Imagine this: You just got home from school, and drop your backpack on the floor. Bad day, good day, it doesn’t really matter. You’re focused on one thing — riding your horse. You go out back to your stables, and give your horse a few pats on the nose. Feed him, put his saddle on. Then, you’re off. You sprint through the woods, the late-afternoon sun crashing through the trees. You suck in some of the air gushing past you, smelling moss and churned earth. Your horse is sturdy beneath you, trained well. Whatever happened earlier in your day doesn’t matter, nor does what comes next.
For a community of young Finnish girls and women, this is their everyday reality, with one small difference. Instead of a live horse, they ride a hobbyhorse, and instead of a well-trained animal carrying them, it’s their own legs they sprint on.
Hobbyhorse riding and competitions are a growing subculture among teenage girls in Finland, in which enthusiasts make, care for, and, of course, ride their make-believe horses. The horses — stuffed heads on a long pole — are painstakingly looked after, with some residing in their own makeshift stables.
While many girls find refuge in their hobbyhorse community, it’s not without struggle. Like so-called “horse girls” in the United States, hobbyhorse enthusiasts are subject to ridicule, and some keep their passion a secret. But the freedom and happiness they find in mounting their horse and taking off — not to mention the growing community of likeminded girls — is the antidote to any backlash.
Here, photographer Bego Antón captures a group of girls at a hobbyhorse summer camp in her photo series “The Gallop.” In Bego’s words, the girls “fuse fantasy with athletics while the lower part of their body imitates the movements of a horse and the upper part acts like a jockey.” The photos show the beauty, freedom, and power of hobbyhorses and their riders.