Hobby Horsing: The Sport Centered Around Fake Horses

By Michael Pascual 

March 26, 2024
Photo credit: Mica Zandstra

Many young girls develop a love for horses at a young age, but unfortunately many parents cannot afford a horse, or even horseback riding lessons. This has led many parents to introduce their children to hobby-horsing instead. 

A hobby-horse is a fabric horse head that is attached to a wooden pole that the athlete “rides”. While this is the basis of a hobby-horse, the athlete who owns it can decorate it to their heart’s desire, and many hobby-horsing competitions judge competitors on how decorated their horse is. This has turned the sport into a passion for people who love both exercising, horses, and fashion. 

This sport, despite hobby-horses having been around for a couple of centuries now, was only acknowledged as an official sport twelve years ago, in 2012. Since then, there has been a championship in Seinäjoki, Finland almost every year since, which brings in thousands of audience members and hundreds of competing athletes. 

While the competitions are very popular among young girls, the sport has started to become relevant to young adults as well, with professional hobby-horse riders like Nara Arlin devoting countless hours to improving in the sport. According to Arlin, “when I do hobby-horsing, I feel like there is no boundaries. It makes me feel like the sky is the limit.” This statement seems to be supported by the 10,000+ athletes in Finland and 5,000 in Sweden that play the sport regularly. 

This obsession in Finland and Sweden has yet to spread to the United States, though many regard it more as a ridiculous pastime than anything else. Whether or not the sport becomes accepted by a larger population will take time to determine, but as long as it is something that people love doing, it is unlikely that it will ever truly die off.