Sunday, October 25, 2020


Oh goodness, where do I even begin?

The topic of color is just as controversial one in both the live horse and model horse community. 

Some of it is comes out of old and often debunked beliefs and institutional prejudices about certain colors and patterns (Pintaloosas, double dilutes, narrow ranges of acceptable breed colors, excessive white rules, etc.) 

And some of it is genuine concern about the health and wellbeing of the horse itself: flashy color sells, and sometimes horses with obvious and/or potentially harmful characteristics will be bred because they’re a pretty color or sport an eyecatching pattern. (And some of the colors themselves are harmful in and of themselves, in a genetically homozygous form.)

Any time a model is released in an atypical color – for the breed, or just in general – there is always a backlash.

My first concern when they announced next year’s BreyerFest theme – one that I initially dismissed because surely they were smart enough not to go there – was that they might pick a Celebration Horse that might fall into that latter category: pretty, but problematic.

What I was hoping for was that Reeves would carefully thread this needle: we wouldn’t just have colorful representatives of breeds known for their flashy looks, but also horses that didn’t fit the “mold”. That would have included not just rare colors on more common breeds (Pinto Trakehners!), but unusual patterns and oddities (Brindles and Chimeras), visually striking examples of rare breeds, and also horses or breeds that thrived or succeeded outside of their more usual or expected roles or overcame great obstacles or disabilities. 

And also, at least one actual Zebra, a couple of Decorators including a Rainbow-colored one (duh!) and one or two rarely used older molds because they are also “of another color”, metaphorically speaking. 

Well, that’s what I would have gone with or proposed, if I had been asked.

When I initially saw the Celebration Horse model, my first reaction was “Oh okay, an Appaloosa. We haven’t had many Appaloosa Celebration Horses, so that’s seems like a logical choice.” The model looked nice, though very similar to last year’s Holiday Connoisseur Ambrose. I figured there would probably be a little bit of backlash over that, because any time any release is followed by a somewhat similar release, there’s going to be trouble.

But that was not where the trouble really was. I saw pictures of the actual horse the model was based on, and the first words out of my mouth were “Oh, dear…”

Although I have made it very clearly and obviously known that I am not a stickler when it comes to model horse anatomy – plastic has no genotype – that does not extend to the real thing. 

Horses should look like horses, and function like them too. I, too, cringe at what has become of some breeds in recent years, especially Morgan and Quarter Horses. Give me those old Foundation-bred horses anytime!

There is, undoubtedly, some after-the-fact enhancements that make the real-world horse look even more exaggerated in his photos than he does in person. Sadly, it is these exaggerated looks that often win and sell: that’s part of what got the Tennessee Walking Horse breed into the sorry state that it has devolved into. 

It becomes a vicious circle that results in horses being bred to a type that either can’t, or shouldn’t, exist. 

Do the owners of these horses actually love them as horses, or do they only see them as investments? It’s complicated: some do, some don’t, though most exist in a state somewhere between the two. 

I’m not going to speculate on the owners’ motives or where they exist on that scale: I think it’s unfair to do so, especially since I do not know them in any sense of the word. I do understand why he was withdrawn from the event as the Celebration Horse. I saw the tone of the conversation on Facebook, such as it was, before it was pulled. 

I have no doubt there were some comments that veered into volatile or threatening territory: provoking and stoking strong emotions is a behavior endemic to Facebook, and one of the many reasons I try to avoid it.

There’s also been some speculation that this incident proves that the Powers-That-Be at Reeves are “not actually horsepeople”. I know for a fact that this is not true: some of our very own work for them on, by salary and by contract. 

But what did happen to get to this point? It was probably a combination of factors. 

I think part of the problem is that they were allured by the horse’s celebrity owner, and the possibility of using his celebrity status to draw more attention to the event. They’ve been using that strategy since the 1970s with releases like Stud Spider and Lady Phase, and to great effect at BreyerFest. 

It’s also somewhat obvious that the folks at Reeves tend to favor English and International disciplines over Western ones, and may not have been as aware of some of their attendant controversies. They probably had assurances that the horse was N/N for HYPP, and that was enough to allay their initial concerns.

