The United States Icelandic Horse Congress was formed in 1987 by representatives of the U.S. Icelandic Horse Federation and the International Icelandic Horse Association, two early organizations, to meet the FEIF rule that only one association from each country is allowed to represent the breed. FEIF is the international association dedicated to the protection and promotion of Icelandic Horses. (The acronym comes from the original German name, and is expanded into English as International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.)

Comprised of the National Icelandic horse Associations of 21 countries including Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. FEIF governs competition activities and regulates the breeding and registration of Icelandic Horses throughout the world.

The Icelandic Horse is the only breed which has ONE breeding standard, ONE set of competition rules and ONE set of registry rules in all countries in which it is resident.

The following is an article printed in the British Icelandic Horse association's equivalent of the USIHC's The Icelandic Horse Quarterly magazine.


Report on the FEIF meeting in Haarlem, NL, October 2009

What is FEIF?

As you know, FEIF, the international umbrella body of the Icelandic horse has four departments - breeding, sport, education and youth. Each of those areas has a committee that decides on, for example, the criteria for judging a breeding house, the rules governing a sports competition, the level of knowledge and experience a riding instructor should have, or international opportunities for youth.

What Does FEIF Do?

One of the real achievements of FEIF is that we have a single international system of marks and judging criteria which makes it easy to compare the strengths of a horse bred in Iceland or New Zealand or indeed in Britain. Think about it, one system from Alaska to Italy! Even the language barriers have - to a large extent - been removed from that process. Equally, judges can be invited to come from any participating country, and we can be sure that they were trained to use the same criteria all over the world to look at the merits of a breeding horse.

Working Together

Up until now these committees arranged their separate meetings and got on with their work. This time the FEIF Board arranged for all committees to meet in the same place at the same time, namely in Haarlem. The advantage of this is that it is so much easier for one committee to consult with another one. Simple? Of course it is simple, but sometimes one has to go a long way in order to stare the obvious in the face.

Each committee got on with their usual work: reforming and refining rules and regulations, organising training events for judges and instructors, planning future events , and - having joint sessions with another group. Somewhat to everyone's surprise, the ideas of the different working committees are much closer together than anyone had thought. And this can even apply to the last detail. So for example the education committee and the sports judge committee had identified the very same person to invite as a speaker to their respective training courses for 2010. Funny? Yes - because there were a lot of experts to choose from! Reassuring? Yes - two (sets of) minds are often better than one. Sad? Yes - why did we not try this years ago!!!

Future Ideas

Of course, meetings that last for longer than a day are not only conducted in the conference rooms but the conversation spills over into meals, not to mention the bar. And often that is when be (seeds of) the best ideas are born.

So, there was an idea to look at 'old' things in a new way. On the one hand, the Icelandic horse world is unique in that the governing body regulates breeding and sport. In which other equestrian discipline do you have the same body setting out the criteria for a breed evaluation AND the rules governing sport competitions? On the other hand, even within the world of the Icelandic horse, breeding and sport seem to stand at opposite ends of the spectrum, when it comes to shoeing rules, or the definition of 'working tempo' in various gaits. What is acceptable in breeding, is not necessarily so in sport, and vice versa. Now, there may be very good reasons for that. But, just for a minute, think about - what would happen if there were no difference?

The polarity between breeding and sport would disappear, and a new distinguishing element would appear: on the one hand we have breeding (i.e. the horse) and on the other riding (i.e. the rider). And then, suddenly our biggest concern: how do we serve the majority or members? - the leisure riders - would disappear from the way we think about our membership. Surely, sport riders, breeding show riders, youth riders AND leisure riders are all riders. So - if we follow that line of thought, the whole framework of thinking might change. Instead of focussing on the difference between the happy hacker and the professional competition rider, the new thinking would focus on what they have in common.

At this stage, no-one says that there are any answers. But asking these questions is a very exciting thing. And, if you have any thoughts on this, we would love to hear about it. Please feel free to participate in the process. You know, we know - the future is in your hands.

Author: Gundula Sharman. November 2, 2009. Reprinted with permission.