When it comes to gaits, the Icelandic horse has a few tricks up its sleeve. Like all horses, the Icelandic can walk, trot, and canter, but they’ve got two more gaits to add to the mix. Their reputation as a “five-gaited” breed truly makes the Icelandic horse stand out in the equestrian world.
The first additional gait is the famous tölt, an incredibly smooth four-beat gait. In this unusual gait, the horse’s hooves move in the same pattern as a walk — left hind, left front, right hind, right front — but can go as fast as a typical cantor. However, a tölt can also be performed at a slow pace as well. The result is a versatile gait that is remarkably comfortable for the rider. All Icelandic horses are born with the ability to perform the tölt, but some young horses need training to keep from mixing it with other gaits.
The second unique gait is the flugskeið — the “flying pace.” This quick racing gait can hit speeds of nearly fifty kilometers per hour. The flying pace is achieved through a two-beat gait in which the hooves on one side of the horse hit the ground almost simultaneously. Only some Icelandic horses have the natural ability to perform this gait, and it’s definitely not for beginners. A flying pace ride requires a well-trained horse and an experienced rider. Horses who can master the flying pace are highly prized among Icelandic breeders.