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Tips for Collecting, Customizing and Showing Black Horse Models

Advice for Collecting Breyer, Schleich and Other Black Horse Models

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Breyer Stablemate black horse model photographed against a blue backdrop.

A Breyer Stablemate black horse model photographed against a blue background.

Copyright 2011 by Jeanne Grunert. All rights reserved.

Black horse models, whether it's a Breyer or a customized Artist Resin model horse, are much desired by collectors, yet they can be tricky to properly customize and photograph. Some collectors specialize in acquiring only one color of model horse such as all Appaloosa horses or black horse models. Breyer has actually released very few true black horse models, and many popular molds were never released as black horse models. For collectors whose dreams are fueled by books such as Walter Farley's Black Stallion series or lovely Friesian horses, here are some tips for collecting, customizing and photographing black horse models.

Black Horses in Real Life

Before discussing black horse model, it's important to recognize that a true black colored horse is rather rare in the real horse world. Some breeds of horses, such as Friesians, are almost always or always black, while in other horse breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Arabians, a totally black horse without a hint of white is very rare. A dark brown or dark bay horse may be mistaken for a black horse. Black horses also tend to bleach in sunlight. A black horse may have bright red highlights, for example, or red streaks in the tail thanks to sun bleaching. Black foals are common, but most lose their baby coat color and change into a bay or gray over time. Lipizzan foals are almost always born black and change to gray by age 5 or so.

Throughout history, black horses were used in mourning processions and to pull funeral hearses and coaches. Most of the time, black horses were avoided by the nobility for their carriages and coaches. A matched team of bays, chestnuts or grays was more desirable than the 'funereal' blacks. Black horses are still used in ceremonial processions, such as the black horse named Black Jack who was led in President John F. Kennedy's funeral procession riderless, with boots in the stirrups pointed backwards as a symbolism for a fallen leader.

Other famous black horses include Black Beauty, the main character in the book Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Beauty was a black horse with a white star and one white sock. The Black Stallion and his offspring were also immortalized in the book series The Black Stallion by Walter Farley and the movie of the same name.

Collecting Black Horse Models

Collecting black horse models is a fun way to focus your hobby efforts.

Some famous Breyer black horse models include:

  • Black Beauty: The Traditional scale Black Beauty model, sculpted by Chris Hess, was introduced in 1979. The mold has subsequently been released in numerous other colors, but the black model horse called Black Beauty made its debut in 1979. A unicorn horn was added to the mold to create a fantasy figure in 2002.
  • The Black Stallion: Walter Farley's famous horse made his debut as a Breyer model horse in 1981 and was also released as a set with a doll that looked like actor Kelly Reno, who played the young boy shipwrecked with the Black Stallion in the movie. The mold is in a trotting position and was also sculpted by Chris Hess.
  • Black Jack: Breyer released a special run sculpture depicting Black Jack, the military horse that served at funerals such as President Kennedy's funeral. The model is mounted on a wooden base and is fully tacked up and complete with the backwards-facing boots.
  • Goffert: Goffert, sculpted by Kathy Moody, made his debut in 2006. He depicts a champion Friesian sire and was released in a jet-black color appropriate to the Friesian breed as well as in several other colors.
  • Blackjack Model and Book Set: Not to be confused with the ceremonial horse Black Jack, this mold is the Breyer Justin Morgan horse released in an all black color with the award winning novel of the same name.

Many, many other Breyer horses have been released as black model horses in different scales and finishes. Some are glossy, some semi-glossy and others matte. Most models eventually end up as a black color if suitable for the breed. In addition, both the Black Stallion and Black Beauty were released in Classic scale as entirely new models. Both the Traditional scale and Classic scale versions were sculpted by Chris Hess.

Customizing Black Model Horses

Painting a black model horse sounds easy - you just slap on a coat of black paint, right? Unfortunately, painting a horse all black results in a boring, one-dimensional color. When painting Breyer horses and customizing horses, using a subtle mix of dark burn ochre and black creates more realistic highlights. A good customized black horse model is actually quite rare and tricky to paint!

Photographing Black Horse Models

Another tricky thing about black horse models is getting a good quality photograph of them. Because the entire model is black, the camera flash can bounce mercilessly off the model's coat color and leave unattractive white circles on the final image. Original finish Breyer black horse models can also have few details and shading, unlike their bay, chestnut and gray companions, which also makes it difficult to photograph them well. Try taking pictures in natural sunlight or adjusting your flash and background lighting to avoid unattractive shadows.

Whether you choose to collect only black horse models or Appaloosa horses, palomino horses or fantasy colored horses, collecting a single color model horse provides another way to focus your collecting hobby.

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