One of the features of the Icelandic horse which makes it so unique is the variety of colors. Colors are not as important for breeders as they are in many other countries. And that is because you do not ride the color! Breeders are more concern about breeding the best stallion at each time than focusing on the color and that has lead to some colors almost got extinct. For a long time the grey color seems to be going extinct but luckily there are usually few grey stallions that are used for breeding.
The colors of the Icelandic horse can be a bit confusing since black horses are not called black but brown, and horses that seem to be brown are called ”Jarpur”and white horses are called grey. Many horses have so-called blazes and stars and are due to the genetic material that causes these forms to appear on the faces of the horses. These forms can both be regular and irregular and vary between horses.
Some horses are roan horses. Those horses can change colors when changing to summer or winter coat. There are not many horses in Iceland like this since there are not many roan stallions used for breeding. The change in colors occurs because they have different inner and outer color which grows when winter is coming and falls off during the springtime.
Amongst the breed, you can also find part colored horses. It is not really a color but a lack of color in some part of the horses. The color is often named after how the white patches are spread over the horses. If the upper part of the horses has color and the lower part is white then the horse is said to have a coat for example.
Icelandic horses have like mentioned earlier a variety of colors but there are four main colors dominating and that is white, brown, chestnut and black. Some horsemen think they can identify characteristics of the horse just by their colors. White horses are thought to be the most balanced and stable horses. Brown ones are the surest-footed of the colors and reach the oldest age. Chestnut horses are the most courageous of all, lively and playful and black horses are thought to be the laziest ones. If you mix these colors you can see all these characteristics on one horse.
Sources for the blog is from the book The Icelandic horse by Gísli Björnsson and Hjalti Sveinsson.