The export value of Icelandic horses was in focus in the cover story of Morgunblaðið daily on 9th September. Sveinn Steinarsson, chairman of the Horse Breeders Association of Iceland, highlights how important the marketing efforts of Horses of Iceland are in that connection.
The Icelandic horse graced the cover of Icelandic daily Morgunblaðið on Monday, 9th September. The headline translates as “Ten Billion in a Decade” and refers to the export value of Icelandic horses. The author, Magnús Heimir Jónasson, bases his article on numbers published by Statistics Iceland, stating that horse export has generated around ISK 1 billion (USD 8 million, EUR 7 million) every year in the past decade. Breeding horses are the most valuable. They account for 73% of all exported horses, riding horses 24% and other live horses 3%.
According to a report by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), which sites export statistics from WorldFengur – The Studbook of Origin for the Icelandic Horse, the number of exported horses has increased steadily since 2010 (when an outbreak of respiratory tract infection led to a temporary ban on export), with the exception of 2018. In sheer numbers, fewer horses were exported in 2018 than the year prior, or 1,351 compared to 1,485 in 2017. However, Magnús points out that in 2018, horses were exported to 20 different countries, but to 17 in 2017. Moreover, the export value was higher in 2018 than 2017, or ISK 915 million (USD 7 million, EUR 6 million) – up from ISK 753 million (USD 6 million, EUR 5 million).
Last year most horses, or 535, were exported to Germany (which has long been the largest market for Icelandic horses), while 191 went to Sweden and 156 to Denmark. Other important markets include Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Norway and the United States. Further markets are growing, such as France, Belgium and Finland. It’s noteworthy that nine horses were sold to Canada last year but hardly any the years prior, and two to New Zealand but no others in the past decade, as can be seen in WorldFengur’s statistics. 
Marketing project Horses of Iceland (HOI), overseen by Promote Iceland, was established in 2015 to strengthen the image of the Icelandic horse and encourage the sale of horses, horse-related products and services. “It’s very important that the marketing and promotion of the Icelandic horse and horsemanship is coordinated, as has been done by the HOI project in the past four years,” states Sveinn Steinarsson, chairman of the Horse Breeders Association of Iceland. “In my mind, more effort has to be put into future promotions, because it certainly goes together, promoting the horse itself and Iceland as a destination. It has proven a windfall for us who are involved in the horse industry to learn about and take part in the work that is carried out by Promote Iceland. In fact, it could be said, that there was a turning point as far as work methods and persistence in the marketing of the Icelandic horse goes when Horses of Iceland was established.”
In the 1990s, 2,000-3,000 horses were commonly exported from Iceland every year, but since 2009, the total number has not exceeded 1,500. To encourage increased export in the following years, further marketing efforts are required. For that to happen, the important role played by Horses of Iceland must continue. “It’s vital that horse breeders succeed in selling valuable horses to overseas markets because there are many people who make a living out of their work with the Icelandic horse,” Sveinn concludes.
Text: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir.