Showing posts with label hobby horse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label hobby horse. Show all posts

Monday, June 5, 2023

Heritage Update for June 2023 - New plaques, old memories, and a herd of Lop Chops invades Centreville

Howard House Registered Heritage Structure, St. John's

In the Heritage Update for June 2023: Heritage NL and the St. George’s Indian Band unveil a new bilingual English and Mi’kmaq plaque for the St. George’s Courthouse; as part of the 2023 Winter Carnival in Centreville-Wareham-Trinity and Indian Bay, Heritage NL was asked to lead a Memory Mug Up afternoon at the Wareham church hall; Heritage NL's exhibition proposal for The Early Lebanese Community in Newfoundland receives funding as part of Digital Museums Canada; a herd of Lop Chops and Horsey Chops take over Centreville; and several of our Registered Heritage Structures receive funding through Heritage NL's Maintenance Grant program. 

Download the pdf at:

Monday, May 13, 2019

Hobby Horses, Makerspaces, and Digital Literacies

Group displaying their completed horses.
Last week Dale and I led a hobby horse workshop as part of the SSHRC Conference on Makerspaces and Digital Literacies. The goal of the conference was to engage in scholarly discussion around how making is central the way that people practice literacies in their own lives. These can be both tangible and intangible objects and are very relatable to material cultures.
Pieces the horses together.
The aim of the conference was to consider how making and literacy can come together through the use of material culture to engage communities with concepts of citizenship. This conference also focused on how makerspaces can be developed in interesting and innovative ways through cultural institutions such as The Rooms and The Geo Centre.
Finishing touches.
As part of the conference Dr. Anne Burke asked Dale to give a presentation on intangible cultural heritage, and the work of the ICH office. We also led a very quick hobby horse workshop for the participants who came from different places around the world. Participants from the UK were familiar with hobby horses, and those from Finland recounted stories of a different breed of hobby horse which are ridden instead of worn. (If you want to learn more about the hobby horse revolution in Finland click here to watch a short video clip.)
Trimming up his chin.
For those who weren't familiar with hobby horses Dale gave an overview of the tradition and some of the mischief the horses were likely to get up to while mummering such as snapping clothes, stealing table clothes, turning off lights, and "eating" snacks. We split the group of fifteen into three smaller groups and led them through the process of creating and decorating a hobby horse from this template. The group had a lot of fun and were creative in the decorating process with one team adding braces to their hobby horse's teeth. If you want to learn more about hobby horses check out the Mummers Festival page, or keep your eye out come December and take in one of the hobby horse workshops offered by the festival.
Dentistry work.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Living Heritage Podcast Ep094 Beware the Christmas Terror - The Hobby Horse

Dale Jarvis, Terra Barrett, and Ryan Davis (plus bonus Yeti!)

Ryan Davis has been running the Mummers Festival since 2009. He holds an MA in Folklore and a BA in Communication Studies. It was his interest in festivals, celebrations, and costuming that led him to mummering traditions. The Mummers Festival promotes the continuation and evolution of traditional arts and performance by encouraging active participation in mummering activities. The Mummers Festival helps to keep mummering alive and contemporary.

One of the traditions the Mummers Festival has helped to safeguard is the hobby horse. With its devilish spirit and snapping jaws, it might not be the first thing one associates with the season of comfort and joy, but it is a centuries-old part of the Yuletide season in Newfoundland and Labrador. In this podcast, we chat with Ryan about all things hobby horse!


The Living Heritage Podcast is about people who are engaged in the heritage and culture sector, from museum professionals and archivists, to tradition bearers and craftspeople - all those who keep heritage alive at the community level. The show is a partnership between HFNL and CHMR Radio. Past episodes hosted on Libsyn, and you can subscribe via iTunes, or Stitcher. Theme music is Rythme Gitan by Latché Swing.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Create your own Newfoundland Hobby Horse for #makermonday!

Do you want to know how to make a Hobby Horse? Look no further!

It's no secret we love the tradition of Newfoundland and Labrador Hobby Horses here at the Intangible Cultural Heritage office.  So we are delighted to report that our friends at the Mummers Festival, with funding from the Helen Creighton Folklore Society, have recently completed their step-by-step guide for making your own hobby horse.

These aren't the children's toy hobby horses, but a large, fearsome folk puppet, an element of chaos which was part of the Christmas mummering tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador.

You can check out their new video on YouTube, or watch below!

There is also an earlier video about the Hobby Horse making workshops, filmed by NTV.

You can read a description of the DIY process here and download a pdf of the template here.

If you want some inspiration from across the pond, check out these cool hobbies from The Wantsum Hoodners at The Banbury Hobby Horse Festival 2010, on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Build your own Hobby Horse and Christmas Bull

The Mummers Festival is hosting a Hobby Horse and Christmas Bull Workshop this Saturday, December 5th from 1pm to 5pm. No longer a common sight, the hobby horse is a most peculiar breed. Even more mysterious is the christmas bull, an old time holiday companion to the hobby horse. Come to a session, build a hobby horse or christmas bull, and then ride it over to the Mummer’s Parade on December 19th. We want a cavalry of holiday beasts and we need your help! The workshop takes place at the Victoria Park Poolhouse. Workshops are free and donations are welcomed. Recommended for ages 10 and up. Space is limited so get there early. For more information visit

Friday, October 2, 2015

ICH @UVic Day 4 - Newfoundland Hobby Horses on Vancouver Island for #FolkloreThursday

Today's class was all about revitalizing traditions, using the Mummers Festival as a case study. We started the day with a talk on mummering (which some of the students had never heard of) and then we had a visit from Doretta Hollett of Burin, who came and shared her memories of Christmastime in Burin. Doretta even brought in a bottle of Purity Syrup, so everyone got to have a taste.

