In Search Of The Viking Horse

51m 09s

According to Nordic mythology the god Odin rode an eight legged horse called Sleipnir. It is believed that this legend was inspired by the unique Icelandic horse and its fifth gait – the flying pace, which from a distance, gives the appearance of an animal with eight legs. Brought over from Northern Europe by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago, the Icelandic Horse is one of the last remaining pure breeds. Living amid the dramatic Icelandic landscape, this horse is extraordinary in its pace and endurance. When research first began on this horse, the myth and legend proved to be still intrinsically linked to the present breed. The Icelanders are fiercely protective over their ‘little horse’. So what makes this horse so special? “They’ve got 8 legs!” came the startling reply and so the quest for the 8 legged horse began. This 52 minute programme will trace the legend, history and training of this special Icelandic breed and the reasons for its current popularity. We will see the horse in its natural and dramatic setting, as well as performing at the famous Landsmot festival. Every two years in mid-summer, a festival celebrating the Icelandic horse is staged outside Reykjavik. The extraordinary show attracts breeders, trainers and enthusiasts from all over the world. This week long equestrian extravaganza is Iceland’s most popular event and has come to be recognised as the premier show for Icelandic horses with an estimated 10,000 visitors along with 1,000 horses. The myth of this unique breed will be explored as well present day traditions – how the breed has remained pure through the centuries to the crowning of the champion of the Sleipnir Trophy -the most coveted prize of the tournament. Will it be possible to uncover the close association between the living horse and the mythological eight-legged beast, against the backdrop of this spectacular and largely undiscovered Icelandic landscape? The programme will provide a rich mythological and historical background to this unique breed of horse. As well as covering the Landsmot festival, the film will trace the ancestry of the breed, which has been kept pure by the banning of all imported horses. It has been said that ‘if you wish to understand Iceland you must understand its horse’.