Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Paradise Horses for 18" Dolls

When I was a child, I was much more interested in toy horses than I was in dolls.  I had a massive collection of Breyer model horses, and my friends and I would play elaborate games with our plastic herds, developing little romances (between the horses) and power struggles (between the horses...mostly) that could rival most soap operas.  As an adult, I am more interested in collecting dolls, but horses still elicit a special kind of excitement in me.

I don't know if it's just my warped perspective, but it seems like there are a lot of new play horses on the market these days, and I find myself gravitating towards these toys when I am in the stores.  Many of the horses I've seen come with dolls, but I often feel like the dolls are completely out of scale with their equine companions (the Mattel Disney Princess and Horse sets are a perfect example of this).  I thought it would be fun to launch a series of reviews that examines some of the available horses, with an emphasis on which dolls fit them best.  I won't do these reviews all in a row like I did with the Cutie Pops, but I hope to review six or seven different steeds over the next month or two.

I am going to start by reviewing two of the large 19" Paradise horses.  I have been curious about these toys (and the whole Paradise line) for a while.  The fur-covered, articulated Paradise horses are sold for around $30 at Walmart as part of the Madame Alexander 18" "My Life As..." play doll series, but they are also available in the standard Paradise packaging with no mention of My Life at all.  I was interested to learn whether there's any difference between these separately-marketed versions of the horse.  These horses strike me as a nice alternative to the expensive American Girl horses, and will offer an interesting comparison for my upcoming review of the comparably-priced Our Generation articulated Morgan.

Paradise "Western Pinto"  horse.
Why did I decide to review toy horses right now?  Well, I've spent the last few weeks of my life building a fence in my backyard.  I built a fence because I wanted my poodle to have a safe place to run around before he gets too old to enjoy running.  I built this fence not from prefabricated sections, but picket by everloving picket.  This saved a huge amount of money, which is awesome, but I'm pretty sure I never want to see another picket in my life.  It was hard.  Anyway, while I was building the fence, my mind turned frequently to horses.  Fences have that effect on me.

One night while I had horses on my mind, I came across an eBay auction for the "My Life As a Cowgirl and Western Horse" gift set that includes a doll and a horse, both of which were on my wish list to review.  These sets have not made an appearance at my local Walmart yet.  This particular auction was asking $35 (with free shipping), which seemed like a bargain compared to some of the outrageous prices I had been seeing elsewhere.  The My Life horses cost $27 on their own at Walmart, so this was like getting an extra doll for $8.  Too good to be true, right?  That's probably what I should have been thinking.

Instead, I clicked Buy it Now and eagerly waited for my package.  When it finally arrived, it looked like this:

The seller had simply taped a piece of cardboard over the open side of this box and popped it in the mail.  The horse and doll weren't even cable-tied to the box anymore, although the seller had tried to re-attach them with clear tape.  Ugh.  Tape does not mix well with doll hair.  

The doll was still grasping the horse's reins, which (given the circumstances) looked desperate and a little tragic:

Don't worry!  I've got you!
The writing on the box suggests that the horse's name is "Oats and Honey."  That's quite a mouthful, unless maybe the doll is named Honey and her horse is named Oats?  The other way around, perhaps?

Honey is an ok name for a doll, I guess, but Oats is a drab name for a horse.  I prefer the scientific name for the oat plant, Avena sativa.  I think I'll name this horse Avena.

The back of the box has a photograph of the horse and doll, a list of contents, and a little glimpse of the horse's leg articulation: 

Since they weren't attached to the box, Avena and the doll came out of their packaging with no effort, but they were in pretty bad shape:

The doll (I'll go ahead and call her Honey) had black scuffs all over her body and her hair was badly tangled.  She comes with a one-piece blue cowgirl dress that's made out of thin synthetic fabric.  

She also has white vinyl boots and a white cowboy hat.  The hat is a thin, flimsy plastic throwaway.  It's like a Dollar Store party favor or a bargain bag Halloween costume.  The boots are better than the hat, but they're hard to get off because they don't have a complete slit in the back.

Avena was a bit scraggly, and her ears were squished:

What'd you say?
Honey didn't have any permanent damage, but once I got her cleaned up, I realized that she's not the doll I expected she would be.  I was assuming that she was one of the regular Madame Alexander My Life As a Cowgirl dolls (you can see the blonde version of that doll here).  The new collection of My Life dolls recently hit the shelves in my area, and they look wonderful.  This doll is nowhere near as well-dressed or detailed, and she doesn't have the distinct, elegant Madame Alexander face:  

Ok, so here's where this review starts to get complicated.  Looking at this cheap doll, I was beginning to wonder if the original doll had been swapped out for an imitation?  Had I been tricked?  I mean, nothing was attached to the box, so it seemed like anything was possible.  If I had paused to think rationally (or just look at the picture on the box), I would have known she was the correct doll, but I guess I was panicking a little bit.

Eager to get to the bottom of what was going on, I rushed off to Walmart and bought one of the regular My Life dolls--the kind of doll I thought I was going to get with the horse.  You know, for comparison's sake.  

They didn't have the cowgirl doll, so I got My Life As an Outdoorsy Girl ($27.97):

The box has the same design and color scheme as the My Life As a Cowgirl and Western Horse box. The box has a plastic window to protect the doll, and the back of the box is decorated with photographs of the new collection, and a short description of the doll and her personality.

The text on the back of the box has an identity crisis.  It starts out as what I imagine to be this doll's words.  She tells us that she likes running after butterflies and walking the trails and discovering cool things.  That's fine--generic, but fine.  Then, without changing the font or leaving a space or anything, the text starts a third person bulleted list of this doll's features.  It's a little disorienting:

Fabulous fun hair for hours of fun.
The doll is secured to a pink cardboard backdrop that slides out of the main box:

Here are the two dolls together.  They look like completely different brands:

Since this is supposed to be a horse review and not a doll review, I'll skip past the clothing analysis and get to the part where I undressed the dolls and compared their bodies and tags.  Honey's tag identifies her as a Paradise Kids brand doll.  

