Sunday, March 17, 2024

Sunday Surprise: Horse Foal Surprise by Breyer!

Well.  These past two weeks haven't gone quite how I'd planned.  I've been working on a vintage fashion doll review, which is one of my favorite things to do, so that's been fun.  And I was pretty much on schedule, too, but then as I started to write the review, I hit a snag.  The problem is, my research into the brand made me realize that I was missing at least one, and probably two, important iterations of the doll.  So, I bought some more stuff and am waiting for it to arrive.  The delay shouldn't be too long, but it's been a while since my last review, so I decided to dig up a Sunday Surprise for you today!

As many of you know, one of my lifelong passions has been horses--especially Breyer model horses.  My blog friend Rebecca Z certainly knows this about me, and so a few years ago she suggested Breyer's Horse Foal Surprise sets as a possible review topic.  These sets include two Stablemate (1:32 scale) Breyer horse parents, and a mystery foal.  The really cool thing is that, according to the Breyer website, the foals are supposed to have some genetic realism, meaning that they have coloring and markings based on the combination of their parents.  Horses, surprises, and genetics?  I could not resist.

Horse Foal Surprise Set by Breyer, $9.99.

The sets come inside small window boxes, with the mystery foal concealed tantalizingly behind a bright red barn-like compartment in the cardboard backdrop.

The back of the box has photographs of all three sets in the series, with little silhouettes to represent the mystery foals:

Looking at the different options on the box prompted me to search the internet and see what other sets have been released over the years.  This took some digging, but based on what I pieced together from promotional photos and old eBay auctions, there have been eighteen sets in total, and they're often referred to with numbers.  Not, incidentally, the "Set 1," Set 2," and Set 3" numbers that appear on the back of this box, but different numbers that I'll go through here.

Here's the actual Family #1, with their mold names, for reference:

Andalusian (upper) and Paso Fino (lower).
This is Family #2:

 Standing Stock Horse (upper) and Peruvian Paso (lower).
Here's Family #3:

 Drafter/Vaulting (upper) and Belgian (lower).
Families #1, #2, and #3 were released in 2012.

I found pictures of Families #4, #5, and #6 on the back of this box on eBay:

The molds for #5 are Warmblood (Appaloosa) and Belgian (leopard spotted), #4 is Tennessee Walking Horse (chestnut) and Walking Arabian (dun), and #6 is Rearing Andalusian (black tobiano) and Cantering Warmblood (bay roan).  This group was released in 2013.

Here are Families #7, #8, and #9:

The molds for #9 are Reining (grey dun) and Dungaree (bay), #7 is American Quarter Horse (Appaloosa) and Icelandic (dark flaxen chestnut), and #8 is Hanoverian (black) and Driving (chestnut pinto).  These were released in 2015.

This is Family #10:

Rivet mustang (upper) and Drafter (lower).
Here's Family #11:

 Valegro (upper) and Arabian (lower).
And this is Family #12:

 Andalusian Stallion (upper) and Running Mare (lower).
Families #10, #11, and #12 were released in 2018.

The horses on the back of my box are actually Families #13, #14, and #15:

The molds for #13 are Cantering Warmblood (dark bay) and Walking Thoroughbred (palomino), #14 is Quarter Horse (black) and Warmblood Mare (dun), and #15 is Loping Quarter Horse (dark bay tobiano) and Mustang (chestnut).  They were all released in 2021.

Sets #13, #14, and #15 are available on Amazon, but you can't choose which one you want.  I ordered two sets and got two of the same.

There's also a newer (2023) group of horses that have family names instead of numbers.  These are the Elegant Pastures Family, the Radiant Hills Family, and the Sunset Ridge Family:

The Elegant Pastures molds are Irish Draught (grey) and Indian Pony (bay), Radiant Hills is Paso Fino (dun) and Standing Thoroughbred (bay tobiano), and Sun Ridge is Stock Horse Mare (blue roan) and Morgan (palomino).

Figuring all of those sets out took me forever, but I loved every minute of it.

