If you have ever driven through the Icelandic countryside, you have likely caught glimpses of majestic Icelandic horses standing in farmers’ fields. Perhaps your first introduction to Iceland was its special equine. But what makes the Icelandic horse so special and culturally significant? We asked Jelena Ohm from Horses of Iceland.
“With the settlement of Iceland they brought along the horses, and it’s many people’s opinion that without the horses Icelanders would have never survived in this harsh environment. At the time, they were the main means of transportation, they were means for food, they were means for shelter,” explains Jelena. “I don’t think you can really talk about the history of Iceland without the Icelandic horse because it is so interwoven within the Sagas and the history.”
“That relationship kind of progressed over the years and with the Industrial Revolution and cars coming in,” Jelena continues. “It changed the relationship between the horses and Icelanders because they started to turn more into life companions.”
The relationship developed, and now Icelandic horses are used for hobbies, competitions, tourism and breeding. As the relationship between Icelanders and horses shifted, it has allowed for more professionalism, innovation and opportunities for the continued symbolism of the Icelandic horse.
“So many people are here because of the Icelandic horse. I know so many people who first became aware of Iceland because of the Icelandic horse, and who now live and work here with them,” adds Jelena. “We think of them today as the best ambassadors for Iceland.”
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