Martina GatesThórunn Kristjánsdóttir

About Us

The Icelandic StudBook is the creation of two self-proclaimed ‘horse nuts.’ Martina Gates and Thórunn Kristjánsdóttir have been Icelandic horse enthusiast for . . . well, as long as they can remember.

Martina grew up in Germany. She started riding ‘big horses’ at age 9, where she learned the basics, focusing on dressage. She was introduced to Icelandic horses in the mid 90s and has since been “hooked”. She now has over half a dozen Icelandic horses, including the amazing stallion, Stígandi frá Leysingjastöðum II, and the highest judged domestic born mare in the US, Ósk from Helms Hill.

Martina founded Tölt News in 1999. She felt that there was a need for a different kind of Icelandic horse publication in the US. Tölt News has been well received since its founding. Martina is also a renowned equine photographer. Her photos can be seen not only in The StudBook and on The StudBook’s website, but also in Tölt News, on WorldFengur, and in numerous other publications and websites. After Martina bought Stígandi in 2004, she “really got into breeding.” Breeding has now become her passion. Go ahead; ask Martina about her stallion’s semen count - I dare you!

Thórunn comes from generations of horse men and women in Iceland. Her family, primarily her grandfather (Kristján Guðmundsson), her father (Kristján Kristjánsson) and she, have bred the Hrafnhólar line of horses for over 40 years. Because of the Icelandic horse, Thórunn and her family moved from Iceland to up-state New York in 1989 to help promote and market the Icelandic horse in North America. In 2007 Thórunn and her family founded their farm, Thor Icelandics, where they are continuing their breeding – mixing their Hrafnhólar breeding with other excellent bloodlines - as well as training and selling horses. Thórunn owns horses both in Iceland and in New York, where she continues to breed and train. She is currently starting to train a horse that is the 4th generation of her breeding. Thórunn is a graphic designer, photographer and also the owner and publisher of Tolt News. But Thórunn says that the loves of her life are her horses. “They are my inner calm. They are my happiness. They are my heart, and my soul.”

In 2009, Martina and Thórunn decided to start The Icelandic StudBook, because they found that there was a great need for a North American Icelandic horse stallion magazine. Eiðfaxi publishes one such magazine every year (which they do a terrific job of), but it primarily lists stallions in Iceland, secondly in Europe, and thirdly in North America. Thórunn and Martina had felt rather frustrated at times, by the lack of resources and information about breeding options in North America. For example, who is the highest judged stallion for talent in North America? Who is the highest judged stallion for conformation in North America? Off-hand, they couldn’t think who it was. And there wasn’t a resource that has this data (that they could think of), unless you hand-sift through WorldFengur or know everyone and every stallion. They also felt that more and more people were becoming interested in breeding, but often times weren’t sure where to turn to find a selection of stallions to choose from.

In doing research for The StudBook, Martina and Thórunn found that there were a lot of great stallions available in North America – more than they had initially thought and known about. Arising from their own frustrations came their want to create a resource for other enthusiastic Icelandic horse breeders.