Hobbyhorse Revolution

I was excited to review this film for Hot Docs because I’d heard of and was mystified by ‘hobbyhorsing’ and needed to know more about it.

Hobbyhorsing is a lot like the horse competitions you’re used to seeing on TV, or in Olympic events.  Dressage, an equestrian sport, is the highest expression of horse training. In the events, you’ll watch horse and rider perform a sequence of events from memory, including piaffe (a special kind of trot), and pirouette (a 360 degree turn). In the obstacle event, the horses will jump over poles. Horse and rider are judged on how smoothly they go through the movements, and how willingly and with minimal cues the horse performs.

In hobbyhorsing, the competitions are similar, except – NO SHIT – performed with a fake horse. A hobbyhorse: those toys for small children which consist of a horse head on a broomstick.

Hobbyhorse Revolution is a documentary that sheds light on this burgeoning community, and on the people who compete (they’re older than you’d think).

Competitors “train” extensively, but don’t forget it’s their own two feet doing all the work. The ‘horses’ get off pretty lightly but are still given starring roles. Their ‘riders’ talk about them as though they are real: this one is ‘energetic’, this one ‘well-schooled.’ They are ridden with whips and put away with stable blankets. You know, in case they get fake cold.

The teen-aged girls interviewed for the film are almost all troubled in one way or another and I can’t believe that’s a coincidence. Playing make-believe with toy horses is a blatant extension of childhood. In this light, hobbyhorsing is perhaps not simply a curiosity but a disturbing trend – 10 000 “hobbyhorseists” in Finland and growing. Unfortunately, the film maker fails to answer that most obvious of questions: why? What is happening to these girls that they’ve left their peers and retreated to the safe but immature world of racing fake horses? Interesting but superficial, Hobbyhorse Revolution is a hollow look at a surprising new safety blanket.


[Between you and I, I can’t really watch a 17 year old young woman prancing around with a stick between her legs and not wonder if it’s somewhat sexual. Or entirely sexual. Either way, something here is messed up.]


20 thoughts on “Hobbyhorse Revolution

  1. J.

    Zoiks! This is fascinating, but it’s a shame it’s not fully explored…

    Just looking at an article there which talks about empowerment and the girl interviewed mentioned her parents divorcing and being bullied. The empowerment comment is certainly interesting.

    Definitely needs more exploration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Liz A.

    I was going to make a Monty Python joke, but I see someone beat me to it.

    On the one hand–wow, this is very strange. *looks askance*
    But on the other–why judge what makes someone happy? There was a time when comic book lovers and cosplayers got the side eye. Still do, but it’s gone more mainstream. If it’s not hurting anyone else, what’s the harm?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Christopher

    Normally I think documentaries should be as objective as possible, but…really, there’s something going on here that deserves to be explored in greater depth. Obviously with at least 10,000 “hobbyhorseists” there’s got to be a lot of diversity, but I think this could have benefited from focusing on one or two to try and understand what motivates them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yentl

    Never heard of such a thing, but then again, I am not surprised. My concern is since the why was not addressed that it might turn out to be a promotion of it.


  5. Hazziesof

    I don’t know if you watch Bob’s Burgers at all but it reminded me of when Tina was too scared to ride an actual horse so she had to pretend when it was time for her do a routine with a horse. I just didn’t know this was an actual thing. It seems weird but I do wonder what is actually going on behind it.


    1. Jay Post author

      I have seen the show, and I do kind of love Tina, but I don’t think I caught that episode. Now I could appreciate it on a whole other level!

      Liked by 1 person


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