The “Gæðingakeppni” is the most widely spread form of competition on horseback in Iceland. There are many reasons or this, for one it is in very much line with the old traditions around the Icelandic horse and in the Gæðingakeppni the special characteristics of the Icelandic horse can be expressed better than in other competitions. Traits like spirit and character, form under the rider and the power that lies within, together with the free and simple form of the competition make it easy to approach the horse in a positive manner and thus to show the horse at its best.
There are competition classes for all age groups: Children, Teenagers, Young Adults and Adults.
Children 10-13 years old
In the children's class two rounds are ridden on an oval track. The combination should show walk on one long side of the track, trot or tölt on one long side of the track and gallop on one long side of the track. That leaves about half a round (including one long side) reserve in case of mistakes or if the rider chooses to try to improve their mark for a certain gait.
Both the gaits and seat and aids are judged and the rider needs to ride the horse for a least one long side of the track to receive a full mark for the gait in question. For each gait the mark for the gait counts for 50% and the mark for seat and aids counts for the other 50%.
This way all children are given an opportunity to succeed if they are good riders, since the child who is riding the best horse does not necessarily win, it may just as well be the child who displays the best seat, aids and horsemanship who wins. The form of the competition encourages riders to sit well and display good control of the horse, traits which the young riders carry with them into the later classes.
Teenagers 14-17 years old
In the teenage class the competition program is a bit more difficult, which is only a natural progression in preparation for the higher classes. In the teenage class three rounds are ridden on an oval track (same as in B-class), walk for 2/3 of a long side and other gaits on at least one long side each:
Free tempo trot, slow tölt, fast tölt and gallop. This leaves one long side free to correct mistakes or to show the horse's best gait again in an attempt to improve the overall mark.
The marks for the gaits have no extra weighing, marks are also given for seat and aids in all the gaits and they count for 1/3 of the total mark.
As the marks show, seat and aids are judged especially in the younger classes and the thought is that it is good preparation for the adult classes.
Young Adults 18-21 years old
In the Young Adults class a B-class program is ridden (see below). The only difference is that in the Young Adults class all marks for gaits and willingness/spirit and form under rider have no extra weighing, whereas in the Adult B-class the willingness and form under the rider count double.
B-Class Gæðingar (4-gaited) and A-Class Gæðingar (five-gaited)
B-Class Gæðingar (four-gaited)
In this class three rounds are ridden, walk for at least half a long side, trot, slow tölt, fast tölt and gallop on one long side each gait and one long side free choice to receive a full mark.
Willingness/spirit and form under rider are multiplied by 2, but the marks for the gaits have no extra weighing.
A-Class Gæðingar (five-gaited)
In this class pace is added and shown on a 175 m straight track, which counts as one long side (1/2 round) of an oval track, but the total number of rounds is still three, that is 2 1/2 plus pace on the straight track.
In the A-class there are no demands for slow tölt, but the tölt tempo is free up to a medium speed.
In the A-class the marks for tölt, pace, willingness/spirit and form under rider weigh double and are therefore multiplied by 2.
In all the classes the rider can turn around once, if they so choose.
The competition starts and ends on a short side of the oval track, except in the A-class, if the rider ends with pace on the straight track they do not have to ride back into the oval track to finish the program; the rider can choose to show the pace anytime they want after having started the program at a short side of the track.
If we compare the Gæðingakeppni and the sports competition we see that in the sports competition the rider is in the key role, by showing precise riding, rhythm, speed and form.
In the Gæðingakeppni however the horse plays the key role and most types of horses fit within this competition form, which is more free and open. There are much less demands regarding precision and the show is based on spirit, power and extension in the gaits.
The rider only has to show one long side in each gait in order to receive a mark, they can turn around once if they want to and they can show the gaits in any order they want for each gait to come out as good as possible. For example, the rider might choose to start the performance with a powerful gallop sprint and then switch over to a powerful trot or tölt - it is all free and open for the rider to adapt the program to their needs and the horse's qualities.
In all classes of the Gæðingakeppni the rider is free to decide how they set up the program and they can show the gaits in whatever order fits them and their horse best.
The "Gæðingakeppni" competition is for all people interested in competing who enjoy showing the best qualities of their horse - from the children's class up to the adult classes where there is no age distinction.
The approach to the horse is connected to the original image of the Icelandic horse where the spirit is free and the character comes out - That is our true Icelandic horse, a "gæðingur."