When I first heard about the latest craze, which originated in Finland, I must admit that I had a bit of a laugh. Girls, 7 to 18, riding hobbyhorses, and taking it pretty darned seriously. Seriously enough, it seems, that it merited an article in the New York Times.
This is really a thing. There’s even an annual hobbyhorse competition, where girls compete in dressage, jumping over rails and stuff. And there are classes where you can learn new moves. There are vendors that will sell you hobbyhorses in a variety of colors, and you can splurge on bejeweled harnesses. There’s even a documentary called Hobbyhorse Revolution, and an increasing number of Youtube videos.
At these competitions, adult judges will judge you, with straight faces. You can attend lectures with veterinarians about the proper care and feeding of your hobbyhorse, and are instructed on the correct schedule for their vaccinations. You trade grooming tips with your competitors.
Believe me, I know. This subject seems rife for parody. And I was poised to do just that. But then I investigated further, and started to think about it more.
First of all, why is this any more ridiculous than cosplay? In truth, it’s more legitimate than dressing up as a superhero in my opinion, because there’s actual exercise involved in leaping around with a stick between your legs. These girls train for these competitions. They run. They jump. They’re not lying around playing video games. They’re out in the fresh air, hanging out, socializing with one another, face to face. (Remember when you used to do that?)
They are also being creative, as they often make their own horses. And there’s a huge imagination element involved, and that part of our brains needs exercise, too. In addition, they’re learning to compete, which is something that is seriously lacking in much of the female universe, unfortunately. That winds up biting us in the butt when we enter the business world. It really comes in handy to learn to take criticism, and to strive toward a goal.
I also love the egalitarian aspect of it. Girls are often drawn to horses, but most of us can’t afford to have one, let alone participate in that high-end sport. This, on the other hand, is something that even the poorest girl should be able to do. I just hope it doesn’t turn into a “my hobbyhorse is better than your hobbyhorse” type thing. And in any female dominated activity, even those kiddie beauty pageants, there always seems to be some outside pressure to sexualize it. I hope this hobby maintains its innocence, whimsy, and accessibility.
So I’ll try not to laugh when discussing this new fad, because I think there’s more to it than meets the eye. More horsepower to them, I say.