Hobbyhorse Riding: The Sport Galloping to Popularity in Finland


Howdy, partner! Tony Anderson/The Image Bank/Getty Images
Howdy, partner! Tony Anderson/The Image Bank/Getty Images

It's easy to roll your eyes at any kid who had a pony growing up. (Just ask Jerry.) It's a hobby most of us couldn't relate to, for reasons both financial and practical. However, that hasn't stopped kids from time immemorial from pretending they were cowboys, trick riders or even the horse themselves as a way to play and build some storytelling skills. All you need is a horse on a stick and some room to gallop, and you have yourself a good afternoon.

The only thing that was missing was a way to make riding your hobbyhorse a real sport, with a championship to boot.

Whoa, Nelly. Perhaps you need to back up. Because yes, we are talking about hobbyhorses, the adorable horse-heads-on-a-stick, and we're also talking about folks acting out real equestrian rides on their not-so-real steeds. It's become wildly popular in Finland, where riders (largely adolescent girls), have embraced the fun of creating their hobbyhorse and then getting some good old-fashioned running-jumping-playing time while "riding" it.

The activity is even the subject of a documentary called "Hobbyhorse Revolution" by Oscar-nominated Finnish director Selma Vilhunen, who followed a group of girls pursuing the hobby. 

Hobbyhorse riding really is surprisingly athletic at times, while still remaining rather graceful — just like any equestrian event. Competitors do show jumping and dressage, and are scored based on the rider's posture and gait, just as they would be during competition with a hooved partner.

A lot of the fun also comes from crafting your horse, and even giving it some personality and backstory, which seems like a pretty cool way for kids to let their imagination run wild.