oil on canvas, 51cm x 61cm, 2013, £300
Because of the isolated peripheral position of the country the Icelandic horse introduced by the earliest Nordic settlers has remained without external genetic influence for a millennium. Throughout this time it has been central to survival, providing the main means of transport over land especially in the remoter and more difficult terrain. Only from the mid 19th century did this supremacy decline while even today it serves a significant role particularly in the autumn when sheep are herded from remote mountainous regions.
Today it is protected by law which forbids the import of horses to Iceland and decrees that those exported can never return. It is a stocky animal renown for its strength and stamina, sure footed and intelligent. It is also unique in possessing two gaits in addition to the walk, trot and gallop. These are the t?lt or smooth running walk and the skeilð or pace. Its revered place in the hearts of Icelanders is reflected in its nickname which translates as “most useful servant”.