Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Give Me an "H"

Hey there -- it's time once again for stop on our alphabetic odyssey through my collection.  Today's letter is "H" and the featured horse is named "High Hat."

"High Hat" is my Hagen-Renaker Designer's Workshop (DW) Quarter Horse "Topper" designed by sculptor Maureen Love.  I will always consider this horse to be a lucky find.  He was an eBay purchase, but I don't remember having to beat off a bunch of other bidders to win him.  I suppose I paid a fair price for him, but it was less than the value quoted for him in the only value guide I own (Hagen-Renaker: A Charlton Standard Catalogue, 3rd Edition [2003] by Gayle Roller) and less than I've paid for quite a few other clinky horses.
A real "Topper," possible inspiration for Maureen Love's DW sculpture.  Image from the Hagen-Renaker Collectors Club website, found in the 1951 Western Livestock Journal by Teresa Rogers
"High Hat" is the only DW I own who still bears his original sticker.  It says "Topper," of course, but I never take a horse into my herd without giving it a new name, unless it has already been renamed by a former owner and I really like the name that person chose.

In the case of "High Hat," because his factory name was already emblazoned on his side, I felt his new name should have at least some reference to name he quite literally bears.
"High Hat," my Hagen-Renaker DW "Topper"
From there on in it was kind of a no-brainer.  "High Hat," like "Topper," is another name for a top hat.  It is also a slang term for a snobbish person, and a word for a set of cymbals favoured by jazz musicians.

So my "Topper" was clearly a "High Hat."  He's a bright note in my collection, like a high hat in a jazz melody.  He's named after a top hat.  And as for being a snob, well, what else can you say about his dramatic eye-roll which seems to be saying, "Lord, why do you send these fools to torment me?"  This is clearly a horse who thinks a lot of himself and very little of others.
That face!
My shameful secret is that I think a lot of him too.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Resistance is Futile

Well, it finally happened -- I broke down and bought myself a Breyer "Hickstead."
I've been resisting this model with all my might ever since he debuted in 2012.  I had so many good reasons not to buy him.  Among them was the fact that I already have a model on the Trakehner mold that I will probably never sell as it was both my first Traditional size Breyer and a gift from my parents.  

Also, I didn't feel like the mold particularly captured the essence of Hickstead, even though I know it was likely chosen by his owners.  I'd been a big fan of Hickstead since he first exploded onto the show jumping scene in Aachen, Germany and he always impressed me as a tough little horse (he was 16 hands high, compared to Big Ben's lofty 17.3 hands) that was built like a battleship and as determined as a bulldog.  Breyer's lankyTrakehner mold just struck me as altogether wrong for him.

But ... I am a Canadian and Big Ben and Hickstead have always been among my favourite show jumpers.  I do have Breyer's "Big Ben" and really I ought to have had Breyer's "Hickstead" to go along with him.  If only he'd been put on a better mold ...
Breyer "Chief of Fourmile"
Flash forward to 2020.  Breyerfest and everything about it has gone virtual in the face of a worldwide pandemic, and I'm trying to get my pre-Breyerfest shopping done in the rooms of the "virtual Clarion."  In one room I spot a horse I have desired for a mighty long time (Breyer's "Chief of Fourmile") and a really nice picture of the Breyer "Hickstead."  Hmmm.  Perhaps I could combine the two and save on shipping.  And now that I look at him again, this version of Hickstead isn't quite so bad.  At least they've got his markings correct.
Real Hickstead.  Image from Pinterest.
Breyer "Hickstead"
I'm not sure if I would have bought the Chief and Hickstead if I'd spotted them at an actual room sale.  The one time I did the rooms sales I was looking mostly for stuff I couldn't get easily at home -- Hagen-Renakers, older Hartlands, vintage Breyers and the like.  I almost bought a Cheval pony that year but the friend I was with beat me to him -- fortunately, she finally sold him to me about four years ago.
My other two "virtual Clarion" buys this year were more like the typical kind of thing I would buy -- a Limited Edition Gold Schleich Donkey and the mini mare and foal from Breyer's 2006 "Holy Night" Musical Snow Globe.  I don't know how this pair came to be released from their globe -- maybe the globe fell and smashed and the former owner rescued what she could?  Or it could have been taken apart deliberately in order to free the horses.  Whatever its back-story, it's just the sort of oddball thing I'd seize in a room sale.
So all my "virtual Clarion" purchases have now arrived, and it's beginning to look a lot like Breyerfest around here.  

In fact, this whole upcoming week is looking like it's going to be a Breyerfest week.  If I can get my timing right I hope to look in on Field of Dolls Studio's pre-Breyerfest doll and accessories sale starting at 2 p.m. Eastern today.
Image from Field of Dolls Studio Facebook page.
Then, from July 6th to July 8th I hope to check out Stormy Strike's "Virtual Celtic Celebration."  I have no idea what to expect with this one as I only follow Stormy Strike on YouTube, so trying to track her through a number of social media platforms is going to be a challenge for me. 
Image from Stormy Strike's Facebook page.
And then, at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on July 9th, the Breyerfest Artisans' Gallery opens and the Live Auction models will be posted.  The next three days are Breyerfest proper, and after that I should, as tradition demands, be properly exhausted.

I have a bad feeling that my pocketbook is about to take a beating as temptation after temptation gets thrown my way.  But as I don't think I'll ever be able to get to Breyerfest in person again, I should probably make hay while the sun shines.

As I've already learned:  Resistance is futile.  I will be assimilated.*

*with apologies to the creators of Star Trek's Borg, from whom I have "stolen" this line.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

Canada Day

Since it's Canada Day, I thought I'd celebrate by taking a look at probably the most internationally famous aspect of Canadian horse culture: the iconic Royal Canadian Mounted Police (a.k.a. the RCMP or the Mounties).

For a brief but fascinating study of the RCMP horse, please check out this site:

There are few model horse makers who have not had a stab at portraying an RCMP horse in their preferred media -- plastic, china, metal, and resin.

Probably the best of the plastics are the two Hartland Mounties.  One, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, was based on a character featured in a popular television series.  The other, Sergeant Lance O'Rourke, seems to be a Hartland original creation, with no mass media origin:

Breyer's earliest Mounties had no individual names or identities, but they did come mounted on a variety of Fury Prancers:

Later Breyer RCMP horses ("Big Ben" and "Liam") came without riders, but in beautiful RCMP-themed boxes.  In 2015, Breyer also offered an RCMP Christmas ornament, with a rider mounted on a G3 Thoroughbred horse:

Over the years, Beswick Pottery released two porcelain RCMP horses, one mounted and one without a rider:

Royal Worcester released a gorgeous Doris Lindner RCMP sculpture in a Limited Edition of 500:

And Trail of Painted Ponies released a limited edition resin RCMP horse especially for Canadian retailers:
Miniature Mountie figures are also very popular.  They've long been a stalwart addition to the Britains figurine line-up, in both metal and plastic.  Made in China and Made in Japan figurines, too, are often inspired by Mounties, like the adorable Enterprise Exclusive horse and rider salt and pepper shakers pictured below:

And then there are figurines created for model soldier hobbyists and painted by equine miniaturists:

Although once a necessary part of a Mountie's duties, today's RCMP horses no longer even engage in crowd control -- their use is restricted to ceremonial duties, the most famous of which is the Musical Ride.  However, they are also brought out of the stable on important occasions, such as when they act as escorts to carriages carrying royal visitors to Canada.

Where once any rugged breed of horse would do, after the RCMP retired their horses from active duty during the late 1930s and early 1940s, they set their sights on breeding mostly black horses with a high concentration of Hanoverian and Trakehner influences.  Keeping this in mind, collectors should have no hesitation about adding non-black RCMP horses to their herd.  Horses of any colour were once acceptable mounts of the RCMP.  It's only recently that the Mounties have focused on basic black.

You can meet some of today's horses and riders here:

So, for the RCMP fan, there is certainly no shortage of collectibles to choose from.  A complete model horse collection could easily be created around an RCMP theme.  I don't know off-hand of anyone who's done it, but given that the appeal crosses over into fans of police collectibles as well, I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen.

