Island of Horses


I lived 6 months in a tent on an island with a herd of horses in the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland. The horses roamed free between two islands, swimming from one island to another. We enjoyed morning coffee and daytime naps around the campfire and fullmoon moments in the river. Their days were spent mostly grazing, some sleep and hanging around the smoky campfire, an ancient bug repellent. If the fire went down, they came to ask to put it on again! I also got to witness the midnight sun in the summer and the northern lights in the autumn. It was truly a magical experience that will stay with me forever.

My time on the island has also been written about in the media.





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On my first evening on the island, I sat on the beach while the horses grazed around me. Suddenly I felt a gentle nudge on my shoulder, a handsome Finnhorse had appeared behind me, his mane fluttering in the warm summer evening and his eyes curiously wide. This horse was Laki, who later became a very special friend.
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I dreamed of a picture of the horses reflected in the river. The horses read my mind, because as I walked to the beach, the herd was dozing on the sandbank.
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The sun of the nightless night shines its red light on Laki.
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I ran barefoot in my pyjamas to the riverbank, where I saw the horses were on their daily journey from the other island to the island where I was. I can still feel the soft, damp, cold sand between my toes.
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On their way from one island to the other, the two wise leaders of the herd stayed behind to wait for the rest of the pack. Sälli and Fiksu earned the respect of others with their consistent and fair behaviour and others were happy to follow them.                          

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During the mosquito season, the herd relaxed under the shelter of an ancient insect repellent, a smoky campfire.
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I can still remember the sound of the horses' bare hooves against the sand as they walked past my tent.
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Laki in moonlight. I learned the names of nine horses in a day and soon I even recognised every silhouette.
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My beloved belltent on my island home.
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As the evening dimmed, the horses headed through the sandy shore, wading and finally swimming to an adjacent island.
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There was something prehistoric about the movement of horses on the island. Most of the time they moved so quietly that I sometimes startled as I felt a sudden friendly nudge of against my shoulder. As they waded through the water, it was impossible for the horses to remain silent, despite their best efforts, with the sound of the rumble following their every step.
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I surprised the horses crossing the river in the autumn evening. Sälli, the wise 21-year-old of the herd, held the rear of the pack to make sure the crossing was safe.
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My dogs Rebel and Chaos were with me on the island and we enjoyed some great moments in the middle of nature.
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MAASEUDUN TULEVAISUUS

A Photographer Camped for Two Summers in Lapland Among a Herd of Horses, Resulting in Unique Photos

The fog came later than usual. Realising what she could witness, Minna Kulmala grabbed her camera and rushed out of the tent. Wait, just a moment! While running, the cold nipped at her bare toes and the thin pyjamas barely protected from the damp. The horses circled the shore and, as usual, weighed up who would be the first to venture into the water. Eventually the first one set off to cross and the rest of the herd followed.
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SUOMENHEVOSLIITTO

Minna captures magical horse life

Photographer Minna Kulmala spent memorable moments in Rovaniemi's Ounasjoki in 2014 and 2015. She lived on the island for a total of six months in a yurt-like tent with nine horses. Minna was able to observe the natural circadian rhythm and herd behaviour of the free-ranging plains animals on the island, from the summer heat to the night frosts of August and the first snows of September and October.
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