When I was a kid, living in New York City and dreaming of my own pony, I lived for Breyer model horses. There were two or three stores that I frequented, my nose literally pressed up against the display cases imaging which horse or pony would be added to my herd.
The purchasing process was lengthy, my allowance saved for many, many weeks. Oh, the anticipation of the prize!
Once home, the new horse took the place of honor on my shelf. Then, the horse was carefully introduced to the others in the herd — unknowingly creating protocols that would be used to introduce real horses in future years.
Oh, the stories that I created with those horses. They provided hours of entertainment and joy. I wish I still had them know, but when I was in my late teens — and unsentimental — I gve them to a friend’s younger sister, who was also horse crazy. I knew they’d be loved.
The Breyer Molding Company of Chicago didn’t set out to create the horses that graced the bedrooms of so many horse crazy girls in the ’60s and ’70’s . In 1950, the company was contracted to make a mold of a horse with a western saddle for a mantel clock. The clock sold very poorly and the clock company went out of business. Breyer maintained the copyrights for the mold and that is how history was made.
As a child, I never thought about how the horses were actually made. Looking back over the models, it turns out that many of my favorites were created by Breyer’s lead artist, Christian Hess. He created more than 100 models, including the original clock horse. Trained as a woodworker, he was able to create a model from a raw idea, draw it, sculpt the model, make the patterns, cast the mold, and create the tool for plastic injection molding. Ironically, despite fueling the imagination of so many children who loved horses, Chris Hess was not an equestrian:
A couple of other little known details of Chris Hess: he himself was not a “horse person”, but he was a great artist. And while he visited some of the horses in person that are depicted in the molds, most often he would sculpt the horse from a picture or drawing. This is no small talent – taking a two dimensional photo or drawing and creating the amazing beauty in the model horses that he did.
I dutifully bought Breyer horses for my daughter when she was young, but they never really caught her imagination. Instead, those went on to be loved by the three daughters of Curly’s owner where they’ve sparked a love of real horses.
What about you? Did you collect Breyers (or their equivalents)? And what happened to your collection?