Off to the Races: International Students Visit the Pilvenmäki Racetrack


Eight international students of Häme University of Applied Sciences from Mustiala campus had a field trip to the Pilvenmäki racetrack to experience one of the cornerstones of the Finnish equine industry: harness racing. In this article, the students describe their evening at the races.

Learning About Horse Rehabilitation

Stepping out onto the field, our group was met with an electric feel; already driver and horse teams were warming up, the horses’ legs a blur as they passed by, their movements accompanying the music cheerfully playing through the air. Our first stop was Hummala, the onsite horse rehabilitation center, and at the first Hummala stable we were able to observe a horse undergoing water training followed by a heat treatment in the solarium.

Water training with a prospective 4-year-old trotter.

At the second barn, we were shown more of the horses currently in the knowledgeable hands of the Hummala staff, including a therapy horse. The staff members explained the cold treatments used for the horses’ joints, providing a demonstration, before showing us the variety of horseshoes used for all the different horses staying in the facilities.

Experiencing the Thrill of Harness Racing

Moving back towards the racing track, even more teams dashed across the snow, the horses’ hooves spraying snow up with their specialized shoes, manufactured with six spikes on the bottom of the shoes on the forelegs, and nine spikes on shoes on the back legs to ensure the horses’ safety as they raced across the snow. As we moved through the coordinated chaos towards the racing stables, a television crew interviewed trainers. Passing by the teams preparing for the race we were able to observe the speed and ease with which the horses were tacked up and attached to the sulky. Quickly we moved to the restaurant, anxious to be seated and ready for the start of the first race.

Winter shoes for trotters.

After a short delay to drop off overcoats, we were at the tables and the guidelines to place bets were explained. The buffet was filled with a variety of traditional Finnish Christmas dishes, allowing for a chance to try foods such as spiced pork neck, rutabaga casserole, and mushroom salad, all which proved to be delicious. With a cup of tea in hand, we were prepared for the start of the races. Warmbloods filled the track, tensions mounting in the building, and when the horses crossed the finishing line, cheers erupted. At the third race, the Finnhorses hit the track, legs a blur as they jostled for the first place.

Learning how to gamble and winning.

At the end of our night, we all reluctantly collected our belongings and made our way downstairs, excited to return in February for another exciting evening.

Watching the races and enjoying dinner.

Article & photos: HAMK students

Editor: Johanna Äähälä

A short summary in Finnish:

Hämeen ammattikorkeakoulun kansainväliset opiskelijat Mustialan kampukselta tutustuivat Pilvenmäen ravirataan ja raviurheiluun. He vierailivat hevosten kuntoutuskeskus Hummalassa, seurasivat ravikilpailuja ja maistelivat perinteisiä suomalaisia jouluruokia ravintola Valtikassa. Euroopasta, Afrikasta ja Etelä-Aasiasta kotoisin olevat opiskelijat kuvailivat iltaa jännittäväksi ja aikovat lähteä raveihin uudestaankin.

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