Horseriding in FinlandPosted: June 20, 2011
We arrived at Holl Tolli farm in a heatwave that reminded us of home! Even the radio was announcing Bush Fire Alerts, and with so much forest in Finland, that’s serious. Tulla, Tero and their girls, welcomed us and suggested a home for Cubby under the shade, next to the house. We are delighted to learn we can have power and WiFi. 5 star camping for us. Retreating to the coolness of Cubby, we wait until later in the day to take our first, 3 hour warm up ride.
Tuula breeds, breaks and trains Icelandic ponies. They are known to be hardy, easy to handle, sweet and short! Seriously short! I’m sure Antonio must be wondering what he has gotten himself into and Tuula suggests her, actually very large, Finnish bred horse for Antonios first day.
We saddled up around 5 pm and tallyhoed! It really would not matter what time we chose to beat the heat, be it 5 am in the morning or 9 pm at night. In summer, in this part of Finland, it does NOT get dark. No darkness. Daylight 24 hrs. Horse farm heaven if you ask me!
My pony was called Punahilkka, or “Little Red Riding Hood” for short. A very sweet, chestnut paint, 15 years old. She is gorgeous,strong, solid and sensible and reminds me of a small armored tank with 5 gears, able to barrel through any undergrowth or dropped branches we encounter.
Uniquely, Icelandic Ponies have an extra gait called “Tolting!” It’s an hilarious, lateral ambling gait that can cover ground very quickly. Somewhere between a walk and a trot, its comfortable to sit absolutely still in the saddle. I felt like quite the lady “tolting” through the Finnish Forest, and I’m quite sure Tony could serve me tea in china and I would not spill a drop!
Our “warm up” ride included quite a lot of walking, some tolting, and a couple of “hell for leathers”!!!! It was a case of “eat their dust” as Little Red and I trailed at the rear, her wearing a medium sized desire to keep up, me wearing a grin from ear to ear.
From then on Antonio joined us on an Icelandic pony and he too had a ball. One of the many wonderful characteristics of these ponies, they are bred to cope with heavy weights. It is easily possible for a pony to cope with a rider up to 150 kgs! Not that Tony has put on that much!
Each day of riding was just plain FUN! These little ponies can run fast and are so sure footed and solid, it feels really safe. The Icelandic pony is not easily spooked, a result of limited natural predators in their natural environment, Iceland!
Mixtures of forestry roads and reindeer trails led us each day to a lake for lunch where Tuula would quickly make a fire and conjure up cream of mushroom soup, or pasta, accompanied by a delicious salad roll and dessert – blueberry pies, or a traditional Finnish dessert with pre-baked Finnish cheese in a vanilla custard. Delicious. We would then be treated to a short berry tour, Tulla pointing out the soon to fruit flowers of the blue berry, cloud berry and red berry, growing wild in the forest.
We joined the family for dinner each night and were treated like royalty. The first evening, Tero, who happens to currently be on 10 weeks holiday from his job teaching wood and metal work to the local technical students, cooked up a storm in a clever self- invented BBQ, Grill, Webber type oven. An oval tin contraption which has two cavities, one for the fuel underneath, and the other with a grill tray to place the meat. The result was delicious, blackened and moist pork, beef and chicken.
And, at last we had a Finnish Sauna. There are almost as many saunas in Finland as there are lakes and forest! 1.7 million in fact, that equates to one for every 3 people. Tuula called us when the sauna was ready and after a few instructions we were ready to go. Of course it was hot inside, 50 degrees hot, but ladles and buckets of cool water, regular ‘”thawting or thwacking” of the wet bunch of Birch branches provided by Tuula, (its a Finnish thing that cures all the sore bits!!) and a jump in and out of the lake, ensured that we survived the heat, and relieved our aches and pains!
Our last day riding was “Pay Back” day for Tony. No matter how often over the past couple of days, he tried to pass Tuula on a gallop, he could never get past. She decided to assist him with a proper race and give him the fastest horse, knowing full well that his weight will be a handicap to even the odds. I am race starter, adjudicator and spectator. Its a slow walk on stoney roads to reach a small local race track used by the local “trotting” fraternity for training the Pacers. The horses snort and toss their heads in anticipation!!! I drop my arm to start the race, Tulla horse gets ahead in a flying start…………………. and stays that way. 900 meters later, she is still in the lead, and Antonio ! Well lets just say it’s a bit of an anti-climax!
Tuula saved the best till last. Once off the stoney roads we did a bit of “off piste” bush bashing, stumbling over tree routes, into bogs, raising the scents of scrunched wild geranium and lily of the valley. The track then changed and narrowed, through the forest. It was a beautiful time of day when the dappled light of the sun lit up the moss and lichen carpet of the forest floor.
The leaf littered track was soft and spongy. Cantering up little hills, strolling down little dales, the horses know exactly when to do what speed, and its superb and serene. A wonderful finish to our 4 days of riding. I do not want it to end and if it does have to, I want to take an Icelandic pony with us. I’m sure we could rig up a small trailer on the back of Cubby.
I would love to keep going, everyday, and it reminds us of how much we are looking forward to 4 months ride on the Bicentennial National Trail when we get home. Riding every day, certainly gets in your blood. I suggest to Tony we should look for some Icelandic ponies. They would be ideal long distance, pack saddle companions, with many amazing qualities. It’s seriously like taking a zooped up dodgem car ride at the show!
They are also excellent value for money and come in over 100 different colors and combination of colors. They have a beautiful incredibly thick mane and tail and a double-layered coat for winter that water just runs off. I have read that a mare in Denmark lived to age 56, they can breed to the age of 25! They are friendly, docile, easy to handle with a beautiful rocking horse canter and the turling is just plain fun.
We are sad to be leaving tomorrow and thank Tuula for the time and care she has taken to ensure we have had a fantastic 4 days. Who knows, we may return!