The Paradise 18" doll collection is called "Be My Girl" and can be seen on the Paradise Kids website.  These dolls retail for $31.  

In contrast, the My Life As an Outdoorsy Girl doll has a Madame Alexander tag:

So, to keep things straight, here's what I know so far:
1. Paradise Kids makes all of the horses, but markets some of the horses for the Madame Alexander My Life play line.
2. Paradise Kids has their own 18" play doll line (called Be My Girl) to go with their horses.
3. In addition to the My Life line, Madame Alexander also makes a very similar-looking 18" play doll line that isn't sold at Walmart...and costs more.  These dolls are called Favorite Friends.  
4. Favorite Friends don't have horses, so at least there's no added complication there.
5. If you can handle one more fact, Madame Alexander's Walmart play line used to be called Friends Boutique, which is so close to the Favorite Friends title, it gives me a headache.

I searched "Madame Alexander and Paradise Kids," trying to learn more about this association, and I found some nice pictures of another Be My Girl doll on Doll Diaries, but that's about it.  I assume that Paradise Kids manufactures the My Life As dolls using Madame Alexander's Favorite Friends head and limb molds, or something like that.  If anyone has more information about this, I am very curious!  My next step will be to compare this doll to a similar-looking Favorite Friends doll, which might give us a bit more information.

In the meantime, here's a quick comparison of the Madame Alexander doll and the Paradise Kids doll.  I named my Madame Alexander doll "Jill," after one of my favorite childhood horse book series.

I think Jill has a lovely face (clearly Madame Alexander) and a bright, colorful, contemporary outfit:

Her clear blue eyes open and close and have applied lashes.  She has detailed irises that remind me of my Our Generation doll, Charlotte.  The painting around her eyes is simple.  She has a brown line to define her eyelid, and a burgundy line drawn along the very edge of her eye.  The burgundy line has two perpendicular extensions at the outer edge of the eye that look like extra eyelashes and add a little sparkle to her expression.  Her eyebrows are a series of arched lines that get smaller and closer together as they move towards the outer edge of her eye:

Honey's face is friendly, but a bit vacant.  Her eyebrows are raised to a comical level and her brown eyes are very rounded.  Her blue cowgirl dress looks like a diner waitress uniform.  

There's room for a whole other set of eyes under those brows.
Honey's eyes open and close, and she has applied lashes.  The detail inside her irises is not as three-dimensional or realistic as the pattern in Jill's irises.  She has some painted eyelash lines at the outer edge of her eye, but they're faint.  Honey's eyebrows are drawn in a similar style to Jill's, with a series of arching lines, but the spacing between the lines is wider and more regular, making the brow look like a twig or a fern--not like a cluster of delicate hairs:

 Stitches over her eye?
The two dolls have similar body styles.  They have vinyl limbs and a vinyl upper torso:

The dolls don't appear to share any molds.  Maybe, maybe the torso mold is the same, but the head, arms and legs are definitely different.   

The lower torso is cloth, and is stuffed, but the stuffing is not firm and dense like American Girl stuffing.  Honey's cloth body has a seam across the middle.  Jill's cloth body is darker and matches her vinyl color better.  She does not have a horizontal midline seam, but does have a shaping seam across her bottom:

Both dolls have leg joint sockets that are attached to the cloth body.  Jill's leg joint socket is stitched to her cloth torso, similar to the construction of the American Girl and Our Generation bodies:

Honey's cloth body is sandwiched in between two vinyl halves of the leg joint socket.  Some of the cloth is pulling out of this attachment.  I have no idea what the two white tabs that are sticking out of the joint are.  They're not visible on the other side.

One last critical difference between these two dolls is that while Honey's limbs are rigid, Jill has a wire armature that runs through her torso and her legs, making them flexible (if unnaturally so).

This design is similar to that of the Our Generation poseable dolls like Jenny.  Jill bends and holds her poses much better than Jenny, though.

Both dolls have rooted hair with a good rooting pattern.  The Madame Alexander doll's hair is slightly thicker:

Honey's hair is a little drab and monochromatic.  Jill's blonde hair looks beautiful.  It has a nice mix of natural colors and falls gracefully around her face: 

The texture of both dolls' hair is similar--and not very good.  This isn't much of a surprise with Honey, because everything about her construction seems like a shortcut.  Jill, however, would be a really lovely doll if her hair fiber was better.  Her hair resembles the Princess & Me Rapunzel doll's hair in some ways.  It has that same soft, fluffy texture.  It also has a synthetic stickiness (for want of a better word) that I don't enjoy.  Aside from the feel, the biggest problem with the hair is that it simply will not stay smoothly brushed out.  It isn't at all silky, so the hair fibers don't slide past each other.  The fibers stick and grab and try desperately to tangle as quickly as they can.  

There's no way I would have the patience to attempt a fancy hairstyle with this hair.  I need my Flickr hair guru, Angelfish, to tell me what this icky fiber is--nylon, perhaps?

I tied both dolls' hair back and tried to dress them in clothes appropriate for riding.  I put Jill in an athletic My Life As outfit that I found at Walmart (her pink boots are sold separately).  I put Honey in Jill's shirt, leggings and boots.  

Ok, so the dolls are ready to ride, but the other piece of the story is that I have another Paradise horse to show you.  It's for two reasons, really.  First of all, as I mentioned, I wanted to know if the horses sold with the Paradise label are any different from the horses sold with the My Life label.  Also, Avena and Honey didn't arrive in the mail as quickly as I expected.  In fact, I was shipped a dehumidifier by mistake and I had to wait for the seller to correct the error.  This made me think that a backup horse might not be a bad idea.  So, I ordered this My Favorite Horse from Amazon:

Cute, but doesn't dehumidify
Be careful shopping on Amazon.  The prices are all over the map--some vendors are asking close to $100 for this same horse, which is ridiculous.  These horses should cost $30 or under, certainly not more than $40.

This horse comes in a large cardboard box that is very similar in size to the My Life As a Cowgirl and Western Horse box.  This box is in better condition, obviously, but I also think it has a nice, bold color scheme that makes the horse look really good.  The back of the box has a picture of the three color choices in this collection:

Pinto, palomino and silver dapple.
Here's the little blurb on the back:

I bet some boys heart horses, too.
These horses and boxes are too big to handle inside my house, so I took everything outside to photograph--next to my new fence (please admire the everloving pickets).

Here's the Paradise horse's box in the daylight:

The horse is cable-tied to a decorative cardboard backdrop:

He comes with a few accessories, including a brush, a bag of oats and a carrot:

The plastic carrot has some nice detail:

The oats bag is empty, made out of paper, and is already a little crumpled:

Who ate my oats?
The pink plastic brush is small and cheaply made.  After hearing Nethilia's hair care advice, I won't be using it.

This horse also comes with a certificate of authenticity and what looks like a catalogue or a small booklet:

The booklet has pictures of the three different colors of horse--I love them all:

Inside the booklet, it says that horses are "magnificent creatures that are Spirited, Strong and Majestic!"  Why, oh why, are "spirited," "strong," and "majestic" capitalized?  And if they have to be capitalized (for dramatic effect, maybe? Or are those the names of the horses?), why not capitalize "magnificent," too?  I don't get it.

That's a pretty nice cowgirl outfit--I wish I'd gotten that!
Oh, goody!  Everlovin' horse lovin' jokes:

I enjoy a good joke, and the image of a horse going behind a bush to change his Jockeys is going to stick with me all day.  The "fallen and can't giddyup" one is bad, though, and outdated.  Oof.

The booklet also has some horse facts:

9.  Horses, like whales and hippopotami, are members of the Artiodactyl order.
10. Horses can suffer from a swelling of the joints known as--no joke, bog spavin.
Here's the certificate of authenticity:

I need to think of a good name...
There are five heavy-duty cable ties that need to be cut to release this horse from the backdrop:

Here's the backdrop on its own.  It has a nice outdoor scene with mountains in the distance (and a picket-free fence!):

This horse has a plastic strip sewn into his mane to keep it from getting too messy:


His tail is wrapped in plastic:

The tail wrap is very easy to remove, but the plastic strip in the mane was tricky to get out.  I cut it in several places and then yanked it out.  

This horse has small wires in his ears, which allows them to be moved and posed. This is a great feature because it gives him a lot of extra personality:

The mane is rooted through the fur into what feels like a seam in the horse's neck.  It has a slightly jagged rooting pattern:

This horse has a big white blaze down the front of his face:

One of the reasons I chose this particular horse is that he has lovely dark-colored tack.  He's wearing a vinyl and imitation leather western saddle and a matching bridle.  His saddle pad coordinates with his four red leg wraps:

His bridle has a few small plastic star accents and a fancy bit:

There's no actual bit to go inside of the horse's mouth, and, although it says that this horse has a mouth that can be opened, the mouth most definitely cannot be opened.  Believe me, I tried.

The top of the saddle is made out of hard vinyl and has painted and molded decorations:

The lower part of the saddle is made out of fake leather and is sewn together with thread:

The stirrups are plastic and not adjustable.  One of my horse's stirrups is badly deformed--almost like it was melted:

The saddle attaches under the horse's belly with a small square of velcro:

Here are some indoor, close-up pictures of the tack:

The underside of the fake leather is grey and soft:

The saddle pad is made out of red felt and has bright blue trim:

Here's the bridle:

It has two velcro attachment points--under the chin strap and under the nose piece.  The bit is made out of grey plastic:

Now, let's switch to the My Life As a Cowgirl horse, Avena.  Here she is in her outdoor picketed paddock:

She has that same plastic strip in her mane:

But her tail wrap fell off and her tail is a mess:

As I brushed out Avena's tail, I was surprised to see that the hair fiber is different (and nicer!) than the hair fiber on the dolls.  I wish they'd just used this same fiber for everyone!

Avena has light brown tack and two blue leg wraps.  She does not have a saddle pad.  I checked the list of box contents, just to be sure it didn't fall out of the box, but she's actually not supposed to come with one.  The My Life horses that are sold separately at Walmart do come with saddle pads (you can see a picture here).

Avena's bridle is almost exactly the same as the darker bridle, except it is missing the small plastic star decorations.

The saddle is made completely out of vinyl:

The top and sides of this saddle are all one piece.  The are a few molded embellishments, but no painted areas:

One nice feature is that these stirrups are adjustable:

The saddle attaches to the horse with a vinyl girth that has a slotted strap.  This attachment method is more secure than the velcro on the other horse's girth.

Here are some indoor picture of this saddle:

The stirrups adjust with a small notched strap that folds up against the underside of the saddle:

The girth is a separate vinyl piece that is glued onto the body of the saddle:

Here's the bridle.  It matches the color of the saddle surprisingly well:

The construction of both horses is exactly the same.  They are lightweight for their impressive size (19" to the tips of the ears).  They both have hollow, plastic bodies covered in fabric with the muzzle and fetlock areas left bare.  The horses have attached brown plastic eyes and rooted manes and tails.

This horse has the same color pattern as a belted Galloway cow, so I think I'll name him Galloway:

Belted Galloway at Gretna Green
I dare you to ride me.
The fabric covering on the horses is not glued down-- it slides around over the underlying plastic.  There are a few areas on Galloway where the fabric is loose and wrinkled.

