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The Mythical Origin Of The Finnish Horse

Source: Suomenusko (native Finnish religion) Facebook page, posted 6.9.2013


Photo by Sini Merikallio

In Finland horses have assisted people in their work and in war probably since the Stone Age. The early presence of domesticated horses is evident from the fact that the word for a horse (hevonen) is known in all Baltic-Finnish languages. In addition, the words for ‘steed’ and ‘riding’ also have the similar origins in these languages.

The prehistoric horses around the Baltic Sea region belonged to the same Northern European common breed. Modern Finnhorses descend from this same breed. Horse-related objects as bridles have been found in Iron Age graves, which tells that horses were highly valued in the Iron Age society. Prominent men and women apparently had their horses buried with them.

In medieval Europe, Häme and Karelia regions for known for their horses and horsemen. Trade flourished around the Baltic Sea. In 1229 Pope Gregory IX complained in his letter that people of Vuojola (Gotland) dared to sell horses to the heathen Finns. Karelia, sometimes called Mare Karelia, provided horses for Hansa merchants who exported them to Central Europe along with other goods.

The head of the horse was made of stone, hooves out of rock and legs out of iron.

In Finnish mythology the horse has an iron origin. The first foal was said to have been forged in a smithy located in a sacred grove or inside the world mountain. The head of the horse was made of stone, hooves out of rock and legs out of iron. The back of the foal was forged from metal. As Väinämöinen rode the iron horse above the waters of primeval sea, a malicious stranger shot his horse, and the old tietäjä fell into the ocean.

Horses are also present in spells and incantations. Commonly spells were used to protect horses from hazards and to prevent them from escaping when horses were released to summer pastures. In some spells horse’s spirit is also called to banish malicious forces (kateet) or to assist the tietäjä in his work. Few spells that were used to stop wounds from bleeding call the mythical first foal (Hiiden varsa) to stop the blood flow.


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The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I got this blog award from Zanzana already a year ago, but couldn’t find the time to pass it forward (whoops). But now is the time! Thank you, Zanzana, for being the first of my readers to contact me with such an honor. Thank you.


Being a horseaddict, my blogosphere is more or less full of horses as well. Well, what can I say? It’s a lifestyle, not just a hobby.

I tend to read lots of different blogs, but my favorites are most often bloggers who I can learn from. In the riding sphere there are many good bloggers who share their philosophy and thoughts on horses and horse sport.

The rules for this award are the following:

  • Display the award logo on your blog;
  • Link back to the person who nominated you;
  • State 7 things about yourself;
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them
  • Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself

  •  I’m a versatile horse person and never understood people who could just stick to one type of horse sport -like for example those girls who were Dressage Riders and Dressage Riders Only. You can do so many things with horses, why wouldn’t you try out different things? It’s important to be passionate but there’s no need for blindfolding yourself. Just saying.
  • I am currently owner of one finnhorse mare. She had her first foal in June 2013 and the next one should be born in May 2014. Needless to say I’m very excited to see how they turn out.
  • In my opinion, one more reason to like finnhorses are the other finnhorse people -owners and fans. They work with the finnhorse in all its versatility. I love it how people from different backgrounds come along so well because they share this same interest. Most often these people seem to be also more laid-back than others…
  • I am not a native English speaker but try to fix my flaws whenever I see them. I hate bad grammar just as much as you do.
  • I hate unnecessary negativity. I do that myself but try to snap out of it. Also to remind myself that it’s ok to make mistakes and the important part is to learn from them.
  • It often makes my day to see a new Like or good rating on a blog post. 1-2 star ratings are important as well so I know which posts my readers like and which ones are not as appealing.
  • Lately this blog has been quite quiet because of my new job I started in September, but it’s not forgotten and I plan to keep it running. Right now I just have to readjust my schedules.

Check out these blogs

Horse Listening

How to become a better rider and horse listener.

Confident Horsemanship

Another good blog about understanding your horse and building up confidence when working with them.

SH Dressage

Finnish-born dressage rider Susanna Halonen, currently based in England.

Anna Kilpeläinen

Anna is a professional horse trainer who blogs about equine behaviour, dressage and horse training in Finnish. I visit her blog regurlarly and learn something new every time.

Hippola blog portal

Every now and then I just like to surf around a variety of horse and riding related blogs just for the fun of it, for inspiration, ideas or  just for networking. Hippola is a new equestrian blog portal of Finnish bloggers, an easy way to find something new to read.

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Happy Tapaninpäivä!

Finnish Taxi drom 1920s (Wikimedia commons)

December 26th, St. Stephen’s Day, is a traditional celebration day for the Finnish horsemen. :)

Tapani’s Day tomorrow has been an important day to horsemen. Men woke up early in the morning and went to sauna. After that they went to stables and enjoyed a soup made of rabbit or squirrel meat together with some beer and liquor. Eating this sacrificial meal was said to make horses prosper in the coming year. However, the bones in the soup had to remain intact and kept in the stable, otherwise the horsemen’s luck with horses would suffer.

After luck with horses was ensured, people went horse racing. Tapani was the day for harnessing young foals for the first time and training them. Sometimes people even rode inside the house. Inside the house beer was poured on the horse’s head, back and mane. Then the horse was given some beer to drink and oats to eat. Finally, the rider also drank from the same pint and rode outside.

After the more calmer joulu feast, Tapani was convenient time for young people – and also older ones – for more wild merrymaking. Girls gave ”Tapani’s thread” to the boys they liked, and the boys attached these threads to their hats. From the number of threads it could be seen who was the most popular boy among the girls. At the same time quality of the threads was compared and people could deduce who would make a skilled wife.

On Tapani’s Day groups of strangely-clad men or boys travelled from house to house. Their leader had many names like ”Tapani’s pukki” or ”the old joulu man”. These creatures might wear, for instance, a fur coat turned upside down and a tar-dipped whisk as a tail. If the house treated the pukki poorly, it began to rage. Yet if the pukki was generously welcomed, it wished the house and the people the best of luck and success. The pukki sang:

”Let the cows give milk,
The sheeps carry twins,
Let the cat’s tail curl,
Dog’s tail shrivel,
and pig’s tail become knotted!”

Translation: Anssi A. / Suomenusko Facebook page


Stressed mom?


True story! Elyse seems to take this mothering thing quite seriously, but the foal just doesn’t sweat over small stuff. A few days ago Elyse clearly thought that the foal would follow her as usual, but she was taking a nap and didn’t bother coming after her. Being a characteristic horse, Elyse’s “WTF?!” -face was quite priceless. I couldn’t help but laugh.

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Those girls and their horses…

“All horses deserve, at least once in their lives, to be loved by a little girl.”
– author unknown

It seems to be some kind of a trend among teenage girls to make this kind of videos of their horses. Youtube is full of them!
What is very touching in these, is the love these girls have for their horses and what they want to show to the world: “This is my horse, and she/he is the best horse in the whole wide world!”

Equestrianism is all about great feelings and experiences. Often they are the very first horses we get to spend time with that leave the most permanent hoofprints in our hearts. These girls are also assumably the main group of future horse owners and breeders. I think it’s a great thing to have finnhorses in riding schools and elsewhere in the “grass root level” of horse scheme, offering people a chance to get in touch with them. That is the ground where future horse people grow from. For many it is the late family horse or riding school favourite who gave them the spark for future (finn)horse enthusiasm.

Never underestimate a girl’s love for her horse!

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Three-year-olds’ preliminary statistics 2012

HRP-blogi is a Finnish harness racing enthusiast’s blog where he writes about harness racing and its phenomena in Finland and other countries. He also makes annual statistics from young horses’ preliminaries.

The first preliminary is called opetuslähtö, a “training race” strictly translated. The goal is to encourage horse owners to bring their young horses to professional training already at young age and the trainers to bring the horses to tracks earlier. The time limits are 1.30-1.40 for the two-year old standardbreds, 1.50,0-2.00,0 for the three-year-old finnhorses and 2.00-2.20,0 for the two-year-old finnhorses. The horse receives a prize for trotting between those time boundaries, no other prizes are paid and this does not count neither in the horse’s winnings nor as an official start and is completely voluntary.

Before attending to official races, the horse has to attend another preliminary race, koelähtö in Finnish (strictly translated “test race”), in which the speed is faster. In this preliminary the horse shows that it is fit enough to race and is schooled to behave on the track. One preliminary is valid for eight months and if there are no races in between, the horse has to perform another preliminary to qualify again.

These are the brief statistics from 2012. You can see the full statistics here (tip: mares are highlighted with red and 2-year-olds with *).

Sires Top 20 (overall):

Sire Amount Age class %
Viesker 32 103 31.07
Joihuri 30 82 36.59
Liising 22 65 33.85
A.T. Eko 20 44 45.45
Erikasson 19 64 29.69
Auraus 18 68 26.47
Sipori 13 43 30.23
Cameron 11 28 39.29
Turo 10 34 29.41
Apassi 7 27 25.93
Rallaus 7 19 36.84
B. Vilunki 5 18 27.78
K.M. Nopsa 5 16 31.25
Totemi Rok 5 9 55.56
Tuisku-Topi 5 11 45.45
Villiari 5 13 38.46
I.P. Lento 4 8 50.00
Jaanen Suikku 4 27 14.81
Lars 4 15 26.67
Pauskeri 4 17 23.53
Sikko 4 6 66.67

Sires Top 20 (by percentage):

Sire Preliminaries Age class 2009 %
A.T. Eko 20 44 45.45
Tuisku-Topi 5 11 45.45
Cameron 11 28 39.29
Villiari 5 13 38.46
Rallaus 7 19 36.84
Joihuri 30 82 36.59
Liising 22 65 33.85
K.M. Nopsa 5 16 31.25
Viesker 32 103 31.07
Sipori 13 43 30.23
Erikasson 19 64 29.69
Turo 10 34 29.41
B. Vilunki 5 18 27.78
Romeo Lax 3 11 27.27
Lars 4 15 26.67
Auraus 18 68 26.47
Apassi 7 27 25.93
Pauskeri 4 17 23.53
Tino 2 10 20.00
Virturi 2 10 20.00

Maternal lines Top20 (by amount):

Name Amount
unknown 10
Virkku 9
Tähti 8
Auli II 7
Huima 7
Apu 6
Vappu 6
Humma 5
Liisa 5
Lotta 5
Pella 5
Freija 4
Kihon-Eppa 4
Liinu 4
Imma 3
Kerttu 3
Liena 3
Linda 3
Lippa 3
Lisa 3

Just out of general interest, I counted the three-year-olds in races annually between 1995 and 2012, here’s a graph:

graph (6)

It is not very common to bring the three-year-old horses to races rather than wait until they turn four. Finnhorse is considered as a slow breed to mature. The trend is, however, to favour the younger horses in race schedules to make the horse breeding cycle faster as well (so horses would race younger, show their potential and therefore breed younger than they do now). Naturally the amount of born horses in an age class shows in racing statistics as well.