For many pony mad girls, if you didn’t have a pony, you had a model pony. Preferably lots. I was definitely in the lots camp, having a fine collection of Britains model horses, riders and stables. The big advantage to Britains was that they were cheap: my 5/- (25p) pocket money would buy one in the early 1970s and leave me some money over for sweets. Here is the Britains showjumping set. I did actually have this, but I am utterly ashamed to admit that I lost nearly all of it over the years.
The 35/- price (£3.25) was quite spectacularly reasonable when compared with the game Jump Jockey, which was produced by Minimodels-Triang Ltd, who also made Scalextric.
This, as mentioned in the December 1969 edition of Pony, was a steeplechasing game. You could order with any number of jumps up to 5 – which doesn’t seem a huge amount to me, bearing in mind the length of the average steeplechase course – and you had control over whether the horse refused, shied or landed safely. It cost a massive 7 guineas (£7.70); quite steep when you consider this would jolly nearly get you a pair of made-to-measure jodhs from a Bond Street tailor.
At the cheaper end of the market were Dream Ponies. I’m not quite sure when these appeared (they are still about, but under the name of Magpie Models) but they were larger than Britains, came with a whole load of accessories, but in rather strange colours.
My Arab was covered in a dark brown sort of fuzzy felt material, and had a rather alarming cream mane and tail of incredible, and completely unbelievable length. You were supposed to trim this yourself. I do wonder now I am older and cynical if this was a money saver for the workshop in not having to do the trimming. Their ads were always very small, and lurked at the back of Pony. Here is one from the 1980s:
There was of course plenty for the richer child, or the child with richer relations. Most of these I simply salivated over. I never even managed a copy of the Beswick catalogue, as you had to pay for it, and my mother figured that there was little point spending money on a booklet advertising something I had no hope of getting, which was fair enough, I suppose. Beswick made china horses and ponies, which now fetch astronomic sums on Ebay. All sorts of ponies and horses were made, and I particularly drooled over the native ponies, as in the 1960s ad below.
The attraction has never dimmed: my present for passing my O’ levels was a Beswick bay mare. I still have her, though numerous house moves have taken it out of the poor thing a bit.
Also pricey were the Thelwell models. These were sold in a shop called Wells, in Kettering, which ironically is now the Cancer Research shop in which I volunteer. Alas there is absolutely no sign whatsover of a lurking model not cleared out when the shop closed. This is what they looked like:
At 52’6 including p&p these were expensive. I never, ever had one, and again, they’re another thing that is still way out of my reach on ebay.
Probably the most sought after model horses (apart from things like the Rydal Arabians, which I can’t find any mention of yet in Pony) were Julip.
The strapline of looking and feeling like a real horse was slightly odd, as unless your horse feels like rubber, it certainly feels nothing like a Julip. Love Julip though I do, they really don’t look that much like real horses either. The Rydal ones certainly do, but Julip really don’t (and if you want to spend your money, try bidding for a Rydal on ebay. One went for over £700.)
As an interesting historical aside, Julip was also advertised for sale in that same magazine. Here’s the ad:
As ever with my childhood, I longed for one of these. I finally got one when I foreswore all other birthday presents, and had an Arab mare. I have her still, though she’s alas now gone brittle and crumbly and has to be kept in a dark drawer to prevent her deteriorating any further.
The ad didn’t change much over the years: this one is from 1969, but it was definitely still going in the 1970s:
and this one is from the 1980s, introducing the dressage horse. I do like the dressage rider.
Model horses still survive. Breyer seem to go from strength to strength. Julip have survived several ups and downs to keep producing its original range of models. And there is an army of customisers and makers out there to fulfil all your model horse dreams.
You can read another of my pieces on model horses here