And now, a patriotic little ditty for all my fellow Canadians (but folks from other countries can feel free to watch it too):

* Images taken from all over the Internet, including Pinterest sites, auction sites like Worthpoint, Identify Your Breyer, Amazon, Music City Cards and Gifts, the Toy Soldier Company, Andrea Europe, and Zachary Lang/Smug Mug.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Project Puppers

Just as you rarely see a stable of horses without a resident barn cat or two, so too you rarely see a rider who does not also have a doggy companion.

In general, dogs make better companions for people than for horses.  The reason that so many of them can work well around horses is that their pack mentality makes it important to them to please their people, and if their people clearly want them to play nicely with horses, they're quite willing to do so.

Of course, like all generalities there are exceptions to this rule -- dogs who seem to automatically  bond with horses and horses who claim dogs as buddies of their own.  Some dogs also naturally seem to like tagging along with working horses.  Trotting along beside of or in front of a horse and rider offers the same thrill as a walk -- new sights, new smells, and the simple release of energy through action.  Many dogs are also highly task-motivated, so when called upon to accompany a rider or group of riders hunting or herding or pursuing some other purposeful activity, these dogs are very happy to lend a helping paw.
"Ballyhoo's Brigadoon Belle Reve"
Just as with their line of cattle, Breyer's initial canine offerings were meant to stand on their own as models admired in their own right, and were not viewed as potential companions to the Traditional line of model horses.  Many of the early dog sculptures actually stand as tall as or taller than the horse figurines released at the same time.  From the first Boxer to the huge "Jolly Cholly" blood/basset hound to the smaller 70's film stars Benji and Tiffany, Breyer's earliest doggies came in a variety of scales, but none really worked as equine companions.  Only Benji, as a mutt, could conceivably be re-imagined as some sort of lurcher or wolfhound cross who could sort of stand in scale with a Traditional Breyer horse.

All that changed with what I'm calling "Project Puppers" -- the introduction of the Companion Animal series to the Breyer line-up in 1999.  While the Companion Animal line also included some cats, a goat, and a miniature donkey, the emphasis was clearly on providing in-scale canine chums for Breyer horses.  Unlike Breyer's first in-scale cattle, which were conceived to go with Breyer Classic scale horses, Companion Animal dogs were designed to pair with Traditional size models.
"Ballyhoo's Bitsy"
Initially, the packaging and promotion of the Companion Animals explained how these dogs could be seen working with horses in real life.  The Jack Russell, for instance, was promoted as an excellent barn keeper, the Golden Retriever as a trustworthy buddy for young equestrians pursuing outdoor activities, the Labrador as a good all-around farm dog, and the Welsh Corgi as the riding companion favoured by the British royal family.

With later additions to the Companion Animals line, the link to horse-keeping was not always as obvious.  The Australian Shepherd, the Border Collie, and to some extent the Shetland Sheepdog were all obvious herding helpers, the Dalmatian a well-known carriage companion, and the Foxhound and Beagle both hunting companions.  But when it came to such animals as the Great Dane, the Irish Setter, and the Rottweiler you had to put your imagination to work to figure out how to pair them with performance horses.
"Ballyhoo's Bingo Dali"
Just as with their cats and cattle, Breyer eventually added Stablemate scale dogs and Pocket Box dogs to their in-scale canine offerings.  But the Companion Animal dogs remain among the best that Breyer has to choose from when it comes to finding furry friends for your horses.  
"Ballyhoo's Barkie" (a Pocket Box dog)
As with the Classic cattle, the Breyer Companion Animal series as a stand-alone line has been discontinued, but Companion animals continue to appear in all kinds of gift sets -- most recently the Camping Adventure Set which features a gold and white Shetland Sheepdog.  So we definitely have not seen the last of the Companion Animals and, as Martha Stewart would say, that's "a good thing." 

Martha Stewart GIF - MarthaStewart Toast GoodThing GIFs