The 2016 National Championships of the Icelandic Horse: An Event Management Case Study

Susanna Hedenborg
Dept. of Sport Sciences, Malmö University

Katherine Dashper, Guðrún Helgadóttir & Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir (eds.)
Humans. Horses and Events Management
219 pages, hardcover
Wallingford, Oxon: CABI 2021
ISBN 978-1-78924-275-1

In Humans, Horses and Events Management, 19 authors from various countries such as Iceland, Norway, France, UK and Sweden present studies of and suggest strategies for event management including horses. The book contains chapter by authors with different backgrounds, such as management, equine science, rural planning, film making and the equestrian community. The broad competence of the authors is reflected in the book and contribute to a holistic perspective on events. Focus is the National Championships of the Icelandic Horse, but conclusions drawn from the various studies presented can be extended to other events as well as contribute to the development of event management models and theory.

The 2016 National Championships of the Icelandic Horse is used as a case, and the majority of the chapters draw on empirical research conducted at this event. Methods include observations, interviews and surveys before and after the event and the production of a documentary film. Topics studied are the economic importance of the event, the experiences and interests of local residents, visitors, breeders, riders and volunteers and the impact of the event on the destination image. The editors, Katherine Dashper, Leeds Beckett University, UK, Guðrún Helgadóttir, University of South-Eastern Norway, and Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir, Hólar University, Iceland, have made a good job of keeping the collection together. The book is divided in sections related to the management of the event – Making of the event, Managing the event, Experiencing the event, Meanings of the event and Event impact and legacies. The division makes sense and facilitates the reading.

The National Championships of the Icelandic Horse was held for the first time in 1950 and then every fourth year until 1998. Since then, the event is held biennially in different locations, 3–8 days in the high summer. Over time the interest for the championships has increased. At the time of the study 8,000 humans and 800 horses visited the event, which naturally had an extensive impact on the host community. The studies show that the event has an impact on the local area and contribute to regional development. Yet, to optimize impact, sustainability and economic, social and environmental issues have to be taken into account, as well as both visitors and residents experiences. A conclusion is that event organizers should focus more on the implementation of sustainability. In addition, the impact is traced economically (economic returns to for instance the event managers and local visitor businesses; more was spent by international than local visitors) and socially. An interesting study by Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir, focusing on the impact of the event show that social cohesion of the local community, which played an active role in shaping the event, was created.

Regardless of my wish to have seen more non-human animals included in the book, the studies contributions are of paramount importance for scholars in the event field, tourism and human-animal studies, as well as for event managers broadly for several reasons.

Not only are these events special as humans and horses participate together, they are also, together with other equestrian events, exceptions in the sport context as men and women compete together. In the book, specific challenges organizing a multispecies event are discussed – except for challenges related to all events such as security, finances, promotion and guest services, the role of the horse comes forward as a challenge as welfare of the horses has to be protected. An interesting fact related to the welfare of the horse is that the championships are not open for horses coming from outside of Iceland. There is a special ban on horse import to Iceland and an Icelandic team must take their horses permanently out of Iceland every time they compete at world championships. Whether the ban has resulted in that the best horses are kept on Iceland, or whether they have been exported is not studied here, but the championships enable the owners of the best horses in Iceland to come together and compete in various categories and it is an event for ranking the best horses, and for the marketing and communication of qualities of the Icelandic horse.

To organize a successful event and to market it, it is essential to know why people come to an event. It is, for example, possible that football supporters demand other services than visitors to an equestrian event. The National Championships of the Icelandic Horse is a multispecies event which makes the studies presented in this book especially important. Even though horses seem to be the most common non-human animal to involve in events as competitors, studies of events including horses are scant. Katherine Dahsper elaborates on this and underlines that managers’ need to consider site and programs from human and non-human animals’ perspectives to be successful and offer an event that is safe and based on animal welfare. Using Goffman, she demonstrates that the event’s different spaces offer room for various kinds of encounters and interactions between humans and non-human animals.


Despite the common interest in the Icelandic horse, various expectations and needs appear among the visitors. Organizers have to take into account both repeat visitors and new ones and different kinds of volunteers – tourists joining because of their interest in the core activity and local non-profit volunteers. Except for the competitive part, the event is of social importance, bringing people with a common interest for the Icelandic horse together. In one of the studies based on surveys by Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir and Anna Lilja Pétursdóttir, it is pointed out that intangible services and service mindedness of the staff are important for the visitors. In addition, there is a high demand for horse-related products and equipment, clothes, and a grocery store close to the event. Visitors also expect a variety of meals and refreshments – related to weather conditions at the venue. Another way of finding out how the event is experienced is to study how it is represented on social media. An interesting study of social media by Susanna Heldt Cassel shows that visitors represent both the event and Iceland as a destination by stressing national pride and an Icelandic identity strongly connected to a rural landscape, outdoor activities, harsh nature and skilled, strong, independent men and women constructing their identities in relation to horses.

Horses and humans are central in the championships, and the focus of the book is undoubtedly important. A shortcoming, however, is that the impact on other non-human animals is not considered. In another study, Kass Gibson has problematized in what way non-human animals are involved in events, such as the non-human animals removed from event sites and non-human animals present as food and equipment at events.1 Regardless of my wish to have seen more non-human animals included in the book, the studies contributions are of paramount importance for scholars in the event field, tourism and human-animal studies, as well as for event managers broadly for several reasons. Firstly, as it presents original academic work on a human-horse event; secondly, as previous research has focused mega events and their impact on the community. Authors in this volume show that it is important to study the smaller sports events impact in rural communities. A conclusion is that the rural setting can create important legacies for the event building on discourses of tradition and the association between the horse and Icelandic nature, which create positive impact for the small rural region and can help sustain the horse community beyond cities/towns. It is also clear that more research in the field is needed.

Copyright © Susanna Hedenborg 2022


[1] Kass Gibson (2020), “Animals, Sport, and the Environment”, in Wilson, Brian & Millington, Brad (2020). Sport and the environment. Politics and preferred futures. Bingley: Emerald Publishing Limited, chapter 6.


Table of Content

1: Introduction: Managing and Experiencing an Equestrian Event


2: Event Communities

2A: FEIF, the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations
Gunnar Sturluson and Gundula Sharman.

2B: The Event Community: the Icelandic Equestrian Association
Lárus Ástmar Hannesson.

3: The Star of the Show: the Icelandic Horse
Guðrún Stefánsdóttir and Víkingur Gunnarsson


4: Strategic Management of Horse-related Events: the Case of the National Championships of the Icelandic Horse (Landsmót) 1998-2008
Runólfur Smári Steinþórsson and Hjörný Snorradóttir

5: Event Management and Organisation: the Execution of Landsmót, Reykjavík 2018
Áskell Heiðar Ásgeirsson

6: Segmentation, Marketing, Venue Selection and Competitiveness of Events
Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir


7: The Visitor Experience at a Horse Event
Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir and Anna Lilja Pétursdóttir

8: Volunteering at Landsmót: Gaining Knowledge and Experience
Kari Jæger and Guðrún Helgadóttir

9A: Horse Welfare at Events
Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir

9B: Welfare Assessment of Icelandic Competition Horses
Sigríður Björnsdóttir.


10: Identity Construction in Relation to Niche Events: Images of Landsmót in Social Media
Susanna Heldt Cassel

11: Multispecies Encounters in Events
Katherine Dashper


12: Economic Impact Analysis of Events: Landsmót 2016
Tobias Heldt

13: Community Impacts of Events: Resident Expectations and Experiences
Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir

14: Event Legacies
Guðrún Helgadóttir and Katherine Dashper


15: Comparing Landsmót 2016 with Other Equestrian Events: the Case of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy
Celine Vial and Eric Barget

16: Landsmót: a Short Documentary
Ragnhildur Ásvaldsdóttir

17: Conclusions: Planning, Managing and Experiencing Equestrian Events
Katherine Dashper, Guðrún Helgadóttir and Ingibjörg Sigurðardóttir

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