When, in 2019, Tom Gordin asked me to help writing the history of the equestrian sport in Finland, I was in the middle of writing the history of 120 years equestrian sport in Switzerland. I remembered that during my research, I had realised that Finland and Switzerland had joined the FEI together: in 1923 as ninth and tenth member – the first after the eight countries that founded the FEI in 1921.
The founding of the Swiss Equestrian Federation was, in 1900, a union of riding clubs. It took over two decades before the dominance of the clubs from Zurich, Berne or Basle was broken and the federation became a true national authority. In Finland, the founding of the Finnish Equestrian Federation in December 1920 was also a union of the riding clubs. But the first participation of a Finnish rider at the 1920 Olympic Games a few months before gave the Finnish Federation from the beginning a strong unified influence, supported by the military establishment. From 1924 to 1956, Finnish riders competed consequently in all Olympic Games. The only exception was Los Angeles in 1932, at the height of the worldwide economic crisis. The first top placing by a Finnish rider was the 5th place by Captain Hans Olof von Essen in the Three-Day Event of Amsterdam in 1928.
In 1940, the Olympic Games were scheduled for Helsinki, World War Two prevented its organisation. In 1946 Helsinki was allocated the 1952 Olympic Games, which were held to everybody’s satisfaction. In the fifties, in most countries the military withdrew from the equestrian sport, civilian riders took over, also in Finland. Christopher Wegelius in Jumping and Kyra Kyrklund in Dressage became the first Finnish stars – beginning with their participation at the 1980 Olympic Games. In the following decades, also an Eventer and a Driver made international headlines: Piia Pantsu and Arja Mikkonen.
In 1987, the World Cup Jumping came to Finland: first in the Fair Centre, then in the Hartwall Arena, now in the Ice Hall. In 1998, the World Cup Final was held in Helsinki. A special mention goes to the Finnish media, with their interest and support for the equestrian sport, and also for their success at Journalists World Championships.
The book, presented on 1st February 2023, covers the fascinating history of now over 100 years of equestrian sport in Finland