Collecting and exhibiting molded plastic horse models is a fast-growing national hobby, complete with regional and national model horse shows where titles, trophies and ribbons are awarded. Judges at these "horseless" horse shows place models and their meticulously handmade tack and painted bodies. And, just like regular shows with "live" horse judging, there are various categories to enter. Exhibitors can show ready-made purchased models, or models they have painted and decked out them-selves.
"Anything you see at a live horse show can be reproduced in miniature on a table top," says Arlene Bentley, co-owner of Bentley Sales Co., Des Plaines, Ill. The company is a mail order distributor for Breyer Animal Creations, Pequannock, N.J., which, she says, is the industry's premier model horse maker.
The model horses, which stand about 10 in. tall, are generally priced from $11 to $16. However, for some early and discontinued models, collectors may pay $400 to $500. "Many collectors of model horses start out as teenagers but there's also growing interest among retired persons," notes Bentley.
"Some hobbyists have become experts at reshaping and repainting horse models, such as cutting off plastic manes and tails and replacing them with actual horse hair. Remaking changes the structure of the horse," notes Bentley. "Soaked in hot water, model horses become bendable so you can reposition their legs into a totally different stance. Some craftspeople even cut off the head from one model and put it on the body of another, using wood putty and filler. After sanding, polishing and re-painting, they have a totally different horse."
As yet, there is no nationwide association or organization for horse model collectors. "But that's no problem," notes Bentley. "We all keep in touch via our own information network. When word gets out on something new or different, model horse collectors from coast to coast know about it within hours."
For anyone who wants to learn more about model horses, a magazine called "Just About Horses" is available. It provides in-formation on show dates and people to contact.
For more information, contact FARM Show Followup, Bentley Sales Co., 642 Sandy Lane, Des Plaines, Ill. 60016 (ph 312 439-2049).
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