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L'équitation, c'est mon exutoire.

L'équitation, c'est mon défouloir.

L'équitation, c'est ma soupape.

L'équitation, c'est ma soupape de sécurité.

When used figuratively, these three seem to be essentially interchangeable on the surface, but I can’t help feeling that their usage is somewhat different. And what about their register?

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  • L'équitation, c'est mon exutoire. Formal, literary

  • L'équitation, c'est mon défouloir. Colloquial, spoken French

  • L'équitation, c'est ma soupape. Unheard

  • L'équitation, c'est ma soupape de sécurité. Rare

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Exutoire is very literary. I don't recommend using it orally.

Défouloir is colloquial and common. It's the most common of the ones you gave. I recommend using this one.

soupape and soupape de sécurité are a little too imaged to be used regularly. Once in a while when you really want to be figurative, maybe.

You could also use décompresser, as in :

L'équitation, ça me permet de décompresser.

  • It's been a little while, bro! Your "décompresser" phrasing got me thinking: Does the use of the two "me"s sound just fine? "L'équitation, ça me permet de me détendre." It's just that after saying "me permettre", I wonder if it is better to avoid using another pronominal "me détendre"? – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 27 '17 at 9:23
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    @Alone-zee Yes it's been a while, check your mail ;). And yes, it's perfectly fine to use two mes in a row. You could even say "Me doucher, ça me permet de me détendre" – Teleporting Goat Nov 27 '17 at 9:50
  • Just checked them now! Grasping the nuances in register is tricky, only because (!!) dictionaries do not delve deeply enough into this crucial aspect of a language, alas. For instance, I suppose you detect some difference in register between the following two phrasings, but "présumer" in this specific sense is not tagged as formal or anything, so everything remains a mystery register-wise until someone points out the difference for me! ;) "Il se fait une trop haute idée de lui-même." vs "Il présume trop de lui-même." – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Nov 30 '17 at 18:50
  • @Alone-zee Well a lot of stuff about language is not in any books, or won't be taught to you before you stumble upon it and you look it up. I agree that register in French is pretty hard, but that's one of the things that should be integrated by speaking and listening to French a lot. – Teleporting Goat Nov 30 '17 at 20:26

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