Our Reindeer Goes to School
In winter, we train new reindeer to work with people mainly as sleigh reindeer. For that we have our “Reindeer Sleigh School”. The school season lasts usually from late December to early April. After that, the students are free to roam back to their pasture lands. You can book a School Visit and come to learn more about our reindeer, and our animal training methods based on the principles of positive reinforcement.
The Reindeer Sleigh School has four grades. Some reindeer might need a bit more time and have an extra year before they are ready to work as professional sleigh reindeer. Some reindeer might be too energetic to make it. They might try a career as race reindeer, or drop the school and do their duties as breeding males in our herd.
In it’s first winter, reindeer is called “kermikkä”, based on its age, a yearling. In our school, this is the first grade. At that age, we start training them to trust people, then walk on a leash, stay still and wait.
In the second winter, reindeer in the school are two years old and called “urakka”. This is the second grade. At first, they recall the skills learned a year before, and then start to get used to wearing harness. When they can do that easily and feeling comfortable, they continue to pulling a light tire, then a light sleigh and those who are strong enough and mentally ready, try also to pull an empty sleigh.
In their third winter, the students are three years old and called “vuorso”. They start third grade, again by recalling the skills they have learned so far. Then they start to pull a sleigh with familiar people on it, and walking in a raito (a line of reindeer, tied to each other, pulling sleighs). Little by little we add aspects, like more voice, moving hands, laughing, and talking loudly. When they are handling all that, and not getting worried or nervous, they are ready to move to the last vocational grade.
In the last school year, our students are at the age of four, “kunteus”. At that age they are fully grown, strong and self-confident, and can start learning the real work. Still, first they recall what they have learned in previous years and, when everything goes well, they are ready to start working with travelers once or twice a week.