These horses have articulated legs.  Each leg has three points of motion that can click into one of three different positions.  The range is not great, but it is fun to be able to have a few different posing options--some of them more realistic than others:

The hooves are spray-painted black:

The leg wraps looks good and do a nice job of concealing the hinged fetlock articulation, but unfortunately, the wraps can't be removed.  They are too tight to slide over the large hooves and can't be unfastened.  

I wish that these horses also had articulated necks--better yet, articulated neck and heads.  Bending a model horse's neck adds a lot of realism, I think.  Then they can do things like graze and hang their heads down to nuzzle someone or take a drink of water.  The Liv horse, Nutmeg, has wonderful neck articulation in addition to nicely articulated legs.

Here are a few pictures of Avena without her tack:

I think she has lovely bay coloring.  The plastic muzzle area is a bit unnatural, but it looks fine with the bridle in place.  Galloway's muzzle is slightly more realistic.

Avena only has two leg wraps--on her front feet:

Now, it's time to see how the dolls get along with these horses!  I decided to let the Madame Alexander doll, Jill, ride Galloway and have the Paradise doll stay with Avena.  

In addition to looking at how a doll's proportions fit with a particular horse, I like to see how realistically the two can interact.  Mounting is a great test of this compatibility.

Jill can bend her leg and fit her foot into the stirrup:

And has enough body flexibility to swing her other leg over Galloway's back:

The stirrups are a little long for her legs, but they can be hooked up around her boots for a bit more realism:

Overall, this doll is way too big for her horse.  Here's an old photograph of a cowboy and his horse for a rough comparison:

My articulation is fine, darlin'
I notice things like the size of the man's head in comparison to the horse's head, the length of the man's legs in relationship to the horse's belly, and then just an overall sense of the rider matching the proportions of his horse.  

Jill's head is very large, and the thickness of her body seems way out of proportion to the scale of the horse.  

It's worse because Jill is meant to be a child, and a child's body would be dwarfed by a full-grown horse.  Case in point:

Still, Jill's riding posture is excellent.  Her leg flexibility is perfect for maintaining a secure seat in the saddle with a nice bend in her legs.  Also, if you look at her from the front, her feet don't stick out at all, but hang right next to Galloway's belly.  I wish Jill's arms had wire armature so that she could hold the reins without the help of a rubber band.

Now, here's Honey with Avena.  Apologies for the fact that these clothes look terrible on Honey--I don't have many 18" doll pants to choose from.

Honey's rigid legs make mounting pretty difficult...and inelegant:

Once she's wrestled her way into the saddle, she can only sit with her legs jutting awkwardly out to either side.  She can't even get both feet in the stirrups at the same time.

Honey is a slightly smaller doll than Jill, so her proportions look better, but she's still too large for this horse:

Here are the dolls and their horses together:

I wanted to let a few of my other dolls ride these horses to see if they might be a better match.  

My American Girl doll, Keira, is very similar in size to Jill and Honey.  She has a more firmly stuffed torso, so the My Life athletic outfit that Jill was wearing is pretty tight and hard to get on.  Keira also has slightly smaller features (shorter arms, smaller head) so she's more in proportion with Galloway than Jill:

Keira's stiff legs don't allow her to sit in the saddle nearly as well as Jill, though.  You can see some air between her and the saddle:

The slender scale of Lorifina's body is a good match for Avena--even her longs legs are within a realistic range, especially for an adult riding a smaller breed of horse or pony.

MiM fits pretty well, too:

The Disney Store talking Merida is edging towards too small, or it could just be that I've gotten used to looking at dolls that are way too big for these horses.  Merida's head size seems about right, and her legs are a great length, it's just that Avena's features are a bit too chunky to match Merida's slender frame.  

Hearts 4 Hearts Lauryce is too big for Avena (especially since she's a younger child) but I'd have no problem playing with these two together.  Lauryce fits nicely in the saddle despite her unbendable legs, and she and Avena somehow manage to look believable:

At this point, I was finished trying dolls and decided to switch the tack around on my two horses.  I think Galloway looks good in the lighter tack--especially with the bridle:


And I think Avena looks wonderful in the darker set with the saddle pad.  It's awesome that the trim on the saddle pad matches her blue leg wraps.  I think this is my favorite combination:

Then, I had another idea--what about the BFC Ink dolls?  They're 18" tall, but have a much slimmer shape than the Madame Alexander and Paradise Kids dolls.  

You might recall that I was not a huge fan of my BFC Ink doll, Britt.  She was shipped off to the Goodwill pretty quickly after I reviewed her.  However, several of you have encouraged me to give these dolls another try, and so I bought Summer Splashin' Kaitlin when I found her at TJ Maxx for $14.99.  I am glad I did, because while Kaitlin might be out of proportion with Avena in some ways (for instance, her head is really big compared to the horse's head), they look great together overall:

Kaitlin's articulation makes mounting a breeze:

And she's able to ride with excellent posture and style:

Look at how much better Kaitlin looks on Galloway than Jill:

Here are some last pictures of the two horses without any riders or tack:

Bottom line?  Whew.  This review took me in a a bunch of different directions.  I'll need to follow up with a Madame Alexander doll comparison review, and also with a short update on the BFC Ink dolls.  For today, though, I'd better stay focused on the horses.  I don't have much more to say about the Paradise Kids doll, Honey, except that I hope and assume that she is an economy version of the regular Be My Girl dolls that cost $30.  Honey is worth no more than the $8-10 I paid for her.

From what I can tell, the large Paradise horses come in three different packaging displays right now: the large red Paradise box that Galloway came in (individual horses and horse/riders sets are available), the My Life gift set packaging that Avena and Honey came in, and the the scaled-down eco-friendly packaging that holds the individual horses that are for sale at Walmart right now (again, you can see Char's picture of that packaging here).  There are some small differences in accessories and tack among these variations, but the horses themselves are the same.  None of these horses should cost over $40--even the ones that come in a gift set with a doll.  There is also an older, discontinued version of this horse sold under the Friends Boutique label.  Friends Boutique was the name of Madame Alexander's Walmart doll collection a few years ago.  The Friends Boutique horses can whinny and open their mouths, which (at least in my book) would make them worth a little more than the current options.

Here's a chart to summarize the differences as I understand them.  I'd love to hear additional information or corrections!

My Life As...
(horse on its own)
My Life As...
(horse in gift set)
Paradise My Favorite Horse
Paradise Horse and Rider set
Friends Boutique Horse
All vinyl 
All vinyl 
Vinyl and imitation leather
English style imitation leather
Vinyl and imitation leather
Saddle style?
English and western
English and western
Western (maybe English, too?)
Imitation leather
Imitation leather
Imitation leather with star decorations
Imitation leather with decoration
Imitation leather with star decorations
Saddle pad?
Leg wraps
Extra accessories
Saddle bag
Doll hat
Carrot, oat bag, brush
Jacket, riding hat, carrot, brush
Saddle bag, carrot, brush. 
Mouth opens?
I think so!
Black, chestnut, palomino--maybe more?
Bay (cowgirl)

Might be other sets, too.
Palomino, pinto, silver dapple.
White, and a chestnut Sam's Club exclusive
Palomino, pinto, silver dapple.

Of all of these differences, I think only the saddle has any real impact on the play value of the horse.  I prefer the look and feel of the vinyl and imitation leather saddle that came on Galloway.  It's a very nice piece of tack for the price, and it has some great details.  I like Avena's all-vinyl saddle because the stirrups are adjustable, but it seems less special than Galloway's more elaborate version.  Galloway's red saddle pad looks nice, but it would be really easy (even for me...) to make a saddle pad if the horse I wanted didn't come with one.  The other thing that might favor one type of horse over another is the color of the hair.  Some hair colors seem limited to certain packaging.  For example, Galloway's spotted coat does not seem to be offered in the My Life series.  Of the two horses I bought, I love Avena's realistic rich bay color the most.  I like all of the colors, though, and every version I have seen looks better in person than it does in photographs. 

I adore these horses.  For all of the online hunting I did to find different variations and colors, if I had it to do over again, I'd just hop over to Walmart and buy any of the regular $27 horses with the scaled-down packaging.  The only reason to do otherwise is if you're attached to the fancier saddle or want a specific hard-to-find color.  The horses tend to look awful in the store, tipped over with matted manes and bent boxes, but my experience has taught me that these toys can go through a lot and then clean up beautifully.  I didn't play very roughly with Avena and Galloway, granted, so if I had a child who wanted to gallop them across the floor all day, I might worry a bit about the durability of the leg joints.  Otherwise I have no real complaints or concerns.  The horses pair beautifully with several dolls--especially the BFC Ink and Lorifina dolls.  They also work just fine for American Girls.  In fact, every doll in your house will probably want a horse, so even if you're operating on a big budget, it might be more fun to have a colorful stable full of these Paradise ponies than one lonely horse with a higher price tag.


  1. Outstanding review as usual. I learned some things of science and equines, there were some very clever and entertaining digs that had me chuckling, and you have even convinced me that perhaps I should return Saige's horse Picasso back to AG and get one of these instead! (Picasso is waiting for Christmas or another big-deal gift related holiday. I wanted to get him because I doubt another artist doll collection will come around but I cannot stand his name because Picasso is my least favorite artist.)

    1. Thank you, Andrea! I have seen Picasso, but never picked him up and held him. My guess is that he's probably more sturdy than these horses, and might have a nicer mane and tail. His ears aren't as cute, though. :)
      I don't know as much about art as I wish I did, but Picasso is not my favorite name. You have me thinking about other artists and whether or not their names would be good for horses! That could be a goldmine of fun names. Who is your favorite artist?

    2. That's a really great question. I have actually tried to come up with the answer for the last two days so that I am not offering you a ridiculously long list and I finally have decided on one who I feel like rightfully deserves the top spot. And it is: Norman Rockwell. I grew up poring over his work in this huge coffee table book that was a collective of all of his work so his work very much reminds me of my childhood. As a professional artist teacher now? I love his work even more now than ever because I understand and identify with so much of what he had to do (creative process) in order to achieve the masterful work that he created time and time again.

  2. These look like small ponies to me. Maybe they'd be good horses for Liv dolls. I really like Bfc, Ink. dolls.

    1. Yeah, some of the dolls make the horses look really tiny! I am surprised by how much I like BFC Kaitlin. MGA seems to have fixed a few things from the last time I looked at one of these girls. They're especially nice for under $20!! :D

  3. I loved seeing all the different riding comparison photos, and I greatly appreciate your advice for purchasing the horses. Thanks for another fantastic review!

    1. Thank you, N! It's hard with the first review because I don't know how these horses will compare to the others, but right now they seem hard to beat for their price!

  4. I have been having a rough time lately and when I saw you had posted a new review, it cheered me up a bit. Seeing your dollies always brightens my day and this did not disappoint. :)

    I was never a big fan of horses growing up. I loved animals (still do) and thought they were beautiful, but I never had dreams of owning a pony or taking horse-riding lessons. The only horse-related toy I remember having was a small play set (I've always loved little sets) of a stable, little plastic horses, and tiny plastic girls to ride them around (and they were dressed in all the right gear). I think it came with hurdles for the horses to "jump" over and small accessories like apples, carrots, and a brush for their manes. I loved it more because it was tiny than because it was horses, but still, this review brought back fond memories of that toy!

    Still, I really enjoyed seeing your Paradise horses. They are very cute, I think, especially because they look fuzzy and their eyes are bright and look more true to the eyes of actual horses! I read your Liv horse review a while back, and while I liked its movement and thought it was charming, the eyes creeped me out a bit (and don't even get me started on the Moxie Teenz horse...*shudder*). These horses look realistic and almost cuddly. Galloway is my favorite - his coloring is quite handsome!

