonito para ti, también con caballos. La escena que está en 1:34" es preciosa con un caballo blanco muy bonito llamado CHARLIE. Lo monta el protagonista de la película, William Miller. Este es el segundo TRAILER

Yo salgo en el 1:41" empujando al MALO de la película (salgo muy fugazmente!... flash!!)

En el primer trailer salgo en el minuto 0:50" apuntando con una pistola.

La película se llama MAR LIBRE. No soy actor, pero como había trabajado antes con el director en un SPOT DE PUBLICIDAD con espadas:

Pues esta vez para MAR LIBRE, al haber ESPADAS (sables) y ESGRIMA, volvió a contar conmigo y me dio un pepel en la película.

El trabajo de MAR LIBRE es excelente. Estoy muy impresionado de la calidad que va a tener. La pondrán en la television en 2 capítulos...

He, he. Si la ponen en YOUTUBE podrás verla. Te gustaría seguro, hay caballos en varias escenas.

Ahí te dejo los videos, a ver si te gustan.

Un beso:


FROM SPAIN-Santiago de Compostela

Anonymous said...

Not being an expert, yet you leave poor information for all to read. The Icelandic horse can easily caryy an adult riders weight having scientifically proven higher bone density. On dressage if trained the same as any other horse, they do compete in dressage obviously at a lower level than the thousands of warmbloods etc that where bred for the purpose.

Most europeans owning icelandics are training the same as any other horse not with the high head carriage, also the tolt is a ntural gait not forced. Some very poor information here as seems to be the case when posting about why Icelandics shouldnt be anything.

Bonden said...

Hi there "Anonymous".

Thanks for your comment! As you can see I find it interesting discussing topics like this. If there is scientific proof that the Icelandic horse has a higher bone density, I would love to read that study. So please post a link here on my blog to where I can read about that!


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