Customising Breyer Model Horses for Beginners

Breyer Model horse customising is an incredibly fun activity. It can be as easy as repainting a model a different colour to remaking and changing the model completely. The art of customising a model horse involves a series of processes done in order to make the horse look more realistic. These include removing the factory seams and logos, carving out nostrils, ears and realistic frogs and heel bulbs in hooves.

Some people opt to move and resculpt the limbs so the horse appears to be in a different gait, or
alter the position of the head and neck. Some choose to resculpt the mane and tail from epoxy while others use mohair to create a ‘real’ looking mane and tail. There is no end to the customising possibilities and often artists go as far as to create a totally original sculpture, so it looks like a totally different horse, completely unrecognisable from the mold it originated as!

Things you will need

:– A Breyer model horse 
– Paint brushes              
– Paints          
– Dust mask               
– A palette                   
– Kitchen roll
– Matt fixative spray          
– Clear nail varnish           
– Old clothes
– A safe, dust-free area          
– Plastic tablecloth or old sheet 
– Reference photos/pictures

Basic Steps


 This basic guide will help you to customise your first Breyer model horse.

First, choose your model.  It is easier to begin customising with a stable mate or classic sized model, as these are smaller.  As we will not cover re-hairing here, chose a model that has a moulded-on mane and tail.  Gently clean the model under a tap to remove any dust or dirt, to ensure you have the best surface to paint. The type of paint you use depends on your experience, and what you are happiest with.  If this is your first time, you may want to try using watercolours, just to get the hang of it. 

If you would like a better and longer lasting finish, then acrylics are best.  Watercolours need a standard palette, but acrylics are best used with an acrylic palette, which will keep the paints moist for much longer.  You will need a medium-sized brush for broad areas of colour and a small brush for finishing details. 

You will also need a glass or cup (one that you don’t mind spoiling!) for watering down your paints and keeping your brushes moist.Ensure that you have a clear, flat surface to paint on, and if you (or your parents!) are worried about spoiling it, use an old sheet or plastic tablecloth to keep the worktop clean.  It’s also a good idea to wear old clothes, as paint is difficult to get out. 

Make sure you have photos or pictures of the horse you would like to paint.  If you want your model to look realistic, then it’s best to copy it from a real horse.  It’s useful to have good pictures of hooves, eyes and muzzles so you know how they should look. 

For your first time, it’s best to use a straightforward colour – don’t try painting appaloosas until you have the hang of it! Now you’re ready to paint. 

The paints are best if applied in a nice, even layer, and not too thickly.  Use water to thin them down to the right consistency, which you will arrive at with a little practice.  A base coat will help the final paint to stick better.  This is usually done by giving the model several nice, even white coats, covering the whole model.  Wait for one layer to dry before applying the next for the best result.  Avoid leaving streak marks or lumps of paint on the coat, as these may show later. 

Remember to use water thinned paint to achieve a smooth, even layer.  You will need to change the water when it becomes cloudy.  Don’t stub your brushes on the bottom of the glass or cup to clean them. 

This will quickly ruin them – “stir” them in the water until the paint is gone, then gently dry them with kitchen roll, being careful not to ruffle the hairs of the brush and to keep them straight. 

Once the base coat is dry, begin applying the colour of the horse you want to copy in smooth, even layers. 

Once the colour coats are dry, you might like adding markings, such as white socks or a blaze, a different coloured mane and tail, or darker legs or muzzle.  Remember to look at pictures of real horses to make this seem authentic. 

Next, look at pictures of eyes and hooves and try to copy them.  Of course, you may not be able to get in as much detail as you would like since the model is much smaller than a living horse, but at least it will look as real as possible. When you are happy with your model, leave it to dry away from dust. 

Watercolours dry quickly, but acrylic will take longer to dry thoroughly.  Now you will want to give it a protective coat of matt varnish.  You must use a well-ventilated area – not your bedroom!  Protect the surrounding area with the old sheet or plastic tablecloth, so that you don’t spray varnish on to something you don’t want it to spoil.  You must use a dust-mask so that you don’t breath the varnish in. 

There are different types of varnish, so make sure you have the correct one for the type of paint.  Read and follow the instructions carefully.  Spray one side of the model, then the other, the top and finally the underneath.  You may need to leave each stage of varnish to dry before doing the next.  If you touch wet varnish, you will spoil the finish.  Leave the model in a dust free area to dry (check the instructions for how long this will take). 

Finally, you may decide to use some clear nail varnish your model’s hooves and eyes.  The nail varnish brush will probably be too big to do this well, so you may need to trim it down with a pair of scissors for this delicate work.  Remove any beads of nail varnish from the brush, as these will spread too quickly all over your model!  Apply a small amount to the eyes and hooves to give your model that “lively” look. Nail varnish dries in minutes.  When this is done, you will have your first pride and joy!

Your own customised model! Once you get the hang of it you can begin to expand your customising horizons to create increasingly realistic and beautiful models, and have a lot of fun.