    The proportions of the dolls to horses is so strange in these sets, though...I probably would have never been able to put my finger on it before you mentioned how the girls should not be that much larger than their horses, I just knew that something was "off." It would be lovely if there were sets with horses this size and more appropriately sized dolls to ride them. I think Lorfina and MiM look especially nice. I really don't like Honey's look...something about that big forehead and those cartoonish eyebrows...it's a bit unsettling! While I think Jill is much cuter as a doll, but the proportion is still an issue that kind of ruins the fantasy for me.

    Your pictures of the packaging "Honey & Oats" came in really made me giggle. Looks like Avena got sick of Honey trying to ride her with those stiff limbs and big head and attacked...neigh!

    Thank you for another wonderful review, Emily! Oh - and your picket fence looks great! Makes for a lovely background for your photos and I'm sure your poodle appreciates it. :) Take care!

    1. Hi Lissy, sorry to hear that things have been rough for you lately. It's nice how fond memories of simple things like childhood toys can be comforting--I find that to be true for me, too.

      The Liv horse has funny eyes--I agree! They're human eyes, which is very wrong. It's another one of those cases where I was turned off by the original pictures (mostly because of the eyes), but then when I saw Nutmeg in person (and especially after I played with him for a while) I stopped noticing how strange the eyes are. You're right that the Paradise horses have great eyes--they're cute, but provide a nice level of realism that matches the rest of the horse.

      I like how Lorifina looks on the horses, too! She has an almost Lady Godiva vibe about her. She's so serene and graceful. It's hard to determine whether a doll is a good match--partly because real horses come in so many different sizes, but also because the size of the doll's features (eyes, head, etc.) need to match at some level, too. I think you're right to just go with an overall sense of what looks good and what looks "off."

      Thank you so much for your nice comments, Lissy--I hope life starts treating you better very soon. :)

  5. first off... you have a wonderful backyard, I'm jealous! Can I come and just build a hobbit hole there and camp out? I think the Northeast would do me well. Just kidding!

    Funny you should put that BFC, Ink doll in your review. I got her too! At TJ Maxx no less! I need to find some clothes for the poor dear though, she's living in that gawdawful swimsuit and it's going to get cold in these thar hills sooner rather than later.

    What were we talking about? Oh right, review.

    I've stayed away from the horses, even though I do love horses myself, only because I just don't have room for one anywhere. My two girls haven't even consented to let Kaitlin move into their little dorm there yet, so I don't think they'd take very well to a horse either. They like to play with the Ponies, and they'd wear the cowgirl outfit from AG no prob, but I think that's about as far as they go with the horsey love. However... for a basically Walmart brand horse, these two are suprisingly beautiful.

    Awesome review, as always, my friend!

    1. Thank you, AJ! I actually have a very swampy, mossy back yard, (I fear a hobbit hole would flood...) but I like it, and my poodles seem to like it now, too. :)

      I saw your wonderful Kaitlin review! At that point, my TJ Maxx only had Addison (with a smudgy face and wonky eyes) and I was jealous of your Kaitlin, but a week later I found her myself, and she's very nice! Can't beat the price, and her neck articulation is much better than Britt's. The packaging isn't any better, though. The worst thing about these dolls is, as you said, the fact that they come in swimsuits and the outfits are getting hard to find. I need to learn how to sew.

      I don't have room for the horses, either! Ack! I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them. I woke up this morning to find my family eating breakfast around a Galloway centerpiece. :) I think the kitchen table probably can't be his permanent residence, though.

  6. Oh wow! I have two of these horses--I got the English horse because it was the exact same coloring as Felicity's Penny horse that used to be sold by AG, but tons cheaper ($35 + tax with the shipping being sticking it in the trunk and bringing it home) and I have never regretted getting her instead of the AG horse. (AG horses just feel so stiff and plastic). I also have the black western one just like yours for my gang. I found my MSD BJD Nikki looks excellent on it and I should take more pictures of her riding either horse.

    The mouth does open--but you kind of have to cram things into it. It's hard to do, and it's not jointed at all. I wouldn't bother with it, to be honest. And they look to have changed the leg wraps--when I got my two the wraps were velcro closures. Must be cutting costs. Boo.

    And I can feel you on not wanting to ever look at another picket, even if the backyard is more gorgeous for it.

    1. Oh--BJDs! I should have tried my little Dollstown gal on these horses! I bet she'd be an excellent fit. Thank you for the suggestion! They're neat horses, aren't they? I just get happy looking at mine clopping around the house or in the yard. I think the tack is especially good for this price. The AG tack did not impress me for its price. I am still debating whether it's worth the debt to add one of the AG horses to this review mix. It seem unfair not to...but they're so pricey. I'll watch eBay.

      I definitely cannot open Galloway's mouth--not even a little bit. I think you're right that there were some cost-cutting changes to these horses recently. The leg wraps, the mouth, no sound mechanism, and fewer accessories in some cases (although that doesn't bother me!).

      Thank you for your thoughts--I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying your herd, too. :)

  7. Gosh, this is going to be a fun series! I never hit a horse-loving phase, myself, but two of my closest friends adore horses. I've picked up a bit from them. While I wouldn't say I'm a horse-lover, I definitely appreciate their beauty and power. It will be fun to go through the different horse reviews with your wit and enthusiasm to guide me. Happily, I think I'll be able to sit back and enjoy the series without being tempted to go on a shopping spree. I'm satisfied with my Liv Nutmeg and my MH Nightmare. (Although, who knows, maybe now will be the time I fall in love with horses!)

