Saturday, July 6, 2019

What to Find at BreyerFest

I'm enjoying the social media flurry of discussions by model horse collectors anticipating BreyerFest 2019.  This annual event offers us many things to enjoy.

We like seeing real horses of many breeds.

Funny Cide, Thoroughbred champion.

TS Black Tie Affair, 7/8ths Arabian pinto, and his person Jan Sharp.

Another Thoroughbred legend with attitude: Go For Gin.

Draft horse at the Kentucky Horse Park.

An Arabian horse draws a crowd of admirers during BreyerFest.

A Standardbred gives his opinion of the photographer.

We enjoy visiting the local equine history museums, including those inside the Kentucky Horse Park.

Paintings by George Ford Morris, inside the Saddlebred Museum.
Statue of Man O'War at the Kentucky Horse Park.

Secretariat, by Ed Bogucki, near the entrance to the International Museum of the Horse.

*Bask, by Ed Bogucki, inside the entrance to the International Museum of the Horse.  Make sure to visit the Museums while you are at BreyerFest. They offer a wealth of wonderful information...and they're air-conditioned.

We love to see the rolling green pastures that are the homes of so many mares and their foals.

And of course there are model horse shows, crafts and other activities. But the main reason most people go to BreyerFest is to buy and sell new and used model horses!  

The sheer number of model horses for sale is almost overwhelming. Not only do collectors line up to purchase and pick up the Special Run Breyers at the event itself, and more model horses at the Friday night Swap Meet inside the host hotel -- they also have the opportunity to see tens of thousands more model horses for sale (I'm not exaggerating) by hundreds of collectors who prop open their hotel room doors in the evenings during the event, to let passers-by see what they are selling. 

BreyerFest is a great way to see examples of older and newer model horses by a variety of manufacturers, as well as the limited editions and one-of-a-kind creations of model horse artisans.

Model horses inside The Horse You Want suite, at a past BreyerFest.

Attending BreyerFest can be exhausting, for collectors and their families.  It's usually hot and humid outside. The lines inside the Horse Park can be long, and sometimes emotions run high. 

We all should try to stay safe, sane, and hydrated.

My advice for dealing with BreyerFest stress is simple: 

Find, or rediscover, the real joy of the model horse hobby. Be kind. 

Chat with other people while you wait in line.  Encourage them. Rejoice when someone else is able to find something they love.

If you're a younger collector, find a collector with gray hair and ask her, or him, how they first got into the hobby. What was model horse collecting like, before the Internet?  

You will see many hobbyists walking through the Horse Park and hotel hallways who took part in organized hobby activities by mail or in local model horse clubs, back in the late 1960s or early 1970s.  The reason you are at BreyerFest today, has a lot to do with the hard work they did, figuring out how to connect hobbyists with one another, all those years ago.  

The reason we young-at-heart collectors attend BreyerFest (when we are able) is yes, in part, to buy and sell. But more importantly, it's also to connect with our old hobby friends so we can share the joy of model horses.  

If you're an older collector, find a younger one and talk to her (or him) about what got them into the hobby. Ask what they're hoping to buy.  

Tell their parents that it doesn't matter if they don't exactly understand why model horse collecting is so important to their child.  What matters, is that they understand that it is important to their child.

And please, encourage younger collectors to look not only at the (often rather pricey) new-in-box pieces, but also the older, often less expensive model horses that need a good home.   

As I explained to an eight-year-old collector with a small budget last year, a nice vintage model horse can be found in the room sales for well under $20, sometimes even in the $1 to $5 range.  

Buy an old model horse, take it home. (Who cares if it isn't "perfect?" None of us is, especially the older we get.  It can still be Perfectly Wonderful.)

Give your model horse a name and a personality. Make it a halter and a blanket. Play with it on the carpet, or in the backyard. 

Let it be part of your dreams.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

(Model and Book) Horses On Parade

The Fourth of July always makes me think about parades. And when I think about parades, I naturally think about parades with horses in them.  Those are the best kind, especially when you're a kid.

One of my favorite children's horse book series has always been the four "Windy Foot" books, by Frances Frost, illustrated by Lee Townsend. It tells the adventures of Toby Clark and his Shetland Pony, Windy Foot, in rural Vermont. The stories are set back in the day when horses and cars still shared the road.

The final book in the series is called Fireworks for Windy Foot. In it, Toby learns more about what it means to be an American (in that not-so-long-ago day when life seemed less complicated), and Windy Foot gets to participate in the local Fourth of July parade. Toby's younger brother Johnny portrays Yankee Doodle "riding on a pony" in the celebration.

(Since I practically had the "Windy Foot" books memorized, I donated my copies to the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library at Cal Poly Pomona, so more people can enjoy them.)

Another children's horse book with a parade is Marguerite Henry's Justin Morgan Had a Horse.  Wesley Dennis' illustration of the great progenitor of the Morgan horse breed on parade is familiar to all fans of the book.

There's a model horse connection to horses in parades that dates back to the 1950s when these horse books were so popular.  Some of the ceramic Hagen-Renaker model horses on my shelves were designed by Maureen Love, after real horses that participated in parades all over Southern California throughout the year.

The most familiar parade horses are American Saddlebred stallion King Cortez and his sons, Golden Son Cortez and Golden Don Cortez.  They were popular entries in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, and took part in many other Southern California parades throughout the year with their owners, the Specht family.

Look at those silver saddles.  King Cortez (on the right, I think) was quite tall, 17.2 hands high, which helps explain how he was able to carry all that weight.

I imagine it would have been problematic to try to re-create those long, long manes and tails in ceramic! Here are examples of all three Hagen-Renaker horses: left to right, "Don Cortez" in black, "King Cortez" in palomino, and "Sun Cortez" in white.  

The earlier, Monrovia-era version of "Sun Cortez" does have a rather long mane.

And you can see the similarities in the face of the real King Cortez, and the H-R of the same name.

Another parade horse that inspired a Hagen-Renaker figurine was the Morgan stallion Lippitt Morman.  His last owner, Merle Little, lived in Monrovia, California, not far from the Hagen-Renaker factory at the time.

Lippitt Morman is on the far right of this photo of the Little family, who were looking forward to participating in the 1949 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Photo from the December 1948 issue of Morgan Horse magazine.

This photograph shows a Hagen-Renaker "Lippet" (the company misspelled the name) on display at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library's exhibit on the history of Hagen-Renaker, next to a reproduction of one of Maureen Love's pastel drawings of him.

They may not have had model horses created in their image, but these horses helped carry the flag at BreyerFest in July 2018.  Maybe we'll see them, or their friends, in Lexington at BreyerFest next week!



Here's Kristina Lucas Francis' blog post about Sun Cortez:

Here's Dawn Sinkovich's blog post about Maureen Love and Lippitt Morman, with many, many more photos:

The Vermont Historical Society website has a page on author Frances Mary Frost:

The Rancho Santa Fe, California Historical Society has a short biography of Marguerite Henry you may not have seen before:

Friday, June 21, 2019

Duke, the General Purpose Horse

Many model horse collectors also have collections of horse books, magazines, and paper ephemera around the house. This is the story of a horse book that made it back to my house from an estate sale this morning.

Having an estate sale?  You have my attention.

An estate sale at the home of people who kept horses during the 1950s?  Yes. please.

This morning's estate sale was on a "horse property" of a little over an acre, in suburban Los Angeles (which used to be a very, very horsey place).  I had looked at the photos promoting the sale on the internet, and noticed that there only seemed to be a handful of small, rather nondescript Made In Japan (MIJ for short) ceramic horse and dog figurines for sale. 

But, at a sale like that, you never know what else might be there of interest to the independent equine history researcher, that didn't make it into the photographs.

The MIJs were overpriced so I left them there, and I didn't see any other model horses or even horse magazines for sale.  However, buried in a plastic bin full of old Bibles and cookbooks was a very old, very thick book. I picked it up and examined the spine.

Navin's Explanatory Stock Doctor, it was called. The 1879 publication date really caught my attention.

And indeed, Dr. Navin had entered his book "In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington," in the year 1864.

I'll tell you more about the book in a separate post. For now, I want to share a couple of the pieces of cardstock that were tucked inside.

The first was an advertisement from the Danville Buggy Company, of Danville, Illinois.  I went online and found mentions of this business from 1884 to 1911.

And there was a flyer advertising the services of 


(Duke's owner should have hired a proofreader.)

     DUKE io a beautiful bright sorrel with white marks on hind feet is a neat compact horse weighing over 1400 pounds in fair flesh, with strong bone, has splendid action and good style, and is a remarkable sure foal getter.
     DUKE was sired by an imported English Suffolk, Dam an English Hunter.

Duke's owner and keeper, G. D. Rowand, apparently lived in or near Sidell, Illinois. I found references online to a man with that name having owned prize-winning hogs and a pacer named David R..  

And according to the March 14, 1902 Bloomington, Illinois Weekly Pantagraph, a G. D. Rowand from Sidell had recently "returned from a trip to South Africa on a British transport loaded with 1,000 mules. He went as an assistant veterinarian." (Tens of thousands of horses and mules were shipped from the US to South Africa for use by British soldiers fighting the Boer War.)

There was no date on the flyer. I wonder if Mr. Rowand owned Duke before, during, or after his service as an assistant veterinarian?  Did Duke or any of his offspring serve in South Africa? Might this old copy of Navin's Explanatory Stock Doctor have belonged to Rowand, or one of his neighbors?  We'll probably never know. 

But now we know there was a horse named DUKE, and someone liked him enough to have saved this small scrap of information with his chunky image on it. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

All the Pretty Paper Ponies, Part One: Sam Savitt Horse & Pony "Paper Dolls"

When I was a kid, there weren't just 3D model horses in plastic, ceramic, metal, and (later) resin. There were also punch-out paper horses that I needed to have.  Or at least that's how I justified saving up my 25-cents-a-week allowance to buy them.  

With one rather bedraggled exception (which I'll tell you about another time), none of my paper horses survived my childhood.  One of my favorite sets of "horse paper dolls" was this one. The only copy of it I found online was the UK edition, but the punch-out paper horses were the same as the set I owned.

