Everybody knows a horse girl, who possesses such zeal for her long-haired animal companions that it can often border on obsession. A horse girl’s passion is unparalleled! But have you ever met a hobbyhorse girl?
I certainly have not, or even knew they existed, until this New York Times story documenting the hobbyhorse girls of Finland. The paper reports on a growing community of girls who go all out riding their hobbyhorses. Yes, that’s the toy with the plush horse head and a simple wooden stick for the body. But this is a serious sport to these girls, who are largely in their tweens, with national competitions each summer. At a dressage competition, hobbyhorses are treated like real animals:
A veterinarian lectured girls on hobbyhorse vaccination schedules, saying “check that the eyes are clear and there is no nasal discharge.” The girls discussed hobbyhorse bloodlines and hobbyhorse temperaments, hobbyhorse training routines and hobbyhorse diets. There were rhinestone-studded bridles for sale.
The discovery of this largely underground subculture, populated by girls who are disillusioned with a lot of what impending teenage girldom has to offer (“the sudden and vital importance of being cute and popular”) was aided by a 2017 documentary by filmmaker Selma Vilhunen, who found these competitions are more complex than girls just riding on toys. Some of these competitors sew their own horses, define specific postures for riding, and there is a network of coaches and competitions largely relegated to online visibility alone.
“If someone says we are playing, it strips away everything we made,” Alisa Aarniomaki, who is 22 now but became an online celebrity for her handmade hobbyhorses and riding videos when she was just a teenager. “It strips away the reality.”
If it’s socially acceptable for grown men to like My Little Pony, then I say these Finnish girls can ride their damn hobbyhorses wherever they please.