    Of the two horses you reviewed, I think Galloway is my favorite. There's a sort of serenity about him. I definitely prefer his more ornate tack with the saddle pad and little stars. I'm interested to hear more about BFC Ink. Ever since I got a Heart for Hearts girl I've been curious about budget-friendly larger dolls. Of all the riders, I think Kaitlyn had the best riding posture, but I loved Lorifina's gentle grace. She could be related to Galadriel, she's so lovely.

    I enjoyed this review and look forward to following your equestrian adventures in future posts!

    And yes, I admired every ever-loving picket.

    1. LOL! The pickets! Ahhhh! I even have about fifty of them left over, so I haven't seen the last of pickets. I'll probably be using them for little jobs around the house (or for firewood!) for a while to come.

      Lorifina DOES channel Galadriel! Good call. She's a lovely doll and was one of my favorites as a rider. She doesn't have anything even approaching decent riding clothes, though! She needs a medieval gown and matching saddle, I think...

      Did you see the new Maximus horse when you were at D23? He's waiting in line for a review and looks pretty awesome. :)

    2. Well, you can enjoy a nice picket-fueled fire this season. Or you could just glue google eyes on them and sell them on Etsy.

      I've admired Lorifina for some time now. The lack of wrist articulation and the difficultly of finding clothes are what have held me back from buying her. But man, every time I see her I am taken aback by her beauty.

      I didn't see Maximus at D23. They were really focusing heavily on Frozen and The Little Mermaid, so Tangled didn't have a huge presence in the showroom. Is this the same Maximus currently available at the Disney Store? The one with the really long mane? I'll be interested to see your review on him. Maximus was one of my favorite characters in that movie, and given that I already have Rapunzel, Flynn, and Mother Gothel, he's a horse I might be interested in getting. I think I'll need to see him with Rapunzel to decide. Looking forward to it!

  8. I haven't dealt with one of those plastic strips sewn into the doll's hair for a long time, but next time you have to, try this: they're meant to be removed all in one go, by prying them apart starting with one far side only, and then gradually separating both strips. Think like carefully separating two pieces of a strip of velcro- vertically. There's no need to cut stitches (maybe just one to start with) as the stitches should come out by themselves (pull out, not pop, it really doesn't need to be pulled hard) if you try to separate it like that. Hope that helps a bit :D
    I think Merida looks beautifully to scale with these horses. Always thought that AG (or AG sized) horses would be best for playscale dolls, and Mattel's (and other companies') undersized horses really bug me.

    1. That sounds so much easier than what I did! LOL! Thank you for the tip! I thought it might be one of those things where if I pulled the right end of string, the whole row of stitching would come magically undone, but those never work for me, so it's hard to tell if that's what was supposed to happen. I will keep your advice in mind for my next horse!!

      Yeah, the undersized horse syndrome is frustrating. It's surely a cost-saving measure, and maybe a space-saving measure, and I guess I should be happy about fewer huge plastic things in the world, but I do love large, majestic, appropriately-scaled horses. Can't help myself. :)

  9. These horses look awesome! I honestly like them with all the dolls except the two who can't sit down properly. I think scale is not important in toys. Some are quite unrealistic and we still love them. Besides, a horse for these big dolls would be huge, expensive and difficult to play with.

    For hair sewn to plastic I glide a seam ripper across seams on the plastic side, pull and brush out the thread bits.

    Your fence is wicked. Great job!

  10. Great review, Emily! It reminded me of how much I loved to play with my little horse toys when I was a child--I regret getting rid of them now; I only had three: a "mommy, "daddy," and "baby." I can still picture the mare in my mind's eye.

    I'm glad to see these horses' hind legs can be turned the right way; the first box picture made me think that may not be the case. While these aren't for me, I can't help but admit that I'm curious to see how they stack up against OG's horses. I tell myself I'm not interested, but such a large articulated toy horse seems fun!

  11. Hello!! I was wondering if you had gotten my email about the Connie doll. What do you think?

  12. I know it is kinda off topic for this post but since you have a BFC Ink doll now would you be able to do a comparison with a Cutie Pops and a La Dee Da? I'm mostly curious how the heads compare.

  13. Oh what a beautiful review. I have always adored horses and images of them in motion make me so happy. I did a little riding as a child and I plan to get back into it when I have more money and time (ha ha, whenever that will be..). Do you ride?

    I dream of buying back my old Sindy horse and lots of the first Generation MLPs. I have however been strongly influenced by your love of articulated dolls and horses. These horses are very cute but I don't feel that their faces quite capture the beautiful expressions that horses have. I will PM you in a minute with a Flickr picture that I love.

    I had to giggle at poor sweet Honey trying to mount that horse. She doesn't look particularly at ease. Kaitlin on the hand looks very natural in the saddle. She is a beautiful doll. Thanks for the lovely review Emily. x

  14. Hi Emily, I know you have reviewed La Dee Da dolls in the past and I wondered if you have ever considered making them more like Pullips by transferring them to Liv bodies. I jave done that wilh two of mine, Dee and Tylia. I have fpund that they look best on Danelia bodies. Also, did they have more BFCs at your Tj Maxx?

  15. I rescued a very sad looking My Life horse from Walmart. Note: Even when an item shows visible damage Walmart will not come down more that 10% on the price because they can ship it back to the manufacturer or warehouse for credit.
    Anyway, the first thing I did was try to fix the mane and tail, but that is all I had the ambition for at the time. Both were as messy as Honey's hair so it took a lot of patience and effort. But you have inspired me to continue the project! Thank you for the inspiration.