In the afternoon, I introduced people to the Newfoundland hobby horse, like the one above, one of the Mummers Troupe's horses, made in the early 1970s by Chris Brookes and company.  And then it was time to put their new knowledge to use. Using the template from the Mummers Festival in St. John's, I walked everyone through the process of creating their own hobby horses.  Here is a peek at how the workshop went, from start to finished ponies:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hobby Horse Revival in Newfoundland and Labrador

The poster above was one designed by Target Marketing for the 2011 Mummers Festival. It bears the caption "Terrifying and delighting children for over 400 years" and the image of a handsome mummer (yours truly) peeking out from inside a great grey horse's head.  This is a hobby horse - and not the child's riding toy hobby horse most North Americans are familiar with. The hobby horse of Newfoundland's mummering tradition is much more fearsome beastie, with big eyes, and a wooden jaw with nails for teeth, which snock together as it nips and bites at the people it meets along its route. It is an archetypal figure associated with chaos, unpredictability, fertility, and, as the poster suggests, even a little terror.

When we started planning the very first mummers festival in 2009, we went looking for hobby horses. Chris Brookes, who started the Mummers Troupe in 1972, had a couple, one of which, "Old Ball" is shown to the right. Local actor Andy Jones had one. One was found tucked away in the MUN Folklore and Language Archive. The Kelly family in Cape Broyle had another, made of styrofoam to replace an older, wooden head.

But other than those few models, very few existed outside of reminiscences.  Andrea O’Brien contributed memories of hobby horses from the Southern Shore, and a man from Bonavista Bay remembered a hobby horse made out of an old cardboard beer carton.

The hobby horse was a Newfoundland Christmas tradition which, not particularly widespread in the twentieth century, had seemed to have faded from both the cultural landscape and popular memory in the twenty-first.  It was a shame, for hobby horses have a long and complicated history

Hobby horses (along with their colourful cousins hobby cows, hobby goats, hobby sheep, and hobby bulls) have been here on the island of Newfoundland for a long time. In 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert wrote in his "Voyages and Enterprises":  

Besides for solace of our people, and allurement of the Savages, we were provided of Musike in good variety: not omitting the least toyes, as Morris dancers, Hobby horsse, and Maylike conceits to delight the Savage people.

"Hobby horse" and "Horsy-hops" both get their own entries in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English, and folklorist Dr. Joy Fraser has included references to  hobby horses in her stellar research on mummering and violence in nineteenth century Newfoundland. Fraser includes one account, where a complainant in a legal case describes how “I heard some person running and turned round I was struck on the head with something like a horses head and knocked down I rose on my knees to get hold of the man who struck me and he kicked me on the breast”.

A 1913 Christmas engraving by John Hayward includes, in the background, what can only be a hobby horse (detail below).

Folklore research in the 1960s and 1970s uncovered many stories and references to hobby horses and bulls, but by the time the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador instigated its first Folklife Festival in 2009, very few hobby horses existed, no one had made any for years, and most people had never heard of the tradition.

Mummers Festival coordinator Ryan Davis, working with long-time Lantern Festival organizer Kathleen Parewick, designed a cardboard template to make a hobby horse head, and the hobby horse workshops which were first offered in 2009 have since become a firm part of the annual festival.

The hobby horse workshops have been taught outside of the festival, as part of ICH workshops, community centre outreach programs, and workshops for high school teachers.

Ron Delaney of Bay Roberts has made his own hobby horse from wood, based on his own memories.  In December of 2011, Delaney wrote,

“As a child , growing up in the 70’s and early 80’s I was mortified of Jannies, I use to hear my relatives talk about good and bad Jannies , as a result , in my mind they were all bad, especially the hobby horse. The hobby horse usually was the last Jannie to enter the house; I could remember scooting in the room as fast as I could when I heard the SLAP of its mouth.”

One of the participants in a hobby horse building workshop I taught in Bay Roberts, Delaney brought along Meggie and Kaegan, who now represent a new generation of hobby horse owners. Another horse foaled that day made its way back to Ontario, to take place of honour as Bottom's Head in a Grade 8 student production of Midsummer's Night Dream.

One of the participants in a 2011 Arts Work Conference hobby horse making workshop I taught in St. John's was teacher Amanda Gibson, who teaches at Amos Comenius Memorial School in Hopedale. She made her hobby horse, then went off to Labrador armed with her new skills. Horses not being common along the northern Labrador coast, Gibson adapted the template, adding hobby polar bears to the list of hobby animals now made in the province.

"The kids had a fun time making them and loved choosing the colors for their 'bears'" she wrote me. "It took a few hour-period classes, but it was a great way to end the unit in Grade 8 NL history on 19th Century Lifestyles for students that are hands-on learners."

This year, 2011, there were hobby horses galore at the Mummers Parade. Everywhere you turned, a gaudily-decorated horse's head was poking up above the sea of mummers and janneys, including one devilishly fine, black and red steed, crepe paper fire billowing from its nostrils.

For me, it was a particularly moving sight, and proof that tradition is sometimes more resilient than we give it credit for. For whatever reason, hobby horse making has struck a chord with a new generation of janneys, and I look forward to new additions to the herd in 2012.

And next year, I think the parade needs at least one hobby goat...

Merry Christmas, mummers!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making Hobby Horses: Prepping for the 2011 Mummers Festival

This week, I taught two train-the-trainer Hobby Horse workshops here in St. John's. One was for the Arts Work conference, for teachers from across the province. The second was for MacMorran Community Centre, who plan on running hobby horse workshops for interested people in the neighbourhood.

Both sessions went extremely well, with a lot of laughter, and some gorgeous hobby horses.  I'll be adding some more hobby horse instructions to the Memorial University ICH page soon, but in the meantime, here are a few shots of our new hobby horse builders in action.