I'm tempted by several of the families (and very curious about those foals!) so I checked on the current availability situation.  From what I can tell, families numbered 10 and higher are pretty easy to find, but below that the sets have been retired and can be elusive or more expensive.

As somebody who collected these horses back in the 80s and 90s, I was also interested to see that some of the larger 1:9 Traditional models have been translated into smaller Stablemates!  I was especially happy to see the Indian Pony mold in miniature, since that has always been one of my favorites.

Here's an example of a traditional size Indian Pony:

And here's the Stablemate:

It's hard to tell which is the 1:9 model and which is the 1:32, right?  There's a bit less definition in the smaller horse, I guess, especially in the face.

I'd love to have a matching set of a Traditional horse and its Stablemate mini me!  And there are some sets like this--and with the Indian Pony no less!

Woodstock Indian Pony with Stablemate (woodgrain finish).
But that lovely pair is way outside my price range right now.

Anyway, I'm drifting off topic here!  I can't really afford to fall down the Breyer horse rabbit hole at this point in my life, and I know it's right there waiting for me.

I was really curious to see how accurate the color genetics are with the Horse Foal Surprise sets, but horse genetics are complicated!  I browsed several websites and got overwhelmed by all of the different genes and color terminology.  I even tried to decipher visual aids like this:

That took forever, but I loved every minute of it.
But I quickly got lost.

Finally, I stumbled on a horse coat color predictor, which is perfect for this review!  So let's use that to check the accuracy of some of the sets, shall we?

I won't show too many examples here, since these are supposed to be surprise toys, but I'll look at a few combinations.  Like, how about Family #8, with the black Hanoverian and the chestnut pinto:

What kind of baby will you have?
Looking at this pair, I filled in the horse coat color calculator to the best of my ability.  

Here are the predictions for crossing a black horse with a chestnut overo (overo is a pattern of white spotting):

I'm not sure I perfectly understand what a "frame overo" is, but this gives us a basic idea of the possibilities.

And the actual foal is, drumroll...

A bay overo!
There was an 18.75% chance of that, which is pretty cool.

Let's do it again with Family 11!  These parents have very different coloring:

That's a dappled grey Valegro and a chestnut tobiano mustang.
Grey is a tricky horse color to navigate.  Grey horses are born darker, and then get light over time, so it's critical to know what color the horse was as a foal.  Since there's no way to know this with a plastic model, I turned to Wikipedia for a picture of a baby grey horse:

Looks black to me.
So, I did a chestnut tobiano (tobianos have white markings that span the middle of their back) crossed with a grey, where the grey horse was black as a foal...if that makes sense.

There are a lot of different options here!

Breyer could have pulled pretty much anything out of their hat for this foal, but they chose...

A very cute black tobiano!
Not gonna lie, this game got pretty addictive for me.

Let's do it again:

I chose this set because of the blue roan mustang.  Roan colored horses are really beautiful.  

A dark bay crossed with a blue roan has these options:

Bay and bay roan are the clear favorites here, and sure enough, we got a gorgeous bay roan!

Gah!  What a cutie!
I won't play any more genetic games, but there's one more family that's worth mentioning.  It's Family #4:

This handsome couple have a pale palomino baby most of the time (and yes, crossing a dun horse with a flaxen chestnut can yield a palomino), but a few lucky collectors got the treasure hunt prize version of the foal, which is metallic gold!

Very low genetic probability.
I like the palomino baby better, actually, but it must be fun to get one of the rarer foals.

Anyway, enough with the promotional photos.  It's time to look at the real horses!  As a reminder, here's the set I bought:

Horse Foal Surprise Family #14.
The name of this line is a little weird.  "Horse Foal Surprise" feels Ken-like in its redundancy.

Horse Equine Steed Foal Filly Colt Surprise!
Why not just Foal Surprise?  Or Mystery Foal Surprise (also redundant) as the sets are sometimes called?

Anyway, the boxes open from the top, and the top of the barn-like compartment is exposed, so I had to be careful not to peek in and ruin the surprise too quickly!

