Horses Inside Out in Ypäjä, Finland
Well! All we can say is WOW! What a fantastic experience. Write a list of all the superlatives you can think of and that is Finland!
The stunning Autumnal scenery was unbelievable. The colours were so vibrant and beautiful.
The Finnish people were so welcoming, generous, and quietly mannered. Nothing was too much trouble. Our lovely cabin was complete with Sauna and everyone was so pleased we had come to Finland.
We had been invited by the society of Hippotherapists. Hippotherapy is a physical, occupational or speech and language therapy treatment strategy that utilises equine movement. It literally means "treatment with the help of the horse" and derives from the Greek word, "hippos" meaning horse.
Ypäjä is the leading centre of vocational education, training and equestrian competitions in Finland. The tradition of education started in the 1930’s with the National Stud and the Cavalry School. The original cavalry buildings including the first riding hall is still in use today.
The college is working in close connection with the National Equine Research Centre located in the same premises. Amongst its many facilities is house a leading breeding research centre. The other important co-operative local partners are Ypäjä Horse Clinics, the Finnish Equestrian Museum and the National Equine Competence Association of Finland.
The college, which covers about 320 hectares has five large stable blocks: three for sport horses, one for trotters and a stud for brood mares. There are five loose housing barns for foals of age groups between 1-3 years. The total number of horses is close to 400. Many are traditional finnish breeds.
There are trotting, hacking and cross country tracks, outdoor riding and show jumping arenas. There are 100 members of staff and about 270 students. There are 4 massive heated light and airy riding halls with tiered seating.
We actually arrived at the centre very late and after a delicious evening meal we were taken to meet the horses and riders.
The next morning we were taken to the stables at 6am. The horses were ready and waiting as were the students. All were bright and enthusiastic. The atmosphere was calm and comfortable. The horses don’t wear rugs as the stables are kept at a constant 8 degrees. There is hot and cold water and everywhere was well organised. It was a pleasure to paint there.
Although organised by the hippotherapists the actual demonstration was open to all, riders, saddlers, farriers, coaches and students. It focussed on the musculo – skeletal system, movement, performance and how understanding anatomy and biomechanics can reduce the risk of injury. Horses Inside Out is very popular in Finland and people travelled from all over the country. The demonstration was very well received.
The following morning we were taken on a tour of the centre. The students all work very hard at Ypäjä and have a wonderful work ethic. The day starts at 6am and finishes about 8 in the evening. Each student is allocated a horse for the duration of their stay. They are responsible for every aspect of its welfare. They have a full timetable of academic and practical activities.
As one would expect there are a wide variety of courses but whatever their course during their first year all students must experience every aspect of horsemanship. As well as riding and driving skills they must master the basics of carpentry, metal work, farriery, saddle making and fitting and leather care. We didn’t have time to visit all the departments but one department we saw in detail was the saddlery school. There students firstly make a saddle last.
They are then taught to make a head collar for their horse. The also make boots and mend all equipment.
No ‘throw away’ culture here! Finland was built on the back of the working horse so comfortable harness fitting is another important skill. We also were shown the centre’s museum. Everyone is very proud of and knowledgeable about their culture.
The college is also part of an exchange programme with many other European centres of excellence. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Finland do and if you are a student and ever have the opportunity to go to Ypäjä, seize it!