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Hobby horse riding is a unique activity where participants simulate riding horses using homemade stuffed replicas.

Riders take their “horses” out for trots, shows, and even competitions. 

But does riding a pretend horse qualify as a real sport? This article explores the validity and benefits of hobby horsing.

What is Hobby Horse Riding?

Hobby horse riding, also called larp or live-action roleplaying, involves riding a toy horse as if it were real. Riders make hobby horses by attaching stuffed animal heads to sticks or rods. They create elaborate costumes and personalities for their horses, bringing them to life through imagination.

Riders take their horses out on simulated trail rides and adventures. Some join clubs to go on group rides. Riders develop skills like dressage, jumping, and racing with their hobby horses. This creative activity lets riders experience horseback riding without the real horse.

Key Attributes of Hobby Horse Riding:

  • Riders anthropomorphize stuffed horses with names and backstories.
  • Riders costume themselves and their horses elaborately.
  • Training and practice are required to control the hobby horse.
  • Riders participate in shows, races, and competitions locally and nationally.
  • Joining clubs and groups provides a social community.
  • Creativity and imagination are essential elements.
  • Riders develop equestrian skills like dressage, show jumping, and racing.

But are these attributes enough to consider hobby horsing an actual sport? Let’s compare it to traditional sports criteria.

Does Hobby Horse Riding Qualify as a Sport?

Sports generally involve physical exertion, skill-based competition, established rules and structure, and general entertainment value for spectators. How does hobby horsing stack up?

Physical Activity

Riding and controlling a hobby horse requires significant physical coordination, balance, and stamina. Riders must gait, trot, canter, jump, and steer their horses through courses. The activity provides a moderate cardiovascular workout.

Skill Development

Like real horseback riding, hobby horsing necessitates training to master skills like dressage, show jumping, and racing techniques. Riders practice controlling their horses and fine-tuning competitive strategies. Skill progression is essential.


Local, national, and international live-action roleplaying competitions exist. Events feature dressage, show jumping, races, and other contests requiring training, dedication, and skill. Competitive opportunities are available at varying levels.

Established Rules and Structure

Within competitions, clear rules and structure govern events and scoring, like any organized sport. Riders must adhere to competition regulations. Penalties exist for rule violations.

Entertainment Value

Championships and events draw crowds of spectators who enjoy the creative spectacle. Commentators cover the competitions like other sports. Performances entertain and fascinate viewers.

Based on these criteria, a strong case can be made that hobby horsing has evolved into a legitimate sport, despite its lighthearted nature. It offers athleticism, skill-building, competition, rules, and entertainment on par with traditional sports.

Physical and Mental Benefits of Hobby Horse Riding

Beyond qualifying as a sport, hobby horse riding offers several health benefits:

Cardiovascular Exercise

Controlling a hobby horse provides a moderate cardio workout. Riders use core strength to simulate riding gaits and incorporate movements like jumping. The activity elevates the heart rate.

Stress Relief

The fun, imaginative nature of hobby horsing helps relieve stress and anxiety. Riding stimulates the senses, redirects focus, and allows creative expression. These facets lower stress hormones.

Improved Balance and Coordination

Riding a hobby horse develops balance and coordination as riders simulate walking, trotting, cantering, and jumping. Maintaining control of the horse engages the core and improves stability.

Social Interaction

Clubs, events, and group rides provide friendship, bonding, and connection. The shared interest brings riders together. Hobby horsing can combat loneliness.

Creative Outlet

Customizing horses and costumes, roleplaying, and inventing stories fosters creativity. The hobby allows freedom and imagination in a playful, immersive way.

Self-Esteem Boost

As with any sport or hobby, improving riding skills builds confidence and self-esteem. Riders feel pride as their abilities progress. Achieving goals provides a sense of accomplishment.

The unique blend of athleticism, creative expression, and community makes hobby horse riding beneficial on multiple levels when enjoyed in moderation.

Concerns and Controversies Surrounding Hobby Horsing

hobby horse competition

However, some controversies and stereotypes persist around the unconventional activity:

Perception as Childish

Some dismiss hobby horsing as an immature activity, as children are often the main participants. But riders of all ages partake for the joy and challenge. It offers legitimate benefits regardless of age.

Mockery and Stigma

Unfortunately, hobby horsing is sometimes met with mockery and derision from those who don’t understand it. Discrimination exists, as with any unconventional hobby. Supporters aim to combat negativity.

Lack of Accessibility

Hobby horse clubs and events remain relatively limited globally, with most concentrated in Nordic countries and other select regions. Many are excluded from participation based on location.

Cost Barriers

The top-tier horses, costumes, and equipment can get quite expensive. Significant investments deter some from the hobby. However, budget options are available.

While these valid concerns exist, the welcoming hobby horse community continues working to promote inclusion, accessibility, and acceptance.

Should You Give Hobby Horsing a Try?

At the end of the day, hobby horse riding offers a unique opportunity to experience horseback riding in a creative, fun way. If the idea sparks your interest, don’t let stigma hold you back. Here are some tips to enjoy hobby horsing:

  • Find local groups and events to connect with fellow riders.
  • Start with a simple hobby horse and build up to elaborate costumes.
  • Take time to craft your horse’s personality and backstory.
  • Allow yourself to play and be silly. Have fun with the performance.
  • Focus on growth and self-improvement, not competition with others.
  • Customize the hobby to your interests and needs.
  • Maintain balance and don’t let it become compulsive.

While unusual on the surface, hobby horsing can provide fulfilling, healthy benefits for equestrian enthusiasts of all ages. The inclusive community offers friendship, imagination, skills, and fun if you give it an open-minded try.

FAQs about Is Hobby Horse Riding a Sport?

Will Hobby Horse be in the Olympics?

While not yet an Olympic sport, hobby horse riding has a growing competitive scene, so its inclusion in future Olympics is not out of the realm of possibility.

Is hobby horse competition for real?

Yes, hobby horse competitions with established rules, judges, and events like dressage, racing, and show jumping exist at local, national, and international levels for serious competitors.

What is the point of a hobby horse?

Hobby horses allow creative roleplaying and simulated horseback riding experiences complete with training, riding skills, and showing opportunities without requiring real horses.

Where did hobby horse sport come from?

Modern hobby horse riding originated as a youth hobby in Europe in the 1990s, particularly in Nordic countries like Finland, before growing into an organized sport.

Why is hobby horse riding a thing?

Hobby horse riding provides fun, imaginative play while developing equestrian skills and a community. It lets any horse enthusiast enjoy aspects of horseback riding through creative roleplay and simulation.

Is Hobby Horse Difficult To Learn?

Learning how to ride a hobby horse takes time and practice just like any other sport or activity involving horses. However, since there are no real horses involved, there is less logistical work that needs to be done before getting into the saddle – so learning can start quickly! Most importantly though, hobby horsing is simply wonderful fun!

Does Hobby Horse Require Special Equipment?

Hobby horsing does require some special equipment like protective headgear and boots. The exact equipment varies depending on which type of event you are participating in – either jumping or dressage – but can usually be bought online from equestrian stores.

Tom Velasco

Tom Velasco

I'm just a regular guy who loves hobbies. I'm also the creator of Hobbyist To Riches, where I've spent the last 15 years trying out all kinds of hobbies that make life happier and financially rewarding. My adventures have taken me around the world to immerse in different cultures and their diverse pastimes. I love sharing this journey of discovering new passions!

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