For years, a subculture of teenage hobbyhorse enthusiasts flourished under the radar. Now the craze is a national export, and a celebration of girlhood.

A dozen girls waited in line in a Helsinki arena for the dressage competition, ready to show off their riding skills, their faces masks of concentration.

The judge put them through their paces — walk, trot, canter — and then asked them for a three-step rein-back, that classic test of a dressage horse's training and obedience. The judge looked on gravely, occasionally taking notes.

If anyone thought it strange that the girls were riding sticks, no

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