  16. I'm very excited to read your series on horses and Madame Alexander comparison reviews. I have 2 of the My Life dolls and a Favorite Friends doll myself and I love them. I don't think Honey the Paradise doll shares a face mold with any of the Favorite Friends though. I really wish I had room to buy one of these horses. I walked around Walmart with one in my cart one day but I just couldn't imagine where I would put it since my house is filled with my son's toys so he had to stay at the store. :(

    1. Aileen, do you by any chance have the Urban Cowgirl Favorite Friends doll? I already asked Emily if she has one. I just sent one to my granddaughter in another state, so I couldn't take measurements to sew clothes for her and haven't been able to find anyone that has one that can provide the information I need. I think the dolls were only made up until 2014 by Madame Alexander. If you can help, I'd appreciate it.

  17. Thank you for another great review! These horses have intrigued me for a while, and I was curious about their articulation. Thanks for the great pictures!
    The one thing I don't like about these horses is the eyes. The eyes on the darker horses are a nice, natural brown color, but the eyes on the palomino (a color I was interested in adding to my herd) are gold-- GOLD!-- and they're both unnatural and a little creepy/staring. Horses only have brown or blue eyes (unless I'm missing something), not gold! Eek! Still, the articulation is cool, and I like the cuddly fuzziness of them. :)

    I agree with Nethilia-- slim MSD-sized BJDs (or similar dolls) work pretty well with horses this size. I have a Hopscotch Hill School doll (an old AG brand) and a Goodreau BJD I recently bought, and they're both an excellent scale with my AG and Our Generation horses (and, since they've both got more articulation, they can ride better, too ;)). Of the dolls you featured, I think I like Lorifina, MiM, and the BFC doll the best on the horses. Merida works pretty well, too, especially if you pretend the horse is a big draft/war horse like her horse in the movie was. :)

    Speaking of BJDs, would you consider doing a post specifically focusing on your BJDs? You've mentioned them a couple of times, and one of them made an appearance in your review of Carpatina's Erin, but I'd love to see more pictures and be "introduced" to them. :) Maybe even a sort of "mini-review" of each? :)

    Thank you for another great review! You put so much work into these, and I really appreciate it!

    --Kate :)

  18. These are gorgeous! Your picture of a MSD sized doll with them was a little *too* inspiring though - (un)luckily it looks like these are hard to get hold of in the UK. :)

  19. Excellent review (and nice job on your new fence!); one of the many things that I enjoy about your blog is the wide variety of dolls and accessories that you cover, including pets/mounts like these.

    I'm also glad to see that you're giving MGA’s BFC Ink dolls another chance. I picked up an Addison from Goodwill for a couple of bucks, about two weeks ago, and, while her joints are a bit on the loose side, I like her. Unfortunately, other than her stud earrings, she was buck naked (which I'm sure didn't look at all creepy when I was carrying her around in my arms in the store). Kaitlin looks really great on a horse, but, out of all the dolls that you tried out, I think Lorifina and MiM look the best, in terms of scale/realism.

    The only toy horses I currently own are a couple of My Little Ponies and a small generic unarticulated figurine from an unknown manufacturer (and a few papier mache equine creatures that I sculpted myself). Larger horses, like the two that you’ve reviewed here, are attractive, but, I wouldn't have anywhere to keep something that big. Maybe toy manufacturers could come up with a way for larger horse toys to fold up, like a Transformer, for easier storage? Like having their limbs, head, and tail tuck up into the body, like a Popple (remember those)?

  20. Amazing review!!!! horses are not my style of "doll" but I really enjoy all your commentaries, specially the ones related to dolls riding the horses. The pictures were just to laugh. When I ride horses, I think I look like Honey: very inappropriate, stiff and not glamorous. I would like to have the style of Kaitlin, but after 3 hours ridding on the Andes Mountain you don't consider glamour like one of the most important attributes. You need the sort of skills to stay on the horse most of the time, instead of looking radiant every time you bit the dust of the trail. Horses make a very good toy for girls. As an adult collector, I prefer dolls, but for certain horses really would be a good item to collect too.
    I enjoy it, I enjoy it, I enjoy it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Omg I have the same horse as you. I have the black one

    - Jasmine

  22. Gotta love horses! i wish they made horses for dolls like this back when i was a kid!

    ps: the photo of how your doll & horse arrived to you cracked me up! hahaha

  23. Jill does have wire in her arms so they can bend

  24. Pretty Pretty pleeeease review an articulated Our Generation horse! Please please?

    1. Hi Beth, I really, REALLY wanted to get this review done before Christmas, but I don't think I can do it! I have to photograph the horses outside because they're so big, and the weather has just not been cooperating! I will definitely do this review soon, but unfortunately it won't help anyone with their gifts this year. :(

  25. Hey, I just wanted 2 know, if there is a doll brand called Doll University cuz I'm hoping to show up Barbie with a brand called Doll Univeristy. So far I've got Hayden, Anna, Nickel, and lot's more! SO?

  26. I bought the exact black horse for my daughter (mouth will not open, leg wraps won't come off) and I was hoping you or your readers would comment on the articulated feet because our horse falls over all the time, the joints collapse. I found an AG horse (Penny) for cheap on ebay and offered it as a replacement, the AG horse did hold the doll without collapsing but my daughter really likes the black one better despite her frustration and so we are going to create some sort of leg brace that will hold the bottom joint firm. If you would like I can send pictures when we complete this solution. Meanwhile the AG horse needs to move onto another pasture.

  27. Hi Emily: I'm a Sasha collector who's become obsessed with getting a horse (or horses) for my dolls, and so I found your blog by googling. Thanks so much for this Paradise review - I've just bought a waif Paradise from eBay after reading it, and I'm awaiting its arrival impatiently (I'm in the UK and the horse is in Oregon, so it'll be a while...). You mention the Our Generation horse in this piece but I can't find it elsewhere on the blog - did you ever get round to reviewing it? I'm thinking of buying one of those as well and/or an American Girl horse; yes, I'm a fool. I know it. I live in a tiny house and haven't really got room for the dolls I've got.

    By the way, that Beltie (which is what they call Belted Galloways in Galloway, where I used to live) isn't a cow...Love, Jocelyn