Hobbyhorsing: make your own horse — then, ride it

Girls in Finland are creating space to express their love of horses.

Three of the pioneers of the hobbyhorsing revolution. — Photo: CBC

By: Meera Eragoda, Staff Writer

Who else is obsessed with Bob’s Burgers and remembers the episode where Tina goes to horse camp and doesn’t bond with her real horse, so she decides to ride her imaginary one? Well, did you know this was a real sport? It’s called hobbyhorsing, and instead of imaginary horses, participants ride stick horses around a ring. It’s a little reminiscent of quidditch, but much more wholesome.

The growth in popularity of hobbyhorsing originates in Finland, and it entered the mainstream because of a documentary called Hobbyhorsing Revolution. Prior to that, it existed underground, undetected by much of the adult population. It’s also a very girl-focused sport and creates an empowering space where they don’t have to deal with boys bossing them around.

Girls, generally aged 10–18, compete in areas such as dressage and showjumping. Part of the appeal of hobbyhorsing is the DIY element. Participants often make their own stick horses and are able to customize them with patterns and colours. The can-do, DIY-aesthetic aspect of this sport makes it very Riot grrrl-esque. Just subtract the punk rock, and add more horses.

I have to admit, when I heard about hobbyhorsing, I automatically deemed it as frivolous. However, after further investigation and thought, I realized that I was reiterating society’s biases that devalue most things young girls do. I now realize that I could not have been more wrong. Watching videos of these hobbyhorsing competitions, I’m struck by how much skill these girls have. They’re trying to jump like horses and they go HIGH! I could never in a million years do that. Have you seen a horse jump? These girls are skilled.

Another nice thing about this sport is that it is one of the most economically accessible sports out there. There are a lot of young girls that are seriously horse-obsessed, but unless they’re born incredibly privileged, most won’t be able to afford the cost of a horse, riding lessons, barn storage, feed, etc. Hobbyhorsing eliminates all those concerns, as participants can create their own horses and ride them anywhere.

Hobbyhorsing is growing too. It has now spread to Russia, Sweden, and the Netherlands, and I have no doubt it’ll spread further. Prince William’s children, George and Charlotte, were even gifted hobbyhorses  created by one of the pioneers of the sport, Alisa Aarniomaki, by the Finnish government.

The sport, thus far, seems to be exclusive to those assigned female at birth. Despite this, given that it’s supposed to help empower young girls, I hope that as it grows, it ensures the inclusion of everyone that identifies as a girl. I also hope it manages to retain its DIY, wholesome roots, and that the capitalist drive to create new markets doesn’t completely ruin this entertaining, creative, and kind of badass sport.

Much respect to these young innovators and pioneers for breaking down barriers and creating new ways to enjoy the things they love. I’m sure Tina would be over the moon to meet the hobby-horsing community.