Friday, October 2, 2015

The Roan AQHA Horse

Well, just take a look at what I just found at the toy store on the way home, not even two hours ago - and what made me break my promise not to buy anything through the end of the year!

Yes, that's a BAY ROAN 75th Anniversary AQHA Horse. That everyone was sure didn't exist because of the cryptic nonanswers Reeves was dishing out on social media.

For the record, there are a lot of horse and model horse people who do work there. It's just that they are not always the ones to answer the questions.

I was still so excited after I bought him that I carried him with both hands to the 7-11 next door to buy a celebratory Big Gulp.

He already has a name, by the way - Roan Where You Want To! Because I am a dork.

The store had also just unpacked its Elskas, too, but I was too excited about the Roan to look at them clearly, so I took a pass on them.

This was one of the colors I was hoping for, so it was a very happy ending to a very crazy week.

Two scoops in one week!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Let’s pause for a moment to admire the Sweet Home Chicago Stablemate Belvedere, on the G4 Para Dressage Horse:

In the bubble wrap, he looked like a Mini-Me of Stud Spider; I was a little bit bummed at first when I unwrapped him that he wasn’t.  (Another one of those missed opportunities!)

Then I took a closer look at the fineness of the detail in the blanket and the spots: it’s a level of detail we haven’t even seen in hobbyist customs, until fairly recently. I would have been thrilled if my old Traditional Stud Spiders from the late 1970s had had marking that clean and sharp.

(Though we will be finding what that would have looked like sometime in 2016, when the Vintage Club Man o’ War is released. No imitation overspray on that one Reeves, please!)

The name amused me a little bit; allegedly he’s named after a high-end residential complex in Chicago, though being a Detroiter the name Belvedere conjures up a completely different architectural landmark – Mr. Belvedere of Belvedere Construction!

His catchphrase – for those of you who didn’t grow up watching television in the metro Detroit area in the 1970s – was “We do good work!” Which seems fitting in the case of my little Belvedere, whom I’ve named Maurice. He’s a sturdy little fellah, expertly painted.

The Mr. Belvedere commercials always made me cringe a little, though, since many of the examples of the “good work” involved stripping the gingerbread off of old Victorian houses and covering them with generic white aluminum siding and fake plastic shutters. Good work? Maybe. Good taste? Heavens, no….

I actually met “Mr. Belvedere” once – on the hunt for horses at a flea market, of course! My father told me to turn around, and there he was, sitting in a booth in all his leisure-suited glory.

In terms of local celebrity-dom, it wasn’t as exciting as meeting Bill Kennedy, Sir Graves Ghastly or even Sonny Eliot, but it was better than running into Oopsy the Clown.

I can’t remember if I found any horses that day, though. I stopped going to that flea market a few years later anyway, since it was a bit of a drive and was becoming increasingly less fruitful.

I’m finding just as many – if not more – models now as then, just in different locations. And sometimes meeting different local celebrities, too.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Behold, Valegro

Something quick – working early tomorrow, and then the (shudder) dentist – but it’s definitely worth your while today. Behold, Valegro:

These are pictures of one of the handful of Valegro samples/prototypes that made it into the hands of a few attendees invited to the Central Park Horse Show for a tea with Charlotte Dujardin; one of these lucky recipients has graciously allowed me to repost these pictures for us to drool over.

Apparently he’s one of “approximately 20” pieces, not all of whom were distributed at the show:

It’ll be interesting to see where the rest of them show up. (Raffles? Live show prizes? Web drawing? NPOD fodder?)

As for the rest of us mere mortals, we’ll have to wait until December (at the earliest) for our opportunity to get our hands on that beautiful piece of plastic horseflesh.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fall Shopping

Feeling like a bit of a grumpus today; I discovered very late yesterday that I’ll probably be needing some expensive dental work ASAP. So today has been an unhappy game of “Which Test Colors gotta go?”

Among other things. (Sorry Four Stars, I guess you can’t stay after all.)

Buying new stuff or fun stuff is out of the picture for the foreseeable future, outside of obligated purchases (car payments, subscriptions). The flea market might even be a no-go zone at this point; I won’t know the extent of the work I'll need until early next week.

I never put in for the latest Big Cat Special, the tiger-striped Padma, on the Ruffian mold; not that I didn’t like her, but prior to the now urgent dental problem, I had planned on paying off the credit card by the end of the year, too.

The budget is also the reason I’m taking a pass on the Collectors’ Club Fabien – a Dapple Gray on the Totilas – and not out of any concern over the dappling or issues with the base. Funny how the first batch sold out so quickly, regardless of the griping. (I promise you this: though I may be critical new dappling techniques, I will never use the word “crapples” here, except to mock it.)

Jesse and whatever new colors the AQHA horse appear at my local Tractor Supply stores are also out of the question. Here’s hoping there’s a reasonably priced and accessible (BreyerFest? Regular Run?) Wyatt release next year. Like a lot of other hobbyists, I suspect that Jesse will be in short supply right after the holidays, as customizers snatch up the discounted leftovers.

While I probably will sign up for the Stablemates Club, I have mixed feelings about it. Anything greeted with that kind of near-manic enthusiasm within the model horse community tends to crash and burn with equal force.

The likely culprit there will be price: of the models maybe, but of the postage definitely. In fact, I can already hear the distant rumblings of it, especially in the overseas community, already hard-hit by the arbitrarily high shipping costs the web site tags onto orders heading abroad.

But I’m also a little concerned how some hobbyists appear to be interpreting the Stablemates Club not as another club like the Premier or Vintage, but as an alternative to the Collector’s Club. I don’t know if that’s wishful thinking, or – like when the clubs first debuted – a profound lack of understanding of how subscription clubs work.

Decisions on the others are still a ways down the road for me. The 2016 Vintage Club offerings do look fun: a Man o’ War and Western Prancing Horse, at last! I’d rather have the colors switched – a Dapple Gray MOW and a blanket Appaloosa WPH, but whatever.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Missed Opportunities

I must confess I’m feeling a bit burnt out, Breyer-wise: the Chicago trip was a big emotional drain, and in the past few days all I’ve wanted to do is watch cartoons and make quilts.

The Internet chatter is not helping my mood: it sounds like a lot of people are about fifteen minutes away from declaring the Chicago event an “Epic Fail”.

It was flawed, yes, but I wouldn’t go that far. I wasn’t party to any of that discussion, but the event felt like it had some issues from the get go.

The Special Run situation is the one getting the most discussion, and it certainly could have been handled better. Issuing them in equal quantities (80 each?) would have tempered the obvious resale motives that were in evidence during the sale on Sunday.

I actually liked most of the Specials: this was meant as a hobbyist-centric event, so I was expecting a nerdier-than-average selection. I had suspected that we’d be seeing the Family Arabians again in some form, so I was very pleased to see the Mare and Foal set “Addison and Clark”.

Can’t get any nerdier than that! (Okay, I’ll spot you the Modernistic Buck and Doe. And Benji and Tiffany, too.)

We haven’t seen either of those two molds as a production item since 1997’s Galena and Julian. Is this a hint, perhaps, that we’ll be seeing more of these two in the near future? I hope so.

From the somewhat dismissive tone of the discussion on Friday night, assumed that I’d actually be able to get the ones I wanted, regardless of my position in line. My first choices were among the less popular: the Family Arabian set (of course!), and the Appaloosa Performance Horse “Ferris”.

What struck me most about the event, though, weren’t the models but the missed opportunities: first and foremost, the reasons why the location was so significant to the model horse hobby in the first place.

Chicago is the “birthplace” of the Breyer Molding Company. It was also the home of Model Horse Congress, the BreyerFest-before-BreyerFest held by Marney Walerius, the first among us to work in a semi-official capacity for the company. The modern hobby, essentially, was born there.

Outside of a single bus trivia question, there was no acknowledgment of Breyer’s connection to Chicago. Heck, we weren’t even anywhere in the vicinity of Chicago. The only connections the event seemingly had to Chicago were the names of the models themselves. That seemed very strange to me, especially as a history-oriented hobbyist.

The resources were available. There are still plenty of us from the “Chicago Factory” days around to assist, if needed be. We could have pointed out some of the sites of hobby-historical interest, provided a slideshow, wrangled some of local hobby celebrities out of their retirements, or even just serve as raconteurs or tour guides.

I could go on; I won’t. I don’t regret going: I made the most of the opportunity and had a good time, for the most part. Things went more right than wrong; the biggest sticking points with many attendees – the model selections, and the food – were not an issue with me at all. The Dancing Horses trip thing was cheesy, but we still had fun with it; I just imagined that it would have been exactly the kind of thing nine-year-old me would have eaten up with a spoon.

Whether I go to another one of these events will depend on the circumstances. A lot of things had to happen to make this happen, and I’m not sure if that can be replicated.

As far as getting the models I wanted…

Like about 25 percent of the attendees, I found myself consigned to the back of the line where our choice was limited to the Glossy Dapple Gray Desatado, or the Glossy Dapple Gray Desatado. When you price the highest piece run item (144 for the Desatado Four Stars) the same as the lowest piece run item (50 for the Make a Wish Burnham) that’s what’s going to happen.

We tried to make the best of the situation by spinning it as an opportunity to handpick: one of mine was a little darker than average, and is quite lovely in person. Nevertheless, he was my fifth choice of the five.

I still had the Mustang (Beautiful!) and the Stablemate (Blue Roan Appaloosa, yes!) and lots of wonderful memories to go with them. I figured it was just my special kind of luck again that would tease me with special runs seemingly designed to my quirky specifications, and put them just out of my reach.

Then a lovely thing happened. One of the many beautiful souls among us offered to trade her Addison and Clark for one of my Desatadoes. She couldn’t bear to see my sad face, she said.

I thanked her over and over then, and I thank her again here, in public: you are the kind of hobbyist I like to think we are all capable of being.

And one of the reasons I stick with the hobby, in spite of the grief it sometimes dishes out. Just little griefs, they are; as they say, you can’t have a rainbow without a little rain.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

This Year's Trip to Chicago

So, that happened, as some of you may have guessed from the previous two posts, and from some of you actually seeing me there (or even gossiping about me as I walked by, at one point. That was weird!)

Anyway, I kept it on the down low mostly because I wanted to treat it as a vacation-vacation, rather than have it turn into the working vacation that BreyerFest has become.

It worked wonderfully as a vacation – the hanging out with friends part, especially – but as a Breyer event, maybe not as much.

There were some great parts (sipping champagne and eating fancy cheeses during the Lipizzan performances, the impromptu “product development” meeting on the Orange Bus, the kindness and generosity of some of my fellow hobbyists) and some not so great parts (being in the back of my Special Run line and getting “Double Desatadoed”, the rushed nature of the Saturday night party, no acknowledgement of how adorable we all were in our party outfits).

The griping about the centerpiece model – a pearly dapple gray Roemer – got to me enough that I had to restrain myself from yelling “If any y’all don’t want him, I’d be happy to take him off your hands.”

Even a model like Roemer has his fans; until that night I had some hopes of completing my collection this year. One of my roommates was lucky enough to win one, so I got to touch/fondle/sniff him, at least.

Ah well, I’ll always have my Bay Pinto Test.

I’ll go into greater detail about the whole thing next week; I’m still trying to sort my feelings out about it. And catch up on my sleep, too.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The First Trip to Chicago, Part Two

The next day, during a lull in the action and without a lot of fanfare, Marney strolled in with a couple boxes of Test Colors. Every hobbyist in the room, including those who I had thought incapable of moving without motorized transport, immediately leapt up and ran towards those boxes with arms outstretched.

I think the Traditionals were 40 dollars and the smaller scales and Foals were 20: I grabbed an Action Stock Horse Foal in Splash Spot Black Leopard Appaloosa, not just because he was more affordable than a standard Traditional, I had seen nothing else like him, ever. I had to have him!