The parent horses are mounted against a green and blue cardboard backdrop:

And tied in place with three wires:

I'll take a careful look at the two parents before I reveal their surprise baby.  As a reminder, these are the Warmblood Mare (dun) and Quarter Horse (black) molds:

Warmblood Mare (left) and Quarter Horse (right).
The Quarter Horse is really striking:

I especially like the detailed face and muscular withers:

Here's the other side:

The Warmblood Mare is also lovely, with her unusual color and flowing mane:

I like her little white star:

And the shading all over her body:

She even has a dark stripe down her back, which is typical for dun horses:

The paint might look a little basic, especially for a Breyer horse, but that's because the Stablemate models are really small.  The average height is about 3 inches.  Even Lena thinks they're tiny:

Oh, what a sweet couple!
Here's the thing, though: Breyer horses are anatomically correct, and the two parents in my set are both mares:

And one has way better hoof detail than the other.
That's fine, but it makes predicting the color of the baby a little tricky.

But you know I'm going to run the color predictor again anyway, right?  Yep.  Here are the possible outcomes for a red dun and a black horse:

I like to think I know a lot about horses, but I'll admit that I had no idea what "grullo" is.  Turns out grullo (or grulla) is also known as black dun or grey dun, and is super-beautiful:


Anyway, these parents, who I've named Tapioca and Nocturna, were very eager to see their baby!

I flipped the backdrop around and the foal, who comes packaged inside a clear plastic bag, was immediately visible:

Ta da!
It's an adorable little bay Trotting Foal:

And bay was one of the more likely color options, too, so Breyer is really nailing the genetics here.

Breyer foals aren't gendered, so I'll declare this little one to be a colt named Orion:

I love his saucy trotting pose and the jagged stripe down his nose:

And his upturned tail is so cute!

Here's Orion with Tapioca:

And with Nocturna:

Orion looks too big to me next to his moms--especially next to Nocturna.  I feel like a foal should be smaller, so I looked up some pictures for reference.

Newborn foals certainly look smaller than Orion:

And this is about the size difference I picture when I think of mares and foals:

But there are older foals who still look very babylike (with short manes and tails) and are about the size of Orion:

So maybe Orion's size is fine?

In any case, I was so smitten with this Horse Foal Surprise set that I wanted more!  However, as I mentioned, the second set that I bought from Amazon was a repeat.

However, way back when Rebecca first told me about these toys, she also mentioned that there were unicorns involved.  And, sure enough, there's another line of similar figures called Unicorn Foal Surprise.  So of course I had to have one of those, too:

Unicorn Foal Surprise set, $9.99.
The presence of these toys makes the Horse Foal Surprise name more understandable; the word "horse" is included to distinguish those sets from the unicorn variants.  Ken-like redundancy complaint withdrawn.

There are three different families shown on the back of the box, and again, the foals are represented with generic silhouettes:

These groups have family names instead of numbers and the molds are as follows:

The Windswept Family includes Morgan (white) and Magnolia (blue).
The Enchanted Family includes Walking Thoroughbred (blue) and Prince Charming (silver).
The Celestial Family includes Connemara Mare (gold) and Walking Arabian (blue).

Once again, I scoured the internet to see what other sets have been made over the years.  I came across three other groups for a total of 12 sets.

Here's one group, released in 2020:

Set 1 includes Alborozo (blue) and Magnolia (purple).
Set 2 includes Warmblood (pink) and Morgan (green).
Set 3 includes Warmblood Stallion (pink pinto) and Clydesdale (white).

The second group has family names and is from 2022:

The Moonglow Family includes Connemara Mare (green) and Walking Thoroughbred (lilac).
The Seascape Family includes Alborozo (blue) and Prince Charming (pinto).
The Earth Fire Family includes Warmblood Mare (yellow and red) and Walking Arabian (appaloosa).

I like the mix of realistic horse colors and fantasy colors in the Earth Fire and Seascape families.  I got curious about those babies and had to look a few of them up.  The Earth Fire baby is my favorite:

An Appaloosa unicorn!
The last group is from 2023 and includes some very bright characters!

