Icelandic Horses


The Gaits

Beside the traditional walk, trot and canter, the Icelandic Horse performs two extra gaits, the TOLT and FLYING PACE. The tolt is an extremely smooth four-beat gait, much like the running walk or rack, that allows the rider a virtually bounce-free ride at speeds up to 20 mph. The tolt is a natural gait, no artificial aids are needed and you often see foals tolting in the pasture.

Depending on their breeding, many Icelandic Horses also show the FLYING PACE. The pace is a lateral racing gait and horses reach speeds of up to 30 mph.

Information provided by Icelandic Horse Farm

Walk - Trot - Tölt - Canter - Flying Pace

WALK - the usual slow four-beat gait in which there are always at least two feet on the ground. However, most Icelandics have an extremely good walk which covers the ground very well.

TROT - a two-beat diagonal gait (diagonal pairs of legs move together) which has a moment of suspension in which there are no legs on the ground

TÖLT - a four-beat lateral gait in which there is always at least one foot on the gound. As there is no moment of suspension this gait is very smooth and comfortable for the rider. It can be performed at any speed from a slow trot to a gallop. The Tolt is similar to the running walk or rack of a Tennessee Walking Horse or the Corto of the Paso Fino. In the Icelandic Horse, Tolt is a very smooth four-beat gait which, while reaching speeds similar to fast trotting, is much less jolting to the rider. It is an excellent gait for trail-riding or horse-trekking.

CANTER - a three-beat gait with a moment of suspension. The Icelanders count canter and gallop as a single gait.

FLYING PACE - a two-beat lateral gait in which the pairs of legs on the same side move together, and there is a clear moment of suspensionr. This is a fast gait used for racing over short distances, and the horses can reach 30mph. In the Pace, the hooves on the same side touch the ground together. Often called the Flying Pace, this gait can equal the speed of a full gallop and is used in Iceland for racing. To Icelanders, riding at the Flying Pace is considered the crown of horsemanship.

Yet there is a speciality, which is the tölt (toelt), a clear four-beat gait as shown (approximately) in the animation above, ridden in any speed from slow gait to rack. In English toelt is also called running walk. There are also five-gait-horses who go walk, trot, canter, toelt and pace (Icelandic: skeiğ). Pace is only ridden in high speed, so that many pleasure riders who don't take part in pace competitions prefer four-gait-horses whose toelt is usually more comfortable. However, the official ideal of breeders is the five-gait-horse. Finally there are also a few Icelandic horses who have no toelt or pace at all, but go only walk, trot and canter. These are the best for dressage or reining, but you can train any Icelandic, toelters and pacers as well, for these abilities, not only for toelt and pace competitions.

Provided by Fritz Steinbock

Another appealing characteristic of the Icelandic Horses are their five natural gaits: the walk, trot, canter, tolt, and pace. The walk, an even four-beat cadence, moving each foot independently; the trot, a two-beat gait, with front and back legs on opposite sides moving together; and the canter, a three-beat gait, are all gaits used by all U.S. horse breeds. With the tolt and the pace, the Icelandic Horse sets itself apart from these breeds. "Tolt" is the Icelandic word for the running walk or rack and is a four-beat lateral gait, attaining speeds of up to 20 mph. One hears the tolt distinctly as a constant four-beat staccato and sees the tolt with the horse proudly erect, carrying the tail in a typically undulating movement. The rider feels the tolt as he/she sits perfectly still in the saddle, without the tossing movement of the trot.

This natural gait comes without the use of heavy shoes or other artificial aids. This gait is very pleasurable for the rider who enjoys the feeling of floating above the surface of the ground. Depending on the breeding, some Icelandic Horses do the "flying pace". The flying pace is a two-beat movement where front and hind legs on the same side move together. This gait is used for racing short stretches - 150 to 250 meters - at speeds of up to 35 mph. The flying pace must be carefully nurtured in the young horse and not be rushed until the horse has developed all of the muscles necessary for this very powerful gait. At high speeds, all four feet are briefly off the ground or "flying". Pace competitions, one of the oldest equestrian sports in Iceland, are found at all horse shows there and frequently demonstrated at Icelandic Horse gatherings or shows in the U.S.

Written by Lisa Cissell and printed in the Gaited Horse Magazine. Bibliography found here:

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 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.

Information supplied by FELAG HROSSAVÆNDA

More Details on the tolt here.


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