Imagine living in a location where wild horses are all around you. In northern Iceland, farmers do just that. Untamed Icelandic horses live in the mountains and roam freely. Each fall, the farmers round up the horses, bringing them home for the winter to live.
There are many benefits to this situation. The farmers don't have to supply the horses with feed during the summer. As horses live in the wild and move about naturally, they have time to grow, strengthen their muscles and develop their agility. This situation may actually make the horses stronger and healthier than they would be if they grew up in captivity.
The roundup is a sight to see, as the video portrays. The horses are unhandled, so the farmers perform the roundup on the backs of trained horses. The use of pens helps to keep the Icelandic horses organized and contained safely.
The Icelandic horse is a truly unique breed. According to the Icelandic Horse Park, the Icelandic horse was likely brought to Iceland somewhere between 860 and 935 A.D. Since then, the breed has been carefully guarded for over 1,000 years. In fact, Icelandic horses that leave Iceland are not permitted to return to preserve the breed's integrity. This also helps to protect the horses against diseases that could potentially be brought in through exposure to foreign livestock.
The Icelandic horse is known for its five gaits. The Icelandics can walk, trot and canter, but they also move at a tolt (a four-beat gait) and a flying pace (a racing gait). These are incredibly smooth gaits to ride, making Icelandic horses suitable mounts for long days of riding. Even though these horses stand only 13 to 14 hands high — the size of a pony — they are incredibly strong and can comfortably carry adults.
If you ever have a chance to visit Iceland, make sure that you have the chance to observe these unique horses in their natural habitats.