Regardless of how they got to this point, the issue is now: where do they go from here?

First: the model itself likely never got beyond the Test/Sample phase, and production for Celebration Horses doesn’t usually begin until well after ticket sales do, so they don’t have a warehouse full of unsellable models to deal with. 

Second: who becomes the Celebration Horse now? I’ve always assumed – since the Mego incident in 1995 – that Reeves has had backup plans for Celebration Horses who are unable to attend for any given reason. 

If they had backup choices, they’re going to be recontacted this week, obviously, and whatever contracts need to be renegotiated, they will be. It’s also possible that another guest performer who may have already been confirmed – but not yet announced – could be bumped up to “Celebration Horse” status, which could save a lot of time, money and aggravation.

If I had a choice, what I would do is take the negative and turn it into a positive, with a Tennessee Walking Horse as the Celebration Horse. I’d use the Bluegrass Bandit mold as opposed to the Midnight Sun (of course) and utilize this very visible platform to highlight the efforts to redeem and reclaim the breed from the Big Lick. There are a lot of very colorful TWHs out there – another thing the breed is known for! – and that would definitely help “retcon” it into the theme. 

Anyways, that’s my thoughts on the matter. Not exactly how I thought my first “official” post about BreyerFest 2021 would go, but there it is. 


Wyoming Artwork said...

A horse I would love to see in this theme is Solaris Buenno!

Wyoming Artwork said...

It would be nice to see such a beautiful color as Solaris Buenno's on Idocus or the Cantering Warmblood!

Anonymous said...

As someone not on Facebook, I missed all the action. Is there anywhere I can see a photo of the sample model of Intuit???

Anonymous said...

I missed it too...I did a google images and typed in Breyer Intuit. I saw both the Breyer model and picture of the real horse.

Anna Miller said...

The entire controversy has been very telling ... and will do nothing to abate the conformational issues in the real horse breeding world. Regardless of the model horse community's thoughts toward the matter, we are just that - a model horse community. Sadly, the majority of real horse people look down upon us. Personally, I loved the color on the model, and was looking forward to adding it to my collection. I don't agree with poor breeding practices, but I don't breed horses (and never will!).

Anonymous said...

You know, there are a lot of model horses collectors I would suspect who are also "real horse people." I am one of them (although just a trail rider). On one of the forums I am on, if someone mentions breeding a grade horse or cross breeding, everyone gets all bent out of shape. You know what I tell them? As long as the people breeding registered horses are breeding things like halter horses, especially of the stock horse breeds, they have no right to tell anyone not to breed a grade! Those mutts are likely MUCH more functional, usable horses than a lot of the "purebreds" out there. So yes, we all should breed responsibly (and I have never intentionally bred a horse myself, so no dog in the fight) but that responsibility should also carry over to the breeders of purebreds. If anything, they should bear MORE responsibility because they are putting horses into the gene pool of that breed. The backyard breeder that everyone hates, is probably not making a lasting mark on equine genetics the way the purebred breeders are. So I don't support the breeders of halter horses, at least not in the stock horse breeds. They should be breeding the most beautiful, functional, sound horses out there. Horses the breed can aspire to. Not horses of questionable use and soundness. I mean, as a trail rider I would be afraid to take one of those horses for free. It shouldn't be that way. :(

timaru star ii said...

Thanks for a fine, clear analysis, Diva. The definition of accident is you didn't see it coming. I think you did well [for 2021].

Online communities (and maybe the whole world) seem to be learning (?) the hard way that expressing oneself thoughtlessly, not thinking about who else might be impacted, and without analyzing consequences, can be terribly damaging.

Suzanne said...

Actually I was going to ask you to spell it out for me....I was aware of some type of overo color being associated with poor outcomes, but...l'm not informed on the genetics of real horses. And I had to walk right into the aftermath of that FB debacle...sometimes my dignity and common sense are off doing their own thing instead of keeping me in line!

