Collecting Model Horses

By Suna Akiah and Tina Tickton 

If you’re reading this, it means you’re a model horse collector – whether you know it or not.
We all have our own reasons for collecting, for play or display or for showing – or simply because we can’t afford a real horse of our own!  Many people ‘in the hobby’ also have real horses, and collecting is just another way of appreciating the beauty and variety of the equine species.

There are a huge variety of models to choose from, but the important thing is that YOU like the model you buy, even if it’s not perfect…  But as you learn more about real horses, it becomes easier to tell the good models apart. 

There are plastic horses like Breyer, Stone or Hartland.  These are always sold painted , and it is possible to buy accessories such as riders, tack and equipment for them.  Resin horses come from a variety of sources, such as Border Fine Arts, and the considerable variety made by artists from across the world who sell mainly to ‘hobby’ enthusiasts, such as Animal Artistry (England), Eberl (Germany) and Resins by Randy (USA). 

Resin horses can be bought painted by the artist who scuplped them, painted by a different artist or unpainted, so that you can finish it yourself or send it on to a painter of your choice.  There are latex models, the best known of which is Julip, which also comes in plastic and has a variety of accessories.  China horses can be the traditional ‘glossies’ ceramics, such as Royal Doulton or Hagen-Renaker. 

A more recent trend in the hobby has been to make china reproductions of resin models, which turn out smaller and finer than their resin cousins.  In between, there are a variety of other makes that can catch your eye. ‘Customised’ models are those repainted or resculped to be completely individual, and can be fun to try for yourself.  It is also possible to buy tack (Western, English and specialsed), props (such as jumps) and dolls from specialist enthusiasts.  It is also fun to try and make these yourself!

Sizes vary from ‘stablemate’ such as Breyer Stablemates or Brittans upwards.  ‘Little bits’ are those like Breyer ‘Paddock Pals’ and Stone ‘Pebbles’.  ‘Classic’ is the next size up, such as Julips. Traditional size is generally the largest, similar to Sindy horses or the larger Breyers.  (There are also sizes larger and smaller than these, and sizes in between.)

Model horses can cost a lot of money, particularly some china and resin molds.  Customs, too, can be expensive, especially if they are made by someone well-known in the hobby for producing good quality work.  Limited Edition models from any manufacturer can also be dearer, particularly if only a few of them have been made (it is always worth keeping note of how many were produced).  Plastic horses tend to be the most affordable and offer the widest choice.  Some models are very detailed while others can best be described as ‘Horse Shaped Objects’.

We all have our own way of choosing the model we like.  You might prefer the prettiest face, only bay coloured models, perhaps only one make of model, or you may just like the one that catches your eye that day.  Collecting model horses is a good way of learning about real ones.  As you discover more you may decide to collect a certain breed or type, such as Arabs, native ponies or stock breeds. 

If you do develop a preference it is always worth researching a breed’s qualities and history, and if you can, go and look at the real thing!  The more you know about horses in general, and your favourites in particular, the better you will be a judging a good model and finding breed or type faults on a bad one.  A good place to start is in books, and you can find references on the internet.  For good, sound knowledge try contacting specific breed societies, who may be happy to provide information or tell you where to find it. 

If you can, go to horse shows and look at the different breeds (always ask if you’re not sure!) or to your local stables, which will have a good variety of mixed breed horses and ponies – and possibly a purebred to look at.  It is useful to have some knowledge of breeds, as what might be desirable in one horse may not be in another.  For instance, Shire horses have feathers and concave faces that would look completely out of place on an Arab!

If you would like to take your prized horses to model horse shows it is always useful to know which models belong in each class.  If you know which model best suits the breed specification for thoroughbreds (for example), you are more likely to chose the most suitable thoroughbred model to take to the show.  If you are not sure which class to put your model in, don’t worry. 

Most show organisers don’t mind you contacting them, or even asking for advice on the day.   It is worth bearing in mind that when your model is judged at a show, even ‘knowledgable’ judges may vary in what they prefer in a breed.  Never disturb a judge while they are judging, but afterwards most people will be happy to discuss with you why they chose the models they placed, and to give you friendly feed-back about your own horse.  It may be hard sometimes to hear that the model you love best is not perfect, but it doesn’t matter – YOU love it. 

Shows are great places to meet other model enthusiasts and to share your thoughts and ideas, and most of all to have fun.

And finally, remember: there is always more to learn – even the ‘knowledgable’ judge or collector is constantly discovering new things, and collecting model horses can help open your eyes to the world of real ones.