Documentary Releases: Hobbyhorse Revolution (2017) - Reviewed

Did you know that there are professional hobbyhorse riders all over the world? There are dozens of legitimate competitions that are held where girls hold onto these hobbyhorses and gallop around full courses, jumping over rails and obstacles as if they’re riding an actual horse. It’s a strange and often funny thing to see, yet there’s also an oddly sentimental kind of passion behind what these girls do. They comb and care for these toy horses as if they’re living and breathing animals, yet all signs seem to point that they’re fully aware that these aren’t real horses. No delusions or anything- just girls having fun with stuffed horse heads mounted on sticks (sounds a lot more gruesome than it actually is, huh?)

There isn’t really a lot to Hobbyhorse Revolution, but that doesn’t make what is there any less fascinating. Director Selma Vilhunen follows several groups of girls around as they transition between competitions and getting into hobbyhorse riding camps (because apparently those are real too). She doesn’t seem to condemn them or see them as outcasts- though the girls themselves will tell you otherwise. She just shows them as they are: girls having fun doing what they’re passionate about. And maybe that’s the big message that can be gleaned from this short and sweet documentary. That no matter what other people think of what you do with your free time, no matter how off-putting your own interests and fascinations may seem to others, they’re exactly what they are: your interests.

There’s a lot of strange things going on in Hobbyhorse Revolution. Girls hovering around their smartphones and laptops, tweeting about the next big hobbyhorse race or waiting for the exact time for registration to open for Hobbyhorse Camp. Competitions are heated, of course- tears are rolling if someone disagrees with the judge’s final decision on the winners for the year. Some of these extreme enthusiasts even have heartbreaking “In Memoriam” moments for old hobbyhorses too dilapidated to keep up for riding. But Vilhunen ensures that her portrait of these fans doesn’t sway into mockery- instead, it’s up to the audience to decide how much they’ll laugh at what they’re seeing. Personally, I know that I found myself laughing out loud more than once- after all, you can only watch young adult girls skipping around on toy horses for so long before you start to crack a smile. It’s a silly, yet simultaneously sentimental, affair that is as entertaining to watch as it is fascinating to discover. 

- Wes Ball