The Citrus Valley Family includes Connemara Mare (pink) and Morgan (orange).
The Moonlight Coast Family includes Walking Thoroughbred (silver) and Magnolia (blue).
The Lilac Meadow Family includes Warmblood Mare (Pink) and Fireblood (dark).

Some of the photos in that picture are misleading.  For instance, the darker unicorn in the Lilac Meadow family looks black but is actually purple.  I had to hunt down a real-life picture:

They're very pretty!
And their foal is adorable, too, but I won't spoil that surprise.

One thing I noticed as I was hunting down all of the unicorn sets is that the mold repetition is much higher than it is with the Horse Foal Surprise toys.  For example, Morgan and Magnolia are each used three times--as are several others.  It makes sense, though, because Breyer probably didn't want to convert all of their Stablemate molds into unicorns.

All right, but what about the set I bought?  Let's see what foal this lovely unicorn couple have:

I'm a fan of coloring that at least hints at something realistic, so I prefer the rearing Connemara mare in this set, with her vaguely palomino coat.  The blue and gold on the Arabian is not as attractive--or maybe the paint job just isn't as good:

I love that the mare is the more animated member of this pair, though.  She's fierce.  I'm going to call her Aurora:

Aurora is mostly a palomino, but she has metallic gold shading here and there that's really pretty:

Her sculpt is amazing, by my horse has a molding defect in the mouth:

There's a bubble of plastic between her lips:

The defect is unfortunate, because otherwise she's a perfect mix of fantasy and realism.  And she certainly brings the drama:

The stallion in this pair is more mild mannered.  I think I'll call him Calanus.

Calanus has a graceful shape with gold tinges in his mane, tail, and horn:

The blue coat has an iridescent shimmer, too:

What kind of foal would this pair have, do you think?  We certainly can't rely on horse genetics to figure it out.

If I had to guess, I'd say they'd have a mostly metallic gold baby, based on Aurora's golden coat and Calanus' copper mane.

But what happens when you mix yellow and blue?  You get green.  So maybe they have a green baby?

Let's find out...

Not green.
It's a beautiful sapphire blue baby!

When I was a kid, I didn't like the laying down molds because they were hard to play with.  But as an adult, I can appreciate how lovely this little one is.  And her color is stunning.  She has to be named Sapphire.

Sapphire is a little flat on the bottom, but I guess that's understandable.

Look at this cute family!

Aurora looks surprised at the color of her baby.
I bought one more Unicorn Foal Surprise box and was fortunate this time to avoid a repeat:

The Enchanted Family.
I really love the parents in this set!  Their colors are very pretty and they also go well together:

The silver unicorn's gold horn stands out a bit, but otherwise they look great.

The stallion in this pair is the Walking Thoroughbred:

I like his casual walking pose and shimmery coat.  I think I'll name him Abalone.

He's very skinny from the front--especially in his face:

But he has really great detail:

The horn seems a little off on this guy, as it does on several of the unicorns.  I realize that the horns were added on to existing Breyer molds, but I wish they were a bit more detailed--either with more molded swirls or some painted texture.  I think the horns could also be a bit smaller, although that would put them at a greater risk of breakage.

The mare in this set is Prince Charming:

I love her coloring.
Prince Charming is a funny name for a mare, but that's what somebody decided this mold should be called.  

I'm going to call her Nautilus:

She's a gorgeous pearlescent grey with some purple tinges.

Her horn and hooves are gold.

Nautilus' eyes look blank, and I'm tempted to go in with a fine paint brush and give her some white reflective dots:

There are some artists out there who paint absolutely amazing custom Breyer Stablemates.  I've spent a lot of time browsing this site in particular, and it really gives an idea of how the models can come to life with some better painted detail.

She needs some light in her eyes.
In any case, Abalone and Nautilus were very excited to meet their baby!

I'm picturing a creamy body with a blue mane and tail, which would be very pretty.

Instead, we found...

A bright purple colt with a golden horn!

He's so cute!  He's my favorite baby so far.

So confident.
I really like how the gold horn and hooves go with the purple coat, and this Standing Foal mold is adorable.

