Hobby horses as a hobby

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Hobby horses as a hobby
Location Suomi
Tags hobbyhorses, crafts, sports, hobbies, children, young people, riding, keppihevoset, lapset, nuoret, harrastukset

Practitioners and people who know the tradition well

Thousands of children and young people all around Finland are hobby horse enthusiasts. They are usually of school age or older, and the nature of the hobby usually depends on the enthusiast’s age and the aspect of the hobby they are interested in. Commonly, people who no longer feel like they play with hobby horses but instead participate in the hobby regularly and in a goal-oriented way are considered to be hobby horse enthusiasts. There is no accurate information about how many enthusiasts the hobby has, because only a few have reported on listings or are members of an association. According to the most optimistic estimates, Finland alone may have more than 10,000 enthusiasts.

Hobby horse activities are promoted by the Finnish Hobbyhorse Association (Suomen Keppihevosharrastajat ry).

Practising of the tradition

Photo: Kht Kultatähti.

Hobby horses represent an extremely versatile hobby, and everyone can pick the parts they want, creating a hobby they like best. Essential parts of it include making the hobby horses, riding, communality, and competitions. The hobby mimics riding live horses, and in fact, you can practise all aspects of riding with a hobby horse.

Hobby horses as a hobby are based on the enthusiasts’ own initiative, which makes the hobby very free-form. There are no hard and fast rules: anyone can enjoy the hobby in the way they like. Hobby horses are also suitable for people who cannot or do not want to ride. Others organise competitions, training events and coaching.

Almost all hobby horse enthusiasts make hobby horses in the course of their hobby. You can make a hobby horse in any way you can imagine: sock horses are made out of socks, felt horses are felted, and traditional fabric horses are sewn out of fabric. Fabric horses are often divided into two-and three-piece horses, depending on whether a middle piece has been used to make the hobby horse or not. The horses are also divided into those with and without a mouth. Many enthusiasts focus on making and selling hobby horses, and they try to create horses that are as realistic as possible.

You can practise any kind of equestrian sport with a hobby horse. Traditionally, the most popular sports have been show jumping and dressage.

Photo: Peltohaan talli.

In show jumping, the horse and the rider jump over a set show-jumping course, and faults are received for any railings that are knocked over. The classes can be judged based on time or style. In dressage, participants are judged on the ability of the horse and the rider to complete a predetermined programme as accurately and realistically as possible, just like riders with live horses.

In addition to competitions, hobby horse enthusiasts also organise coaching events and camps for each other in different parts of Finland. Most events are organised by children and young people, and at other times, they are organised by clubs or associations. The Finnish Hobbyhorse Association organises Finnish national championships in show jumping and dressage for hobby horses every year.

Enthusiasts keep in touch with each other via social media, and they meet at events and competitions. Online shows and competitions are also an important part of the hobby.

The background and history of the tradition

Children have played with hobby horses for millennia. In the late 1900s, the game started to become a hobby in small concentrated areas in different parts of Finland. In the early 2000s, hobby horse enthusiasts started to gather together in online discussion forums and websites. An unofficial hobby horse association was established in 2004, and it was later registered as Suomen Keppihevosharrastajat ry (the Finnish Hobbyhorse Association). As social media became more popular, hobby horses spread out further and further over the internet, and the general public became more aware of them.

The transmission of the tradition

Photo: Pompeii Sporthorses.

Most of the hobby horse activities take place online, where the enthusiasts meet, share tips and agree on meetings. For the younger generations, social media is a natural channel for sharing information and learning about the hobby, while also passing on the hobby horse tradition. Hobby horse competitions, camps, lessons and coaching play an important part in passing on skills and knowledge. The Finnish Hobbyhorse Association also offers its members training and information about the hobby.

The future of the tradition

The number of hobby horse enthusiasts has grown rapidly in the recent years, and that number shows no sign of diminishing. With the lists it keeps, the Finnish Hobbyhorse Association aims to map the number of enthusiasts and offer a hub where they can meet. The enthusiasm of hobby horse enthusiasts is also increased by the annual show jumping and dressage championships for hobby horses; the association has organised them since 2012.

The community/communities behind this submission.

The Finnish Hobbyhorse Association: Suomen Keppihevosharrastajat ry

Bibliography and links to external sources of information

Online register for hobbyhorses and wooden horses in Finland

Internet forum for hobbyhorse enthusiasts in Finland

Sinimaaria Kangas, Lucia Stenger 2016: Keppareiden kyydissä - Keppihevosharrastuksen ABC.

Venla-Maria Uutela 2015: Keppari - Keppihevosten maailma. Pieni Karhu.

Venla-Maria Uutela 2013: Keppihevosten varusteet. Pieni Karhu.