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Hobby horse sport is a huge thing in Finland, with 400 horses turning up for the annual national competition

AP, June 17, 2019 6:00PM Kids News

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Dozens of hobby horses lined up ready to be ridden during the 8th Hobby Horse championships in Seinajoki, Finland on June 15. Picture: AP media_cameraDozens of hobby horses lined up ready to be ridden during the 8th Hobby Horse championships in Seinajoki, Finland on June 15. Picture: AP

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The 400 contestants at a sports arena in Finland showjumped, barrel raced and pranced in a dressage* competition. They just didn’t do it with live horses.

What organisers called “the biggest hobby horse event in the world” has taken place in Finland’s western town of Seinajoki, which hosted the annual national championships for the sport that copies the gymnastic elements of real-life horseback riding.

The young competitors — mostly girls aged 10 to 18 — galloped, jumped and pranced with their homemade stuffed horse heads on a wooden stick in the physically demanding competition as more than 2500 spectators watched, Elviira Sarakoski of the Finnish Hobby Horse Association said.

media_cameraCompetitors care for their horses in Seinajoki, Finland, where more than 400 hobby horse enthusiasts took part in Finland’s 8th Hobby Horse championships, competing in events inspired by real equestrian events. Picture: AP

The Western horsemanship section included barrel racing modelled on North American rodeos.

Competitor Aquata Kirveskari, 19, said hobby-horsing “is a sport for everybody, but the boys haven’t been participating so much yet. But there are more and more coming every year.”

Sarakoski said Finland has more than 10,000 hobbyhorse experts — by far the largest number in any country — and said the sport is gradually gaining popularity in some other European nations like Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, all countries where equestrian sports are extremely popular.

media_cameraAwards stand on a tray ready for the closing ceremony at the championships. Picture: AP

The competitors spend many, many hours creating their own wooden horses. Ms Sarakoski said most say the camaraderie*, the “do-it-yourself” spirit and the lack of bossing adults, not competition success, is what hooked them on the sport.

“At real horse stables, you always have adults telling you what is right and how things should be done. It’s not that it is bad, particularly concerning safety, but still,” she said, adding that many — but not all — of the competitors have some experience with live horses.

Ms Kirveskari said she didn’t mind journalists flocking to the arena “because they can show this hobby isn’t just childish playing around.”

“This is a serious competition, and they can show it to people all around the world,” she said.

The highlight of Saturday’s event came as Marie Karkkainen of Finland scored the country’s new hobbyhorse high jumping record, leaping over a bar set at 1.41m high.

“I wasn’t expecting anything like this at all. I was expecting like one metre or something,” the 16-year-old said, gently patting her hobby horse.

THREE DAY EVENT (Dressage) media_cameraNatalie Hibbert on “Two Chances”, at the 2018 Australian International dressage event. Hobby horse competition is based on dressage with real horses. Picture: Dean Martin


  • dressage: type of riding display
  • camaraderie: trust and friendship between people spending a lot of time together


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  1. How old were most of the competitors?
  2. Is there an equal number of boys and girls competing?
  3. How many hobby horse experts are in Finland?
  4. Why did the competitors welcome journalists at the competition?
  5. What high jump record was set?


1. Real horse versus hobby horse
There are advantages and disadvantages to competing in both forms of dressage: the one with real horses and the one with hobby horses. Divide a blank page into four columns or sections. Label each section or column with REAL HORSE ADVANTAGES, REAL HORSE DISADVANTAGES, HOBBY HORSE ADVANTAGES, HOBBY HORSE DISADVANTAGES. Think through all the things you know about both these sports and add each thing you know to the relevant section of your page. Consider convenience, vet bills, transport, cost, time required, what happens if you want to go away on holidays and anything else you can think of.

Share your table with another class member. Do you think one of the two sports is a clear winner when all the advantages and disadvantages are considered?

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Personal and Social, Critical and Creative Thinking, Health and Physical Education

2. Extension
Create a poster advertisement attracting new competitors to this sport. Include some information about the competition, what equipment is needed and the benefits of the sport.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Visual Arts

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Would you prefer to compete in events with real horses or hobby horses? Why?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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