The Gateway Drug to Horse Addiction

Breyer horses

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.

Breyer rearing horse
I vividly remember bringing this model of the rearing stallion home. And can see him in all his glory in the center position on my shelf.

The purchasing process was lengthy, my allowance saved for many, many weeks. Oh, the anticipation of the prize!

appaloosa foal
This foal was available in many colors but mine was an Appaloosa.

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.

Breyer Jumping Horse
Although I had never jumped a real horse, this one fueled my desire to make this real one day.

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.

Breyer Horse Collectors

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?



8 thoughts on “The Gateway Drug to Horse Addiction

  1. I had a vast collection of My Little Pony – but they didn’t spark my love of horses. That happened when I was about 18 months old and my Mom took me on vacation to a little village about 2 hours away from home. In this village SHE had learned to ride and her love of horses was sparked in young years. Mom took me to the stable when she wanted to go riding and the 15 year old daughter of the stable owners babysat me. Well, somehow I managed to convince this girl that I wanted to ride too, so she saddled up her horse and took me for a few rounds in the ring, sitting in front of her and (from her explanation) grinning like mad and cooing happily the whole time.
    Next vacation, I was maybe 3 years old? I convinced my Mom to let me get riding lessons, which at first were lounging lessons, turning into acrobatics and finally “real” riding lessons without anyone else holding onto “MY” horsie. By the age of 5 I was riding on Icelandic ponies regularly (every weekend, 2-3 times) and that apparently sated my need for a horse of my own. I was really really really lucky that my Mom is just about as horse crazy as I am and financed my horse addiction (she also got to ride again, which surely was a bonus for her 😉 ).

    1. I tried desperately to get my own daughter hooked on horses. Although she was quite intrigued as a tot, she grew out of it way too soon. There was a pony at my barn that they were allowed to ride one winter and that was fun, but once the pony went back to camp, their interest waned. I always wanted to have my daughter learn to ride well enough to come out with me but neither she nor my son had the passion.

      1. That’s so sad, I’m sorry it didn’t stick … I got to spend hours and hours of sweaty, horse-scented quality time with my Mom when I was younger. This only stopped when I was old enough to drive my scooter (16 here in Austria) and she felt she was too old to ride (*gasp* too old??? NEVER).

        At times my Mom was wishing she hadn’t infected me with horse-itis, we were both a bit obsessed. Sadly I had to stop riding a few years ago when a) it got way too expensive and b) I got too heavy to ride without guilt. Working on it and maybe I’ll get my Mom back on horseback too!

  2. My sister has the clock!

    Yes, Breyer fueled our passion, and we still have them. We had hours and hours of fun with them. Now that we have the real thing, we still appreciate the beauty of our first horses

  3. Yes!!! I have a wonderful vintage photo* my Grandfather shot of me, surrounded with some of my treasured Breyer collection. (He had in these horses in “Hospital” for me — drilling a small hole up the broken leg, inserting a metal pin, along with glue, to reinforce the repair. Sharing horses with younger cousins or siblings lead to heartbreaking scratches and damage!) I remember having about 32 horses in total . . . all different breeds, colors, poses.

    Love them to this day! Lost the originals along the course of life, but have collected several new models that remind me of my own homebred herd of horses — certainly inspired by my original Breyer playmates :)) Dawn

    *photo at the bottom of this post:

  4. A cousin gave this horse crazed and horseless city kid four of her Breyer horses when she left for college. They were the original ones…the ‘clock’ horse style. I believe they were intended to look like Saddlebreds. Well, that was the start of a passion…I saved my allowance to buy which ever one the local Kresge’s (doesn’t that date me!!) had on their shelves. I had, oh, about seven when I grew up and left home. After that they gathered dust until my little niece played with them. She never got the ‘bug’, though. The two ‘clock’ palominos had to be put down for broken legs, but the piebald and skewbald survived. My mother, god bless her, saved them for me and now they grace the top shelf of my horse book shelf. Not only that, Ihave a husband who understands my passion, and has purchased several more for me for Christmas…not only the regular sized one, but every Christmas Santa puts one or two of the little Breyer’s in my stocking!
    I am not ashamed to say I still have them, don’t play with them anymore, but still have them and treasure them. I’m also not ashamed to admit that now, with the much larger ‘allowance’, I Still buy the ‘toys’…Shliech and another company make them , a middle size selection, larger than the tiny Breyer’s and smaller than the regular sized ones.

    The one thing I worry about them is: what becomes of them when I die? I can’t believe whomever settles my estate will throw them out. I hope not. Can’t take with me…:-(

    1. I love that you are still collecting the Breyers. I still regret not having mine. My daughter had a few but she never really loved them so we gave hers to the daughters of Curly’s owner, where they are adored. I bought a few a couple of years ago with the intention of making some Breyer movies. I’d still like to do that. If only I had a bit more time.

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