It's all about the only native Finnish horse breed!

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The Finn horse is one of the strengths of Finnish travel industry

From Hevoset ja kunta – Rajapintoja: hevosmatkailu (e-book, p. 104-)


Summer night. Photo by Smerikal (CC 2.0)

Hippolis published a book “The Horse and The Municipality” which aims to deliver fact-based information for decision-making at municipalities (land use, zoning, construction, equine-assisted activities, youth activities etc.) One of the goals of this project is to encourage horse people to contact respective municipalities and to pass information about the industry and hobby.

One of the themes is the travel industry. Finland is an exotic and interesting, yet safe destination to spend a(n equestrian) holiday. The nature, its tranquility, spaciousness, flora and fauna, changing seasons and beautiful landscapes make Finland an interesting place to visit. Besides nature, the travellers are often interested in the local culture, history and traditions of the locals. One of many ways to experience Finland is on horseback.

The unique, native Finnish horse breed, the Finn horse, is the specialty and strength of Finnish travel industry. Now about 70% of businesses that offer horseback trail rides have one or more Finn horses in their stable (Icelandic horses are popular as well).


Sleigh rides are quite often available at the ski resorts. Photo: Pete Favelle (CC 2.0)

A developing product

According to statistics, the most common international traveller to attend the Finnish trail rides is a woman between ages 30 and 60. Most importantly she wants to experience the horse and the nature. She also appreciates quality and comfort of the trail, well-planned program and personal contact to local people – she wants to hear stories and is interested in the local history.

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Guest post: Hello from the UK



I’m in the UK and have had my lovely Finn horse “Sulokas” for five years, I don’t speak Finn but I think his name might mean sweet or cute? We call him Luke for short. Luke found me quite by accident but since that time I have come to love this strong and reliable horse. Having read about the Finn horse Luke seems quite true to the breed being strong, willing and easy to keep.

How did Luke find me? Well, I have always loved horses but didn’t own one until I was nearly 30yrs old, I bought t two lovely ponies, both British native cross bred, they served my three children and I well and stayed with us until we lost them both to old age, one in 2002, the other in 2004.

At this point the family are all grown up and left home so I thought; maybe we should have a break from keeping horses, I can honestly say that for the next five years I missed having horses everyday.

As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I told my husband that I desperately wanted horses again…he groaned!! but the search began and in June 2009 my birthday present arrived… no, not my lovely Finn horse but a beautiful Belgian draught called Major, I was so happy but then devastated to later find that Major had a very bad heart murmur, after much deliberation and advice from my vet (and my husband) I decided that the risks attached to keeping Major were too great and he was returned to the dealer, I was so upset. (But don’t worry it’s was a happy ending for Major too!)


Getting ready for a summer charity ride

I don’t know how Luke came to be in the UK, all I was told was that he had been a resident at a regional equestrian college which had closed, then sold to a lady who didn’t keep him long and was being returned to the dealer who had sold me Major. At 15.3hds and 13yrs old I decided he could be for me, the breed meant nothing to me and I didn’t think to read up about them before making a decision, most of all I wanted something safe, I tried him out, really liked him and so Luke and I began a journey into friendship.

Like all friendships it has taken time and we have had a few mishaps, I was unfit and not too confident with my riding at this time, I was surprised at Luke’s fast paces and how much ground he could cover so effortlessly, he was a bit nervous too, especially when I lost my balance a few times and fell off! I discovered his loathing for sheep, cows and pigs and didn’t have much strength to stay on when he spooked to try to avoid them! There were times when I wondered if I should keep Luke but I just knew that this horse was worth sticking with and I’m so glad I did, we have had such fun together.

“The breed meant nothing to me and I didn’t think to read up
about them before making a decision,
most of all I wanted something safe,
I tried him out, really liked him and so
Luke and I began a journey into friendship.”


Le Trec for the first time!


Le Trec for the first time!

Luke tries hard at everything I ask him to do, he was the star of the Le Trec class; when everyone thought I was being brave, I knew it was the strength and willingness of Luke giving me the confidence to take part.


Cross country at Horse Shoe Farm Norfolk

I didn’t think I would ever be able to tackle even small cross country jumps but, as you can see, Luke splashed through the water jump like a professional; this was especially brave when you consider that generally Luke does not like getting his feet wet!

Most of the time Luke and I prefer to just hack out with friends, he has gained himself a reputation for being brave and he forges ahead through hedges and over rough ground, when approaching some difficult terrain out on a hack my friends say, “Luke will go first!”.


Riding out with Lorna & Rex was such fun!

A while ago, when hacking with my friend Lorna, we stumbled on a patch of soft ground which I hadn’t noticed , poor Luke sank above his knees (all four legs) in soft sand like soil, he didn’t panic, he steadied himself and with enormous effort and strength lunged forward and out of the hole with me still in the saddle! Lorna was wide eyed and astounded that Luke had reacted so calmly and had the strength to get us both out of this muddle, testament to the strength and willingness of this wonderful breed I think.

“He has gained himself a reputation for being brave
and he forges ahead through hedges and over rough ground,
when approaching some difficult terrain out on a hack my friends say,
‘Luke will go first!’”.


Luke with baby Summer

Luke is the kindest of horses and loves to be daddy to the babies or smaller ones protecting them from the others if necessary, when he was in livery it was lovely to watch him look after the smaller more timid ones in the field, he would immediately latch on to them and was a very loyal friend to them.

I knew nothing about the Finn horse before owning Luke and have been fascinated to learn about their history and the many things they get up to in Finland (thank you Viivi for your lovely blog).

I think the Finn horse deserves to be recognised more widely, especially in the UK. In my experience most people in the UK do not know about the Finn horse, when they see Luke they comment on his large head and think he is a Suffolk Punch type (mainly because of his colour and size – see Suffolk Punch Horses)

I only know of one other Finn horse in the UK and have not met anyone else in the UK who knows about this breed, people don’t realise how strong, reliable, kind, loyal and willing the Finn horse is, I really hope I can do something to change that and would love to hear from anyone else who has or knows of a Finn horse in the UK. I am definitely now a Finn horse fan and hope I can help to make sure that others in the UK are more aware of this lovely breed so they might become fans too.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about Luke!

Just before I go; Major the Belgian draft reverted out of his heart murmur and found a lovely new home, I was so pleased to get photos of him and know that he is happy.

I have not been to Finland yet but I really do hope to visit in the future.

Mandy Hunt  (UK) ,

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Finnhorses at the Helsinki International Horse Show

Ypäjä Equine College organised a quadrille show on finnhorses (and one warmblood horse) for the HIHS event at Helsinki. This video was filmed by Sirkku Korkiamäki.

The history of the college and equine research in Ypäjä dates back to 1930s. Ypäjä was the base of military riding school and the state horse breeding programme. The Finnish Riding College was founded in 1972. Nowadays the traditions are continued by the Equine College of Ypäjä and MTT Agrifood Research Finland’s equine research unit.

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Video: Uuras, the hard working horse (with English subtitles)

“A Finnish working horse in front of plow in the middle of Helsinki Town (geographical). A typical view here in the 19th Century.”

Video by TheRopotti

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Trans-Horse project studies contemporary horse culture in Finland



Trans-Horse: HKI-TKU-HKI (2014) project studies contemporary horse culture in Finland and advances travel by horse between the cities of Helsinki and Turku. The project kicks off with the 33 year old artist Eero Yli-Vakkuri learning how to ride together with journalist/artist Pietari Kylmälä. Neither have prior experience with horses – Hence the impact of being introduced to horses will be radical.

Blacksmith Jesse Sipola and multidisciplinary creative Hanna Karppinen are also active in the project. The group is identified as The riders of Ore.e Refineries. A finnhorse The Awaited Son (Toivottu Poika) was hired for the usage of the project to further expand the experience. As a highlight of the project The Riders of Ore.e Refinerieswill connect the cities of Helsinki to Turku via horseback.

The experiences of learning how to ride a horse and getting to know horse culture are shared through the project blog. The process of studying horse culture and advancing travel by horse forms the core of an artwork. The grant applications used to seek funding for the project has been shared online (Finnish Only). All ideas and tips on how to succeed in learning to ride and reaching Turku area welcome. You can also leave your e-mail address to stay updated on the development of the project. A summary report will be published at the end of the year.

On this video Eero and Jesse tell a bit about themselves and the story behind their project. It’s unfortunately only in Finnish, but shows quite a few finnhorses…. :)

Hevoslinja HKI-TKU-HKI from Koneen Säätiö on Vimeo.

Lads started off their project by purchasing a horse. Toivottu Poika is a 6-year-old finnhorse gelding. He moved to Espoo and will hopefully serve as the legs of the project between Helsinki and Turku, as the project moves on.

You can follow the project at their blog:

Read more:

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Happy World Animal Day!


Epeli sends his greetings to all friends celebrating the World Animal Day. Yipee!

World Animal Day was started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species. October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day as it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.


  • To celebrate animal life in all its forms
  • To celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom
  • To acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives – from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives
  • To acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives


World Animal Day header

Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi  is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. He was an Italian Catholic friar and preacher. He was born  in 1181 or 1182 and died October third, 1226. He is known as the patron saint of animals and the environment, and is one of the two patron saints of Italy (with Catherine of Siena).

In Finland

From Millaista eläinsuojelu oli 100 vuotta sitten? and Short history of an old association

The Finnish Society for Welfare  of Animals was founded in 1901. In the early days the association mostly promoted the use of horse meat for food. The article (linked above) said it was difficult to have a horse slaughtered in the early 20th century – instead the horses were often used for work until they collapsed. The association hired an inspector, whose job was to buy the poorly treated, old and injured horses from the markets and have them put to rest.

The founder of the association, lieutenant colonel T.K. Forstén is considered to be one of the most important people in the history of  the association. He lectured and wrote books about the animal welfare issues and ethical treatment of animals, for example the use and development of quick and painless slaughter options.

Nowadays SEY’s main goals are sharing information and campaining for welfare of animals. The World Animal Day starts the Animal Week in Finland. The week has a different theme every year. Last year it was cats, this year it’s cows and their welfare on farms.

Today is a good day to take a minute to think about these things. Happy world animal day everyone!

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Mongolian horse is genetically closer relative to Finnhorse than other Nordic horse breeds

From Suomenhevonen polveutuu ikivanhoista hevosroduista (Maaseudun Tulevaisuus 30.8.2014)


The studbook of the Finnhorse is only 107 years old. We have yet much to learn about the time before organised documentation. Photo by Satu Pitkänen / Rozpravka photography

A recent study shows that the Nordic coldblood horses are not genetically closest relatives to the Finnhorse. The researchers have found the same genes in Estonian, North-Russian and Mongolian horses. The results were surprising.

- Most often the closest relatives are found from closest neighboring countries,  says gene technology professor Juha Kantanen from the MTT Agrifood Research Finland.

But it seems that the closest relatives to finnhorses would be the old eastern breeds Yakutian horse from Siberia, Mongolian horse, Estonian horse and Mezen horse.

For the last few decades, we have assumed that finnhorse would origin from the north European forest horse. Researchers Juha Kantanen and his Estonian colleagues Erkki Sild, Haldja Viinalass, Sirje Värvi, Krista Roon and Knut Røed  from Norway studied the DNA of 17 horse breeds, for example the Finnhorse, the Estonian horse, Estonian draft, Tori horse, Latvian native horse, the Norwegian døle horse, Norwegian Fjord and Nordlandshest. The Estonians have used also Arabian and Ahaltek horses in their breeding programs.

There is a thesis coming up on the subject at Tartu University.


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