World Championships for Icelandic Horses 2019
World Championships for Icelandic Horses 2019 in Berlin. They are not tall, have long-hair, they are impressively fast and appear in many colours. After six years, Berlin is once again welcoming the world’s best Icelandic horses and their riders, to the 50th World Championships. One week dedicated to the Icelandic horse.
“Once a horse leaves Iceland it can never return.” – Iclandic truth
Sometimes pleasure and pain go hand in hand. Especially among the successful Icelandic riders who come to continental Europe for world championships. On the one hand, they are celebrating the greatest successes, but they also know that after the World Championship event they will have to part with their partner – the horse. Once an Icelandic horse has left the island in the far north, it can never return.
In order to keep the Icelandic horse breeding pure, from influences of other horse breeds, and to protect the horse population on Iceland from infections, no horse is allowed to enter the country. Thousands of years of pure breeding and the living conditions in Iceland have produced a very special horse breed. Icelandic horses live on the island near the Arctic Circle semi-wild in large herds. In the course of the centuries self-confident horses with an intact social behavior evolved. The Icelandic horse is known as a reliable partner with best character traits, strength and an independent spirit. These characteristics and the unique ability to tölt make Icelandic horses very popular – far beyond the borders of Iceland.
On non-icelandic terrain it is Germany where the most Icelandic horses live – about 80,000. This years World Championships for Icelandic horses will be the one with the most participants from Germany, because the German team was more successful than ever before at the last World Championship in 2017 in Oirschot, the Netherlands. A total of 19 nations will compete in Berlin. The competitions will take place according to the General Rules, the international rules of the FEIF and under strict veterinary supervision. The well-being of the horse comes first. Many competitions are judged. A special attention applies thereby to a beautiful riding style, the harmony between rider and horse. In different tests horses and riders show their abilities in the typical gaits of the breed. The Icelandic horses are presented in tölt and pace tests or in multiple gait tests, in which not only tölt and pace but also their basic gaits are judged.
The World Championship competition is organized by the Icelandic Horse Sports Club Berlin ISB e.V. on the grounds of the Berlin-Karlshorst Equestrian Sports Park. The facility is located directly on the edge of the six square kilometre park and forest area Wuhlheide, not far from the centre of Berlin.
Kick-off – Relay rider at the Brandenburg Gate and the opening ceremony
Sunday morning in Berlin, between Siegessäule and Brandenburger Tor. The sun is hiding, high humidity, not really warm yet. There’s not much going on at Tiergarten. A few joggers cross the 4-lane boulevard. The lane from the Siegessäule to the Brandenburger Tor is closed for the general traffic. The last stage of the relay ride which will go across the city to end at the world championship stadium is off to start. A crowd cheers for the riders before the squad turns right at the Brandenburg Gate for the trail through Berlin.
Meanwhile it is still quiet on the racetrack in Karlshorst.. The gates will not open for visitors until noon. The perfect occasion to watch the training sessions, to explore the site, to gather information and to view the market tents. There is everything an Icelandic horse rider’s heart desires: riding supplies, creative things, information about Icelandic horses and riding opportunities in Iceland. A choir rehearses for the opening performance of the World Championships. This creates a special atmosphere – songs sang in Icelandic language sound through the almost empty equestrian stadium. Very special and very beautiful.
Highlight of the day: the opening ceremony with the teams of all participating nations entering the arena and the relay riders arriving who bring the relay symbol from the last venue in the Netherlands to the current host in Berlin for the ceremonial handover. The World Championships can begin.
Semifinals and cultural programme
5 gaits, over 40 colour variations, an average height of 140 cm, a two-layer thick protecting fur, over 1000 years of pure breeding, almost 272,000 registered Icelandic horses worldwide. During the World Championships of Icelandic horses not only riders are awarded medals, world champion horses among the best stallions and broodmares of the individual countries are also determined and awarded. The current breeding goal for Icelandic horses is a robust yet elegant, versatile riding horse with five excellent gaits. The examination of the breeding animals begins with an evaluation of the exterior. All participating horses collect marks for characteristics such as backline, neck, proportion, mane and hoofs. In the following days the ridability is checked in all gaits. Smooth movements are ideal – high, expansive and powerful.
Movements and stature of the Icelandic horse and its special colours encourage artists to portray them in a wide variety of media. The last Icelandic World Championship event in 2013 was accompanied by a photo exhibition. This year art this is not such a big focus. Nevertheless, in the market and trade fair area, you come across a small but very fine exhibition with impressive sculptural artworks.
The Dutch artists Jos Dirix and Wilma van Duuren do not exclusively feature horses in their works, but Icelandic horses play a major part in their art and in their life. The title image of this article shows the bronze sculpture Furietah by Jos Dirix.
Every day during this event a special subject-matter: inclusion and therapeutic riding, the next day you can go shopping at the trade fair until late in the evening. The Icelandic rock star Helgi Björns plays with his band at the Icelandic Evening on Friday and at the horse show “More Horse Power” on Saturday when among others, the famous equestrian Jean-Francois Pignon will perform with his herd.
The semi-finals of different competitions are in full swing. First medals have already been awarded.
The final of the pace test on Thursday, 8.8.2019: Gold goes to Iceland. Frauke Schenzel and Gustur vom Kronshof come in 8th place. The first medals for Team Germany: in the Young Rider ranking Helen Klaas and her fast grey Vif van’t Groote Veld managed to win the silver medal with a strong performance. Later on, they should win Gold as World Champions in the Young Rider speed pace competition.
The weekend of the final results
The emotional closing act follows at the weekend. Until Sunday afternoon all medals are awarded and farewell is celebrated. But before that, the hotly anticipated horse show will start on Saturday evening. “This scenery is really impressive. It’s a great experience to be part of a World Championship,” says a delighted Jean-François Pignon. In addition to the French master, the audience can admire an Icelandic quadrille and other show acts at the “More Horse Power” show, like the best stunt riders in Europe from the Hasta Luego Academy. They perform incredible acrobatics on the oval track in a really fast gallop.
One week the Karlshorst race track was whitewashed in the powerful Icelandic blue: We have seen many of the beautiful shirts of the Icelandic team and Icelandic flags everywhere, not only on the grandstands with cheering spectators. Iceland is often on top of the podium but other countries get stronger every year. In Scandinavia, Germany and Austria, for example Icelandic horse riding is on a very high level. In the exciting pace race where two horse and rider pairs from different countries compete against each other, the crowds on the grandstands go wild. Once in the pace, the horse should no longer change gaits on the 250 m track, which is particularly difficult when the rival horse gallops fast forward. The fastest in pace wins. World champion 2019 in the P1 pass race over 250 m was Guðmundur Björgvinson with the fast Glúmur frá Þóroddsstöðum.
In other competitions – tölt, four- or five-gait tests, it also depends on how the respective gait is ridden in detail. Expression and harmony are more important than speed. “You keep the focus on the finish and so you take the lead,” says Jóhann Rúnar Skúlason, a legend from Team Iceland who lives in Denmark. “It’s the same every time. That’s what we work for. That’s our motto.” The last two years have been devoted to fine-tuning. After the rider with the grey Finnbogi frá Minni-Reykjum took 3rd place in the tölt test at the last World Championships, they became tölt World Champions in Berlin this year. Jóhann Rúnar Skúlason is known for perfectly focus on his work, having a good eye for the details of the horse’s talent and not being satisfied with less than the best.
Athletics and the enormous expressiveness in the movement of the great four-legged athletes are hardly perceptible in detail to the untrained eye due to the high basic speed of the horse type celebrated at this event. Photographically, the moment of movement can be easily captured. Find out more in the photo series Fast & Fabulous.
The medals have been awarded. For the German team, it went not that successful as at the World Championships as it went in Oirschot, the Netherlands, in 2017, but Germany leads the medal table. The Young Riders were able to secure several World Championship titles for Germany. Silver medals went to the seniors Stefan Schenzel and Bernhard Podlech. The Icelandic rider Konráð Valur Sveinsson with Losti frá Ekru becomes World Champion in the speed pace and the multiple Swedish World Champion Magnús Skúlason wins gold again this year in the five-gait competition. All World Championship titles and results at a glance.
Once again the teams of the nations enter the arena. Now to celebrate farewell. There are a few tears dripping down to the bottom of the trotting track. The farewell of Icelandic riders is particularly difficult. They have to travel home without their horses. Once exported Icelandic horses may not be brought back home due to the exclusive, strict Icelandic import regulations. They remain in the country of the World Championships or are sold to other countries. It is not unlikely that we will see one or the other horse again at the next World Championships – then possibly starting under a different flag. The well-known documentary film Kraftur – The Last Ride comprehensibly describes the emotional conflict of the rider Tóti – Þórarinn Eymundsson and the journey of the horse Kraftur from the preparation phase in Iceland up to the World Championships 2007 in Continental Europe.
From 04 to 11 August 2019 the Pferdesportpark Berlin-Karlshorst in the district of Lichtenberg after the year 2013 was again the venue for the exciting international sporting event dedicated to a single horse breed. The next World Championships will take place in 2021 in Herning, Denmark, after the Landsmót in Iceland will be celebrated in 2020. The top-class national equestrian event for the Icelandic horse in its own country also takes place every two years. Only Icelandic registered horses compete against each other in the world’s largest Icelandic horse event. The counterpart to the World Championships, which tours continuously through Europe.
All images: (c) Simone Fust
Impressions of the World Championships for Icelandic horses 2019 in Berlin:65 Likes