Video by vilme on Youtube
Video by vilme on Youtube
Today we celebrate the Finnhorse day, the day to honor our one and only Finnish horse breed with waving flags. The studbook for the Finnhorse was founded 6th of September 1907, so our horse has been documented for 108 years and about ten generations now. This is already the ninth official “Finnhorse day” when we raise our flags and carry a few extra carrots to the barn. ;)
The main goal of the project is to bring horses and horse people closer to the surrounding society with joy and warmth. Horses can visit daycares, schools and retirement homes, for example. There are all kinds of horses involved, but many of them are finnhorses (see them all here).
We decided to take part with Epeli. The local school is only 5 km away from our stable, so it would be quite easy to take Epeli to visit the school. The project lasts from September to December 2015.
I started a blog and an Instagram profile for Epeli, so his new friends could follow his everyday life more easily. :) You’ll find Epeli’s blog at epelihuisko.wordpress.com and as @epelihuisko on Instagram. It’s only in Finnish, but hopefully foreigners enjoy the photos as well. ;)
Only 45 days left, my friends. :)
This year the biggest harness racing event in Finland, the Kuninkuusravit, will take place at Joensuu, in Eastern Finland on 1st and 2nd of August, 2015. We still don’t know the 12 stallions and 12 mares that will get to race for the crowns, but the rankings will keep the speculations going until the signing day.
See more videos at Joensuu Race Track’s Youtube Channel
I have come across a few different translations for the name of this event. Should “Kuninkuusravit” be translated as the Coronation Trot, the Royal Race(s), the finnhorse Trotting Championships or something else? All of these seem to fit to the definition – it’s an annual horse racing event where the best trotters of this breed compete for the titles of King and Queen (kuningas = king in Finnish, kuninkuus = royalty).
Please let me know your thoughts – I have struggled with this translation for a while now! Or should we just call it “Kuninkuusravit”? ;)
Kuninkuusravit – The Royal Race
The Royal Race, an annual competition for Finnhorse, is held this year in Joensuu, the heart of North Karelia. It is the greatest harness racing event in Finland, and gathers approximately 60 000 spectators every year. It has been held three times before in Joensuu. This year the Royal Race is raced for the 84th time.
The competitors – 12 stallions and 12 mares – participate for three partial races. On Saturday, the first competition day, the horses race 2100 meters. On Sunday, the second competition day, the first race’s length is one mile (1609 meters) and the second race, the most demanding of all, is 3100 meters.
The Royal Race has been said to be one of the hardest competitions in harness racing worldwide, as the horses must race three times in two days. The winners of overall competitions will be crowned as the Trotting King and the Trotting Queen, and winning these titles is highly appreciated.
History of the Royal Races in Joensuu
The first Royal Races were held already in 1924. The Royal Races in Joensuu have quite a remarkable meaning in the history of this amazing event: in the 1948 competition the King and Queen were both selected, as until that the stallions and mares were competing together.
Year 1984 is remembered for one man and his talent: Pentti Savolainen was the breeder, owner, trainer and driver of both the King Vekseli and the Queen Vekkuliina. This is considered to be an unbreakable record.
At the latest Royal Races, year 2000, Viesker (which many consider to be “the greatest racing Finnhorse in history”) was crowned as the King – for the fifth time in a row! Only two other stallions – Vieteri and Vekseli – have succeeded five times, but not consecutively.
Unforgettable weekend – every year
Although the Finnhorse is the main attraction, there are many more great events during the weekend. Finnish Championship of Monté, a French-originating sport where the trotters are actually ridden, not driven, is exciting and speedy race.
While most of the drivers are men, most of the riders are women: one would be amazed of their strength. Many more races with top-class horses fill the air with excitement and the thrill of betting. The evening party has well-known artists and it serves as an annual get-together for those, who dedicate their life to the world of horse sports.
I’ll be there – will you?
Recently I have had the pleasure to share quite a few good videos – and more and more often with English subtitles! Here’s another one – enjoy!
Quite an extraordinary couple wanders around the streets of Turku, Finland. This is a story about the impossible coming true.
What can I say, it’s a beautiful video of a beautiful horse, here ridden by Elina Sjögren. Worth watching and sharing. :)
By Jasmine Kousa on Youtube.
From Hevoset ja kunta – Rajapintoja: hevosmatkailu (e-book, p. 104-)
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).
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.
More to read
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!)
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.”
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.
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!”.
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 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) , email@example.com