We were allowed one Test Color, regardless of size and No Exceptions, so when the feeding frenzy was over, stray Tests remained, including some all-black Little Bits Unicorns and Shams in various states of Bay. Every time I see one of those Shams on eBay – I’ve seen several over the years, going for sometimes silly prices – I just laugh. Those were the leftovers.

I can’t recall if it was that day, or the next that Marney told us we could visit her house, and peruse the models she had stored in her garage, too.

Michelle and I hitched a ride with Cheryl Greene: we soon found ourselves sliding around on the bench seat of Cheryl’s pickup, as she dodged in and out of rush hour traffic like Steve McQueen. In addition to the lack of seatbelts, the suspension on her truck was shot, so we were bouncing, jiggling, and giggling (both in anticipation, and fear) the entire way to Marney’s house.

We were the first vehicle to pull into her driveway, which probably shouldn’t have surprised me.

The door opened, and Marney’s Miniature Schnauzer DeeDee ran out to inspect us, followed by who I assumed was Marney’s mom. DeeDee paid particular attention to me, giving me a stern look and short bark: we had just gotten our Miniature Schnauzer Spike earlier than year, so I assumed this extra greeting was to acknowledge that I smelled like a Schnauzer.

Whether that was acceptable or not to her, I was not sure.

Other cars quickly pulled in, including Marney’s. The door to the garage opened slowly, revealing – oh, just the dream of every model horse collector everywhere. It was an entire garage full of horses: bins, boxes, barrels and sheer piles of them. There were pieces of models, finished models, culls, things that she had touched up or altered in some way.

And at least one full drum of Stablemates, that I promptly plunged my arms in as far as I could reach, scratches be damned. Because why wouldn’t I?

After we had made our purchases, and found ourselves shooting the breeze outside (“You know what Breyer needs to make? A Missouri Fox Trotter!”) Marney offered us a very brief sneak peek into her collection.

All I remember clearly were two things: a transparent Belgian, sitting on one of her higher shelves, and a box about half the size of a refrigerator filled to the very top with models, some of which (all of which?) may have been Test Colors. I remember a resist-dappled Chestnut Foundation Stallion, sitting on top of the pile.

I often wonder where he ended up.

Sunday morning came, and it was time to leave. I made my goodbyes, paid my hotel bill, called the cab, and waited outside for it arrive.

And waited. And waited. I began to worry that I wouldn’t make it to the train station on time. In fact, for the first time during the whole trip I actually began to panic.

In frustration, I threw my wallet down, and it burst open. The money fanned out, and I momentarily stared at it in awe: I had sold enough extra models – and somehow managed my money well enough – that I was coming home with more money than I had started.

I did get to the station on time, but the stress was not over: before I could get the last box on the train, the doors closed and the train began pulling out of the station. The conductor made it a point to visit me after that last box was loaded and the train restarted, to see the girl who had momentarily stopped his train.

I was wearing my Wayne State University T-shirt that day; an older couple of fellow commuters noticed it, and struck up a conversation with me. Either one of them or a family member were alumni, and they were so pleased to see someone with a shirt from the school they recognized, so far from home.

When we got to Chicago, they helped me carry my bags and boxes to the Amtrak station, saving me the stress of another cab drive. I wish I could remember their names; I will always remember their kindness.

The rest of the trip was trouble-free. I may have slept most of the way home. I deserved it: I made it all the way to Chicago and back, and I even made a little money for my effort!

Anyway, that’s not all of it, but that’s most of it. Some details are undoubtedly misremembered, and the days blended together so some of the timing is also off. I ended up going to Model Horse Congress two subsequent years, and some of the memories of those may have drifted into this one. (Was it that year, or another, than a famous hobbyist got into an argument with a parrot in the Holidome?)

But now I hope, in this rambling and imperfect account, you can catch a glimpse somewhere in it of why the hobby was and is so important to me. Thirty years ago, and now.



It’s just another way to say I love you.