I have to agree with Anonymous, there's a lot to be said for "mutts". Apparently in the world of dog and cat breeding, the breeders are emphasizing form over function, and that isn't the best way to produce healthy animals!
I tend to look down on people who let their animals roam and reproduce- you hear so much about unwanted cats and dogs. But in a way I hope someone continues to produce genuine mutts.

Suzanne said...

I looked up as much as I could palate about Intuit. Just a simple search, all the web articles about him seemed to be gushing about what a great horse he is, then there's one Breyer page that has gone down the memory hole.
Is this something to do with having Impressive as an ancestor, or is the concern over Intuit's own weird conformation? And if a layperson like myself finds his conformation weird, how is he winning anything?

ANDREA said...

It's mostly about him being Impressive-bred, and all the potential issues arising from that. I think there's also some issues - which have largely flown under the radar in the discussions I've seen - that this might also have been a publicity stunt for the owner's new reality show.

I understand Reeves wanting to publicize the event and the product on national TV/media, but going the reality show route opens up a whole other can of worms. (Especially since most stuff associated with reality shows ends up being perceived as "weird", not normal. A touchy subject in the hobby, as it is!)

His conformation, alas, is what has been getting rewarded in the show ring for quite some time.

Yvonne said...

Real horse breeding does get "trendy" and it is sad to see. I started out breeding FHANA Registered Friesians. I loved the bulky, Baroque horses that I was breeding. Today, my horses are no longer considered "ster" quality. "Too bulky" is what I get told by the same judges who gave their sires and dames a ster rating just a few years ago. People now want a dressage Friesian. A longer, leaner, warmblood. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess? I breed the Friesians that I love and I get A LOT of requests for them. That is what these folks are doing. The AQHA wants muscles and that's what they get. And people that want useful horses look elsewhere. Sad that we are all about designer horses now, but hopefully folks come to their senses before it's too late to save the breeds for what they once were. (And while I HATED the choice of the chestnut Friesian as a Celebration Model I bit my tongue and just gave mine away. People got a bit TOO crazy about this whole Intuit thing!)

Qatgirl said...

Yvonne, my first (real world) horse was an Arab mare by Top Contender - with Spanish and Polish bloodlines. Not popular in the "straight Egyptian" world of the 1990s! But I loved the fact that her back was not "tabletop flat." She didn't have to have the ultra dishy face to be beautiful. And she won a few English Pleasure classes in her day!

When I first saw a photo of Intuit I thought his conformation was okay (but I'm no expert) but he looks bulky, in a steroids kind of way. Then I looked at the website for Terry Bradshaw Quarter Horses. All of the stallions on this page have that beefy, bulky look: Take a look at A Bucky Kid... good gravy! They can't all be on steroids, can they? Do people breed for this bloated look?

All that aside, I never saw the original post on the Breyer site, but I am appalled that they had to remove it entirely due to comments from fans. I have known rude and inconsiderate people in the "real horse" world, and it is saddening to know that there are also rude and inconsiderate people in the model horse community.

Lost in an 80's Fog said...

At the risk of adding fuel to the fire: I'm pretty insulated but what I saw of the controversy seemed to stem from concerns over Terry Bradshaw's religiously-inspired opinions of the LGBTQ+ community, moreso than Intuit himself. (For the record, I have no idea whether there is reason to be concerned in that regard, as I literally wouldn't recognize the man if he walked up and said Hi. Some commenters said that in person he is incredibly warm and kind, by contrast). Did I just happen to hit an isolated pocket of the hobby, or is there something there?

Unknown said...

Intuit is inflicted with Pssm, it is a genetic disorder that is passed on to offspring. You can google it and learn more about it. The controversy is about the Bradshaws being irresponsible in breeding this horse. However pretty one might think this horse is on the outside, he is not on the inside!

Anonymous said...

Don't know shut

Anonymous said...

U people need to mind your own damn business and leave the Bradshaw's alone

Anonymous said...

intuit is not the only one that he owns that has pssm, he has three other studs that have it too.. he has mares and studs with hypp and mares that are both pssm and hype. and they are being used for breeding all the time, plus they stand to the public too for breeding