Stick-Horses Hobby- Horses and Scopperels

hobby-horse-16th centHaving been a child who loved horses and “rode” sticks and brooms and such at every chance I got, I sympathize with the impulse of children down through time that causes these and even tree branches to sprout tails, manes and reins and become the swift steeds of imagination!

<<<<< 16th century hobby horse <<<<<<<

Of course, indulgent adults want to give children a little help with these horses. <sigh> Sometimes it helps, but often we stomp into their dreams and make a mess. I’ve never quite forgiven my mother for insisting that my horse had a “Misty of Chincoteague” mane when I *knew* it was rainbow-colored and why did his horn go away? 209-n-mb-lich-coello_jpg…and boys? I’m sorry about the dragon, but after the 3rd time at the emergency room getting another of you stitched up in the exact same spot, it was going to get us looked at rather strangely…. Yes, we adults do that… <sigh>

So again…. children ride horses, some of them are “pretties” made by adults, some of them made by the children, some of them are only in the imagination.

Children use these to try out the skills they will need in a society of those who ride and those who drive carts. Even children who never got onto a horse in their lives would have seen them and dreamed of being so rich. Think about the steering wheel toys that are often attached to strollers and car seats these days!

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< Modern Stick Griffons by Brian Spenst <<<<<<<<<<

Chances are that the crudest period examples (just sticks) landed in the fire on cold winter nights. I have yet to find an actual extant hobbyhorse from our period, but my feeling is that they get loved hard and destroyed just from use. Mine from my childhood is gone and none of the ones that my kids used survived to be passed on to grandkids, why would the period examples be any different?

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Modern Stick Griffon by Brian Spenst >>>>>>>>

Thankfully there are *tons* of pictures of them! They range from sticks (a crowned head and sons!) to really elaborate ones like the one in the portrait above or in the portrait of Bartholemeus Schachmann’s son in the gallery below.

“Make your own” page here:

…and a new page on pool noodle stick horses here:

7009207Gotta love a Dad, a crowned head yet, that plays at “horses” with his boys! You can see Mom admonishing them to be careful, too. 🙂

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Sometimes we “jousted” or “slew dragons” (which is what ended up with my “dragons” with stitches… after taking away the wooden swords they were using on each other, they had paper towel tubes…..). Scopperel ball hobbyhorseYou can see in some of the photos above that the little ones had what I would call “pinwheels”. The period term for these is “scopperels” (in about as many spellings as you might imagine) and they were indeed used for jousting!

I swear I can just see this picture working out as, “Poke me with that thing one more time, brother, and you’ll be eating this ball full of rocks!”

Scopperels seem to have come in two types: 1. a single stick with two little flags, and 2. Two small vaned crossed bars.

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Further sources


See lots of links here

Some solid wooden ones


Toys through the ages_ by Dan Foley, 1962.  It’s not much for illustrations but there is definitely history and references in chapters 2-6, 10-11 including the one period illustration in the book, a 15th C. illustration of St Dorothy and the Christ Child riding a hobbyhorse.

Wooden Artefacts from Medieval Novogrod has some hobby horses.

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Page Created 6/16/15, Published 7/21/15 (C)M. Bartlett
Last update 5/15/17


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