The Icelandic horse is a riding horse. The horse is unique in its gaits and virtually all Icelandic horses have tölt in addition to walk, trot, and canter/gallop. Many horses have the additional gait of very fast (flying) pace. As a riding horse it is extraordinarily versatile - a capable, willing horse for pleasure riding, and for sport competitions, suitable for adults and children. The horse is tough, independent, yet sociable and easy to get on with, is self-assured and has good staying power.
Sport with Icelandic horses focusses on these aspects.
On the oval track there are gaited tests in tölt, four gait (walk, trot, canter, tölt) and five gait (walk, trot, canter, tölt and pace). The performance of horse and rider is judged, mainly through the quality of the gaits. In tölt, an even four-beat gait without suspension is required, one or two feet on the ground at any single moment. Pace should have a clear moment of suspension but can have a visible four beat characteristic because of the action of the front legs. It should be ridden at racing speed.
The prescribed length of the oval track is 250 m, although tracks between 200 m and 250 m length are accepted.
On (straight) pace tracks races in pace (both with flying start and start from start boxes) take place. The pace track is also used for the pace test, a test focussing on the combination of the quality of the gait and the speed.
Other tests emphasize other qualities of horse and rider, like flag race, trail, cross country, in hand showing and free style performance.
Many countries distinguish between different levels of horses and riders: Sport A is the highest level and often needs qualification through Sport B and sometimes Sport C and D. In Sport A, riders compete alone on the oval track. In Sport B, C and D they compete in groups of 3 to 5 riders.