The Estonian Horse

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play, and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

The independent country of Estonia is considered geographically be a part of Northern Europe and it sits on the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. (1)

Some 1,500 islands are situated off of its coastline, and a diverse terrain consists of lakes, old forests and rocky beaches.

It was formerly a part of the Soviet Union, and there are many points and items of interest, including churches, castles, hilltop fortresses and museums.

Below, to the south, sit Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, respectively. (2)

The modern Estonian Horse is descended from a primitive Northern European Forest Horse that lived some 5,000 years ago. (3)

Two of its descendants have now been recognized as their own separate breeds, the North Swedish Horse and the Dole Gudbrandsdal.

There has been little outside breed influence on this horse.

It is believed, however, that there was some breed mixture with the now-extinct Oland Horse. DNA tests by Oland Horse associations have concluded that these two breeds are very similar, genetically. (4)

The Estonian Horse became popular in the Baltic countries, working on farms. They were sold into Russia during the 14th and 15th centuries, and were imported into Sweden for use as a military horse.

As agriculture developed, the horse was noticed for its great working capabilities and it became more sought after.

They were crossed with heavier draft animals to make a stronger horse. It was also crossed with lighter breeds.

The Tori Stud was created in 1856. (5)

As the lighter animals were crossbred with the Estonian, these animals became the foundation of the Tori Horse breed.

The Tori or Toric Horse, also called the “Estonian Klepper,” or “Double Klepper,” is taller, coming in at 15HH to 15.1HH. They have a mix of Orlov Trotter, Trakehner, et al., and other bloodstock. (6)

The Toric Horse foundation stallion, “Hetman,” is said to have had Norfolk Trotter, (now extinct,) and Anglo-Norman blood. (7)

A famous Estonian foundation stallion was named “Vansikasa,” and was born at the Tori Stud farm. (8)

He stood for many years and gained quite a reputation for his super strength, exceptional pulling ability and invincibility.

One of Vansikasa’s daughters became a foundation mare of the Tori Horse breed.

The Vyatka Horse, from the (Vyatka region) now the Kirov Oblast Region of the Russian Federation, is also influenced by the Estonian Horse. (9)

When WWI broke out, many Estonian Horses were taken and put into service for the military branches, and many died as a result.

The Estonian Native Horse Breeders Society was founded in 1921, along with an official Estonian Horse Studbook. (10)

This did not go so well. Only 13 stallions had been used for service by 1937, and inbreeding occurred due to scarcity of stock. (11)

The inbreeding led to a slowing of the development of the breed and a slowing of the animal’s growth maturity rate.

Coupled with the advent of mechanization in agriculture and transportation, this horse became

severely out of date with the times, and fell into quasi-extinction.

Very few horses remained on the mainland of Estonia, but on the islands of Hiiumaa and Saaremaa, some animals survived. (12)

A new breeding program helped to eventually revive the breed and nowadays there are approximately 1,000 horses; they are considered endangered or rare.

Of late, it is recently being crossed with the Finnhorse, to enlarge size.

The country of Finland has an Estonian Horse Breed Association.

In 2000, an association was founded to preserve the breed.

In 2005, some 25 horses were exported to Sweden to “re-create” the genetically-similar, but extinct, “Oland Horse.” (13)

However, the “new” Oland Horse is no longer being called an Oland Horse, but rather the “Estonian Bush Pony.” (14)

The Estonian Horse comes in at 14.3HH, and its colors are chestnut, grey, bay and black.

They look like the Old Style Morgans, pretty and stylish, with a dished-face and a nice tailset.

They are a super-strong puller, never get tired, and they do well on the farm in agricultural work.

The Estonian Horse has an easy-going temperament, and it does well as a child’s riding horse.

This has helped in a big way to keep the breed numbers up. (15)

Estonian Horses are durable and hardy, and can live outside during the winter time.

An easy keep, they have a willing attitude and are long-lived.

The larger Toric Horse does not have a dishy-face, and its neck ties low onto the shoulder. (16)

However, it is not unattractive.

Information is always very interesting when learning about foreign lands and horses I’ve never heard of.

More next time.

Closing with the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1,2 : Google maps & apps

3-5, 8 -15: Internet/Wikipedia

6, 7, 16: “The Encyclopedia of Horses & Ponies,” by Tamsin Pickeral