The book contained several pages showing various horse breeds at work.  I carefully punched them out and played with them often.  They never stood on the shelves with my model horses, although the paper horses did have stands so they could remain upright on top of a desk or table.

My paper horses always reminded me of the scene early in Enid Bagnold's classic book National Velvet. Fourteen-year-old Velvet Brown has returned to her home in late 1920s rural England one evening after having exercised one of her own paper horses. She had carefully cut the horse from a photograph in a newspaper:

“He went beautifully!” said Velvet, and laying down a tiny paper horse on the table she wrenched at the gold band that bound her teeth back and laid it beside the horse.

...“Look at him,” she said lovingly, taking up the paper horse. “I must unsaddle him and rub him down.” The heads were bent on the lesson books again and Velvet took a tiny bridle of cotton threads from the horse. Then going to a shell-box on the sideboard she brought it to the table....

Velvet opened the box and took out a stable rubber two inches square, a portion of her handkerchief, hemmed round. Laying the little horse flat on the table she rubbed him with delicacy in circular motions, after having taken a paper saddle from his back.

The horse was a racer cut from the Bystander. He stood three inches high and had a raking neck and a keen, veined face. By dint of much rubbing the paper had given off a kind of coat, and now as Velvet rubbed there came a suede-like sheen on the horse’s paper body. He was dark, most carefully cut out, and pasted upon cardboard. The bridle was made by the fingers of a fairy, noseband, chin-strap and all, in black cotton.

“He has a high action,” said Velvet. “A lovely show canter, but a difficult trot. I didn’t jump him to-day as he needs to settle down.”

In the shell-box other horses lay....

Perhaps if I'd had a shell-box to store them in, I would have been able to save my paper horses, too. 

I thought my chance of having them again was gone until I went to a living estate sale last year, and spotted most of the same set inside a small flat box on a shelf in the garage.  I took one look, gasped, and put the collection in my bag of Horse Stuff To Buy.

The horse I spotted first when I removed the box lid, was a graceful hunter, leaping my choice of two fences:

I didn't realize it at the time, but my set of paper horses had been designed by one of the most esteemed equine artists of the twentieth century, Sam Savitt.  His style is unmistakable.

Each paper horse was doing something different. Here's a plow horse, her driver, and the plow....

A palomino Liberty Horse from the circus, and two polo players complete with detachable mallets....

A mare, a foal, a watering trough, a palomino foal by itself, and a Shetland Pony with a little girl safely sitting in a basket (since she is too small to ride in a saddle)....

Then there was a Standardbred trotter and sulky....

...A Thoroughbred in a full gallop, with detachable jockey.

...Cowboys and bovines.

The last pieces in the old box in the estate sale garage folded together to make a stagecoach.  

The horses and driver from this set were missing. I found them online.  You can see from this page that the horses came with little cardboard stands that slotted into the bases under their hooves. The page showed how the pieces looked when they had been assembled.

During the 1960s paper horses, like model horses, were more about imagination than they were about competition and collection size. The model horse hobby was not nationally or even regionally organized back then.  We played horses by ourselves, or with a handful of other kids who were also defying their parents' wishes that they grow up and start doing "normal" adolescent things -- whatever those things were.  

Even though images of horses permeated popular culture, most of us had dozens, not hundreds or thousands, of model horses, horse books, and related items. They fueled our dreams and provided countless hours of 

For most collectors then, the hobby was reasonably affordable. A punch-out book of paper horses cost less than 50 cents; a model horse could be bought from the five-and-dime store for well under five dollars.  I remember smaller solid color, unfinished Hartlands in a bin with price stickers of 15 cents, Breyers that cost $2 to $4 each, Made In Japan ceramic horses from 29 to 69 cents apiece, and Hagen-Renakers for $1.50 and up. 

To a younger kid back then it was still a lot of money, and we valued our model horses and paper horses as individuals with character. When we finally got a new horse figurine home, it was given a name, a personality, sometimes a pedigree, and relationships with our other model horses. If we staged a model horse show, it was on the bedroom carpet or perhaps in a corner of the backyard (if the weather allowed) with a few friends who lived nearby.  Other collectors in other areas might have been our pen pals.

It's easy to remember the shelf-dwelling equine friends of our childhoods when we lose ourselves again in Bagnold's succinct, mystical prose:

...Velvet’s dreams were blowing about the bed. They were made of cloud but had the shapes of horses. Sometimes she dreamt of bits as women dream of jewellery…. Sometimes she walked down an endless cool alley in summer, by the side of the gutter in the old red- brick floor. On her left and right were open stalls made of dark wood and the buttocks of the bay horses stood like mahogany all the way down. The horses turned their heads to look at her as she walked. They had black manes hanging like silk as the thick necks turned. These dreams blew and played round her bed in the light and the early hours of the morning....

When I look at my set of paper horses, I think of the other little girl who used to own them, and I want to let her know that they are safe, loved, and appreciated here.  

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about equine artist Sam Savitt.You can read it here: