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

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Thesis: Selection of Finnhorse stallions for cryopreservation



Isäntä, photo by Hippos photo bank/Pirje Fager-Pintilä

Lately there has been a lot of talk about the extinction and preservation of the Finn horse. The breed is not yet endangered, but the researchers and breeders worry that the genetic material is narrowing (too fast). If we don’t act now, there might be problems in the future.

So far I know one Finn horse stallion whose semen has been frozen, Taikuri.

One option could be cryopreserving the genetic material. Saija Tenhunen and Tytti Salonpää from Savonia University of Applied Sciences made their thesis on the subject in 2016.

Abstract in English:

The goal of our thesis is to make a candidate list of stallions that could be chosen for cryopreservation. In our thesis we will research inbreeding coefficients, generation intervals and effective population size of Finnhorses born between 1960 and 2014. We will also research which stallions have had the biggest genetic contributions to the current population and which stallions might be the best candidates for cryopreservation by using the Optimal Contribution Selection (OCS) method. The stallion candidates should be healthy, fertile and represent the current population of Finnhorses. The genetic material in cryopreservation should reflect the genetic structure of the whole population in the best possible way.

In the data from the Finnish Trotting and Breeding Association there were 82 178 animals in total, but after processing the data there were 80 378 animals in total. The pedigree completeness index in five generations was 89.9 %. The inbreeding coefficient for the Finnhorses born in 2014 was on average 4.75 % and the generation interval was 13.56 years. The effective population size calculated for the whole population was 135.8 individuals. Stallions that had the biggest genetic contributions for the current Finnhorse population were Murto, Eri-Aaroni, Suikku, Vokker and Vieteri. We made three different stallion candidate lists: in the first list there were potential stallions born in the last generation (14 years), in the second list there were potential stallions born in the past 20 years and in the third list there were only potential studbook stallions.

We can conclude from our results that in Finnhorse breeding choices they have avoided inbreeding. From the year 1960 the average inbreeding coefficient in the Finnhorse population has increased 4 %, which can be partly explained by increased pedigree information over the years. From the effective population size, we can conclude that at the moment there is enough genetic variation in the population to survive with vitality in the short term (five generations). This breed might have problems surviving with vitality in the long term if the genetic diversity in the breed is ignored when making breeding choices. Ex-situ cryopreservation is the recommended solution for securing the vitality of the Finnhorse population in the future.

With the OCS method we got potential stallion candidates based on their pedigree information that were not in the studbook or in breeding use. However, this method does not include the major lines (trotter) in the choice. So we recommended choosing known trotter stud stallions from outside these candidate lists for cryopreservation. All Finnhorse colors were not included in the candidate lists. To secure phenotypical diversity in the breed, it would be a good option to collect semen from stallions that inherit these colors.

The stallions

Of course, the most interesting part of this thesis for the average horse breeder would be the list of stallions. Which ones they have picked, which stallion should I choose to help preserving the rarest blood lines, what can we do to help our beloved Finn horse the most?

Here you go. The links will take you to Sukuposti horse database.

List 1: Stallions under 14 years of age.

List 2: Stallions max 20 yo.

List 3: Studbook stallions


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Turku hosts the Royal races 2016

From and Kuninkuusravit – in English


The 85th Royal Race, Kuninkuusravit, takes place in the oldest city and former capital of Finland, Turku.

The Kuninkuusravit weekend is the biggest harness racing event in Finland, attracting about 50-60 000 spectators every year. This is the sixth time Turku race track organizes the races.

Turku has taken an active role in marketing the event also for international audience. I’m sure you don’t haveto be a Finn to enjoy the races. :)

Ships traffic between Turku and Stockholm on a daily basis, so it’s very easy to travel from Sweden. Turku  also has an airport and is only a few hours away from Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Why visit?

Some say, they aren’t even interested in harness racing overall, but this weekend is a must. For some it’s the overall atmosphere, for some the festival around the event, that makes them return every year.

But I’d say for me and many like me, the main reason is that the biggest stars in this event are the Finn horses.

I can only imagine what it feels like to own, train or have bred a horse that gets to compete for the crown… I believe it’s a dream of every single Finn horse trotter breeder (including myself), the goal.


Huisi Hemmo, Trotter king 2025?

I’ll be there, let’s meet up ;)

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Official music video for “Suomenhevonen”

Today is Johan Vilhelm Snellman‘s birthday, the day of the Finnish identity.

Enjoy the music by Huojuva Lato and photography by Kirsti Hassinen on this new, official music video of this popular song.

Lyrics in English:

Where would we be without you
you four-legged, light-maned
friend, Finnhorse

I have no other earthly possessions,
the heaven’s roof, road’s carpet
forest trees for walls
for a friend, the Finnhorse

My grandfather cleared the fields
oats soon flowered, where the plough flew, –
be kind, horse
our friend, Finnhorse

As guns blazed in the Carelian isthmus
in the frost and snow
you were more reliable than the machine
our friend Finnhorse

These villages are empty
no roads cleared and the old left behind
but yet there are some
and some horses, too

When I leave this place
this road and roadsides
this slippery ice of a wintery road
bury me by my horse

For where would we be without you
you four-legged, light-maned
friend, Finnhorse

This translation was published in the Get to Know the Finnhorse -brochure.

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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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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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“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.”

Today we celebrate the Finnhorse day, the day to honor our one and only Finnish horse breed with waving flags and respect. The studbook for the Finnhorse was founded 6th of September 1907, so our horse has been documented for 107 years and about ten generations now.


(The first) two generations of finnhorses on our yard. Elyse & Epeli.

The finnhorse is, has been and will be a significant part of the Finnish horse industry. This day is a reminder that there are thousands of finnhorse friends. Each and every finnhorse breeder, rider, trainer, driver and fan is important and there’s room for more. In my opinion, even internationally, which is the prime reason why I’m writing this blog in English.

About the headline quote

In the Finnish mythology the horse has an iron origin. Väinämöinen rode the iron horse (“Hiiden varsa”) 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. (Thanks again to Suomenusko/Anssi for this translation).

Follow the event on social media


Suomenhevostalkoot (page)

Suomenhevosen päivä – liputuspäivä (event)

#suomenhevostalkoot (tag)

Suomenhevonen, paras hevonen! (group)


Tags #suomenhevostalkoot, #suomenhevonen and #finnhorse will give you plenty of tweets to follow :)


#finnhorse, #suomenhevonen


Happy Finnhorse Day 2014!

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More photos of the little one

They grow up so fast – this set of photos was taken on his birthday, 1st of June:

In these photos he is one week old, little prince charming (and his mommy who just loves to have her coat covered in that wellness-spa mud treatment all summer long…) :)