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Christmas calendar day 6: War horse


Photo by sgt Aunio/SA-kuva

Happy Finnish Independence day! This photo features a Finnish soldier fixing his horse’s tack, the photo was taken sometime between 1939-1945. See more photos at Finnish Wartime Photo Archive.

Today the Finnhorse association holds an online gathering on Facebook -last year we had a similar event and it got over 3000 “participants”, maybe this year even more? :) People add their independence day wishes, loads of photos of their finnhorses and touching stories of war horses on the event wall. Take a look.


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Finnish independence day 6th of December

Google Doodle 6.12.2011

Google Doodle 6.12.2011

Calendar Event Description
The movement for Finland’s Independence started after the revolutions in Russia (1917), caused by the disturbances from the defeats of the First World War. This gave an opportunity for Finland to withdraw from Russia. After several disagreements between the non-socialists and the social-democrats about the matter of who should have the power in Finland, the parliament, led by Per Evind Svinhufvud, finally declared Finland as an independent state, on the 6th of December 1917.

The national festivities of Independence Day, begin by raising the flag in Tähtitorni hill, in Helsinki. This is then followed with the festive divine service at the Cathedral of Helsinki, where by tradition, the President is also present. In the evening the President receives guests for the gala occasion which is held at the President’s Palace in Helsinki. Approximately 2000 people are invited to this banquet every year, and war veterans attend as the guests of honour. The event is broadcast on television, and although it is a very popular happening which collects millions of Finns in front of the TV every year, it also keeps the police busy due to demonstrators gathering in front of the President’s Palace.

Every Year on Independence Day, the Finnish Defence Forces arranges a military parade in one of the garrison cities. Independence Day is an official flag-raising day, and in every home, two candles are normally lit to honor the day.

Every Year an Independence Day celebration is held for less fortunate people, in Hakaniemi market square, organized by charities.

Source: Finnguide

Finnish Independence day celebration is quite modest compared to many other nations’ parties and parades. For most it’s the two candles set on the window, a few thoughts to veterans who are still among us or passed away, Tuntematon Sotilas (Unknown Soldier) film and the independence day presidential reception on television.

Photo from winter war (Wikimedia Commons)

Even though today, sixth of December 2012, is already our 95th independence day, its not very long since the last wars Finland had. Personally I don’t think the wars are something to be proud of, but what happened, happened and can not be erased.

Horse friends always remember also the horses that were taken to the lines. Many of them never made it back home. There are dozens of stories when horses saved human lives and helped in countless tasks, as well as heartbreaking stories of horses and their owners reuniting after years of separation.

Let us hope no person, horse or any other creature should go to war ever again. We are having a Facebook event for war horses today, in honour of those who had neither choice  nor understanding what was happening but still served well in those conditions. Welcome.

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Finnhorse memories

From ET-Lukijoilta: Muistoja suomenhevosesta

Finnish magazine ET held a writing competition for its readers asking for memories about finnhorses. They got hundreds of responds, along with old, but well-preserved photos and carefully nurtured memories of finnhorses in wars, agriculture and even early races that were held on roads and ice. These photos were sent with the stories and I think they show well the respect these people have for their horses.

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Horses mobilized the army

From Kankaanpään seudun tykistökilta by Pekka Termala, this is my slightly shortened translation from the original article

The Finns honour their horses for making the army mobile during the Winter- and Continuation wars. No motorized vehicle could compare to a horse in cross country. For road logistics a horse was slower and couldn’t take as much load as a car, though.

Photo: Artillery Museum


Getting ready for Kiesi event in August 2009

Horses where used in transporting gear, ammunition, food, mobile kitchens, the wounded, the fallen, biggest artillery and they also served the riding messengers. Some horses transported feed to others. It took eight horses to pull the biggest guns. Standard carriage for a horse was 300 kg.

Finnish Defence Forces had horses until 1993, and artillery department educated horsemen until 1971. The last horse-driven guns attended an army practice in 1969. The Niinisalo Riders and Kankaanpää Artillery Guild (Kankaanpään Seudun Tykistökilta) decided to take the horse heritage in artillery to their agenda. There are only a few similar horse-mobilised artillery units in Europe.

The gun is pulled by two pairs of horses. There is one soldier per two horses to guide them. The gun is a Russian 76 mm field cannon,from the year 1902. The gun and its wagon weight approximately 1500 kg, and the field of range was about 10,8 km. The group performs in different occasions and parades.

Photo: Sirkka Ojala

Kiesi event in Helsinki 2009

Photo: Sirkka Ojala

Photo: Veli-Matti A Pitkänen

Parade with winter camouflage, photo: Veli-Matti A Pitkänen