Imagination galloping wild in Finland

Young Finns are swapping live horses for intricate, handmade hobbyhorses. And the world is following suit!

A new phenomenon, born in Finland, consists of long walks in the forest, complicated dressage routines and jumping over fences – all on hobbyhorses. Firmly established among Finnish enthusiasts and still growing, hobbyhorsing is also increasing in popularity in many other countries as young people swing into the saddle.

“I was out in Helsinki one day when I came upon a hobbyhorse lying discarded on the ground,” says Mariam Nije, 18. “I can’t quite put it into words, but I immediately felt drawn to it. I saw no owner around so I took it home with me. That was 2008, and that’s how hobbyhorses entered my life.” These days, Nije is an active coach and organiser of hobbyhorsing camps and other activities.

“I have ridden real horses for more than ten years, so I find the world very familiar,” she says. “When I ride dressage, I have a clear picture in my mind of the way a real horse moves, how it extends its legs, and I try to mimic the movements with the utmost accuracy.

“Initially, what attracted me to the sport was that I like creating things with my hands. When I came across my first hobbyhorse, I tried to duplicate its simple sock-and-stick design. Later, I found the tight-knit hobbyhorse community and I joined in, coaching and organising camps. I love being a coach because I love to contribute and watch my students progress.

“I enjoy the creativity of hobbyhorsing. The sky is the limit! We share design tips with one another, in person and on Instagram, but everyone really can create whatever they want. Some say I have developed my own, recognisable style: my horses tend to be rather big, with long necks and short manes. I have a very special bond with my horses, and it would break my heart if something were to happen to them.”

By Tiia Rask, ThisisFINLAND Magazine 2018