Model Horse Riders

Really good model horse showing set-ups usually have a rider.

And sometimes, a Breyer doll in factory-made clothes just won't cut it. The clothing is too plain, or the buttons are too big, or the outfit is  the wrong color scheme for the blood bay horse you want to use.

There are three options

  1. don't use a rider if you don't have to (boring)
  2.  buy a custom dressed rider (expensive)
  3.  dress your own rider

I interviewed Jane Schneider from Glyn Haven Studios to see how she makes her perfect model horse riders.

How long have you been dressing dolls?

I've been dressing dolls since about 2005, so ten years. I work slowly so in those ten years I've only done about 38 dolls.

Which Dolls make good model horse riders?

What was your first doll like?

My first doll was a cowboy. He's a Mego (brand) doll and they don't sit on horses as well as some others, so he didn't get used much.  Now he's on the scrap heap, and I stole his boots. Also he has no gloves, which a working cowboy would wear.

Do all Megos have the sitting problem or just this one?

Yes, the Megos seem to all have the sitting problem although the ones whose rubber bands are stretched out more are a little better.

Which brand names of dolls do you use as model horse riders - could you list pros and cons? Which brands to stay away from?

The dolls I like to use the most are the Breyer dolls (before they started making the heads larger)  And the Zica Yvonne. Breyer dolls get modified somewhat; I Dremel down the hips and bustline of the female dolls for a more realistic look and all Breyer dolls get their inner thighs and buttocks made smaller so they sit deeper in a saddle.  Human legs can squish and conform to the sides of the horse but dolls need a bit of help!  So I avoid the Mego 8" dolls but use the other two. 

Breyer dolls do not have an articulated neck, so I use them for riders that will be staying fairly stationary like dressage and pleasure classes.  Yvonne can look upwards or down so I like her for jumping dolls and other activities that require the doll to be in more positions.

Jane's Mego Grandpa Walton doll dressed in breeches, boots, a shirt, and suspenders. Boots by Jennifer Buxton.

Do you use dollhouse dolls?

I like some dollhouse dolls for children. Dolls by Heidi Ott are nicely made, ball-jointed dolls that can be put in any position and they are an appropriate size for children to go with Breyer dolls and Yvonne such as for a lead line setup. Their faces are not too beautiful by American standards but they can be painted.

Do you reface (repaint) dolls?

I'm not very good at repainting doll faces, but I touch them up now and then.

Advice on Dressing model horse riders

What is a typical beginner mistake in dressing dolls?

I think a typical mistake is to use fabric that is not to scale. Fabric for real people will have a large print that isn't suitable for 1:9 scale dolls. It takes some looking to find fabric with a small print that works.

What is the most popular type of doll you make or that people ask for?

I usually get asked to make Huntseat dolls or eventing and endurance dolls.

Other people, especially Darla Curtis, are well known for their Western pleasure dolls and do those better than I do. Keri Parker also does Western dolls and has a Pinterest board.

Which dolls do you prefer to make - English, Western, or something else?

Western dolls are lots easier because of the boots but other than that I don't really have a preference. It takes a lot of time to do the 'something else' dolls because it's basically doing something that's never been done before and I have to design something new and make new patterns and find fabrics that work. I enjoy the challenge but it takes so much time.

Do you have a favorite doll out of all the ones you've made?

I have always liked the 'Grandpa' dolls I made for myself the best.  They were both Mego Grandpa Walton dolls and neither could sit on a horse well but they drove wagons and were judges for showmanship horses.  To me they just had character.  There were two, but to me they represented the same person just wearing different clothes and I named him Dirk Albus McBain.

Other tid-bits about model horse riders

Custom riders are different from Breyer dolls because their clothing is often sewn or glued on.

This means there's no bulky velcro or snaps to ruin the fit.

The disadvantage is if you dress your doll in English clothing she can't compete in Western events.

If you're just starting out dressing model horse riders you can

  • start with a doll that matches your favorite horse
  • make a doll that can use tack that you already own
  • draw up a list of events you'd like to enter and make a doll that would be useful for the most classes

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