Leisure riders make up the largest group of Icelandic horse owners in the UK, though many who classify themselves as leisure riders also take part in a wide range of disciplines such as Icelandic competitions, Le Trec, endurance riding, dressage, driving, cross country events and more.

Regular hacking, competition in mainstream equestrian sports and participation in mainstream equestrian events are a great way to showcase the versatility and personality of the Icelandic horse and raise their profile in Great Britain. IHSGB members are encouraged to try new activities and to share their experiences in Sleipnir (the IHSGB members’ magazine) and on social media. Even better is when a group attend a mainstream equestrian event; there is something very engaging in seeing a group of Icelandics together! Attending local mainstream equestrian events with other Icelandic owners is not only a fun social occasion, but also an opportunity to learn and share experiences.

Leisure works very closely with education as many leisure riders wish to improve their skills and knowledge in order to get the best from their Icelandic horse, even if this is purely with the goal of improving their everyday riding for soundness or self-development rather than through any sporting ambition. Sleipnir and the IHSGB website events pages list the leisure, educational, breeding and sporting events available around the country – as do the various Icelandic based social media groups. We encourage all members to get involved in as many events as possible, you can liaise with your area rep to find out what is on near you or even consider organising your own event. Please contact office@ihsgb.co.uk if you are interested organising something, support is available if needed and possibly a grant to help with costs. The importance of being a participant or simply helping & spectating should not be underestimated as the calendar can only be expanded with the support of members. Please, don’t forget to share your adventures with others via Sleipnir and the IHSGB social media groups!

For the many leisure riders who already participate in traditional and emerging mainstream equestrian sports with your Icelandic, it is worth remembering that there is often an International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations equivalent class specifically for Icelandic Horses. The International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations is the world governing body and the IHSGB is one of more than 20 affiliated countries, this organisation is abbreviated to FEIF. Many of the FEIF classes are showcased at the annual British Championships & Summer Festival which is the highlight of the IHSGB calendar and well worth attending, if only as a spectator. If you are interested in how to make the crossover into FEIF classes and would like to either participate, spectate, or volunteer at this, or any event, please get in touch.

For those with barriers in attending the increasing numbers of organised specialised events for Icelandics being held across the country, there are a number of national online initiatives detailed below which allow you to feel part of a wider community, as well as providing opportunities to develop your skills and increase your knowledge:

Member Events to join in

The Icelandic Horse Challenge Cup (IHCC) is a joint initiative between leisure, education and sport and exists to recognise and encourages members who participate in Icelandic events and activities. See here for more info.

Your everyday hacks and training rides can also be put to good use as you can submit your annual ridden mileage towards the IHSGB’s own Distance Award, read more here.

Countryside riding is a lesser known FEIF Sport in Great Britain. Details can be found on page 184 of the FEIF General Rules and Regulations. Sadly, there is not currently sufficient interest in Great Britain for this class to have been taken up here as yet.

“IHSGB Webinars

In August 2013, 26 UK riders took part in the ‘Ride to Berlin’ (the location of the Icelandic Horse World Championships 2013) and between them they achieved a total distance of 24,397.54km! In 2014, riders from the UK were joined by riders from the USA, Netherlands and Sweden in the Ride to Hella (the location of Landsmot in South Iceland). In 2015, there was also a virtual ride to Herning, Denmark, the location of the World Championships 2015. The FEIF virtual “Ride to Reykjavík” came to an end with the beginning of Landsmót on July 1st 2018 and the most recent FEIF virtual ride was the Ride to Berlin 2019.

Riders participate solo or in teams. Each rider or team rides out according to their own time and fitness, keeping track of the approximate distance covered on each ride. The distances are tallied up and logged via the Virtual Ride website each month. Riders and teams can track their own progress — and that of everyone else — on the scoreboard.

This is not a competition, but FEIF encourages all riders to join in the spirit of the fun that can be had along the way by sharing our passion for the Icelandic horse. ‘Hello Hella 2020’ is a Facebook group administrated by Gundula Sharman, the FEIF Director of Youth Work, where participants can share their experiences of this challenge. To find more information and sign up, go to https://www.feif.org/leisure-riding-dept/virtual-ride/

A growing number of IHSGB members participate in mainstream dressage competition and lessons. Dressage provides a focus on which to develop good riding skills and a balanced horse but has the added challenge of finding and keeping clear gaits when competing on a gaited horse!

FEIF has its own freestyle dressage and figures test options for Icelandics and the IHSGB offers a dressage class via Tölt Online (TOL). TOL is an online initiative in which you submit a video of yourself riding a test at your chosen location and then submit it to be assessed by an International judge. This allows everyone at every level, regardless of location, the opportunity to get feedback from an official judge. Given we have chosen a gaited breed, having this valuable online resource allows us to assess and improve the gaits whilst overcoming issues of location and so it is well worth participating. The FEIF regulations are different to those of British Dressage and can be found on page 174 of the FEIF General Rules and Regulations.

Thanks to increasing numbers of foreign breed classes in local shows, in hand and ridden showing of Icelandic horses is becoming increasingly popular in Great Britain and the IHSGB is a member of the Showing Council.

FEIF also has a Class FS3 – In hand showing in the dressage arena, details are on page 184 of the FEIF General Rules and Regulations. Sadly, there is not currently sufficient interest in Great Britain to make this a class that has been taken up here as yet.

FEIF – Leisure Riding

At the FEIF conference in Malmö 2012 it was expressed very precisely by Sigurbjörn Bárðarson, who made a point of stating that professional horse people should be careful not to make riding too complicated for common people. The fact that riding is a source of joy and fun should be remembered and respected. FEIF formed the Leisure committee which continues to strive towards meeting the needs of those who consider themselves leisure riders. The IHSGB takes on this mantle for the UK which feeds into the FEIF Leisure Committee. Any suggestions for leisure initiatives in Great Britain would be very welcome, please send to leisure@ihsgb.co.uk.

In 2017 the FEIF Leisure Committee launched the Riding Horse Profile, a tool to help leisure riders find the best possible match when buying a new horse. You can read more about it here.