I can't think of a seashell that's purple (except for the inside of a clam, I guess), so I'll name this fellow Garnet.

Garnet gemstones are often red, but sometimes they're really close to the color of this baby:

A garnet
Garnet looks like he's sniffing the breeze, getting ready to scamper away:

And even with his blank eyes, his face has a ton of character:

Here's the Enchanted Family together one more time:

Bottom line?  I haven't done a horse review in a really long time, so this was a fun dalliance for me.  I didn't pay much attention to the Breyer Stablemates when I was a kid; I much preferred the larger Traditional models.  But looking at this group, I can appreciate how a lot of the detail and realism of the larger models is present in these tiny horses.  The factory paint detracts from their realism somewhat, especially with the unicorns, but they're still a wonderful way to appreciate horses on a smaller budget.  Of the two different kinds of set that I looked at today, I prefer the regular horses to the unicorns, mostly because of the more realistic colors and the accurate genetic element.

So, Rebecca, you got it just right: horses and surprise babies, with a bit of genetics sprinkled in adds up to pretty much the perfect toy for me.  Thank you!


  1. Have you ever heard of a horse breed called the Akhal-Teka? It's a Cental Asian horse that is quite rare, but notable for its extremely shiny coat. As in, almost metallic, so that they can look like actual gold or silver. Black ones are especially striking, as their coats often look purple or blue in the sunlight.

  2. Super cute. The surprise foal is a fun use of the blind box gimmick. I loved horse figures as a child, maybe even more than dolls. As an adult I definitely prefer posable toys. I think that single-pose figures were durable and expressive in a way that suited my childhood games very well. These are very well done. The unicorn colors are so random but I suppose they would have magical genes!

  3. I am so amused by the fact that they put so much research into horse genetics only to mess up the sex of the parent horses.

  4. The horse genetics and the fact that they kept getting it spot on was so interesting! The goals are so cute. I love Garnet’s model! He looks curious and inquisitive to me.

  5. Maybe Aurora is chewing some gold bubblegum :D

  6. Eek! I'm so excited I've inspired two reviews! (I'm Becky'sTwinn and the Kitchen Littles review was my suggestion also.) I had wondered if the horses would ever put in an appearance on the blog! :-D

    Rebecca Z aka Becky'sTwinn

  7. A Sunday Surprise and horses, perfect to read on my commute! Seeing you pull up the genetics was some fun science nerdery added to the surprise too, and if course, we support lesbian mare mommas on this blog. Life, finds a way.

    I wonder if the blue baby would be like a grey horse, and his colour would change over time?

    I have an artist alley to prepare for again soon, so thank you for all the colouration inspo! I can use this on dragons, unicorns, horses, heck, let's see what else!

  8. I always appreciate it when you get into the history of a brand/previous releases before the actual review. Some of this information must be so hard to piece together for interested (beginner) collectors, and will become even more obscure as time passes.

    Anyway, as you know I have a small collection of animal figurines, mostly Schleich. I'm actually not too familiar with Breyer horses and their different models (nor am I good at picturing the differences between scales), so you can probably imagine my surprise and amusement when I got to the scale comparison with Lena! These are so tiny and cute, and incredibly detailed for their size. I think the lovely molds help with that.

    The paint choices for the unicorns are all very pretty and striking, but for some reason I feel like the super realistic molds clash a bit with the fantasy elements? Some do really just look like a regular Breyer horse spray-painted in a funky color with a horn slapped onto them. I think I prefer the Schleich Bayala line for unicorns and other fantasy creatures. In any case, thanks for opening my eyes to the Breyer brand with this fun review!

  9. This was a great suggestion for you! I love all the genetics and coloring information, and was surprised to see how small these really are. When you mentioned only a few molds having been given a unicorn horn, it got me thinking what some of the others could have looked like. Somehow a unicorn draft horse doesn't hit the same.
    And now I'm intrigued about what vintage doll you're researching...

  10. Hey! I'd love to be able to get in contact and send some pictures regarding my new composition doll I got. I think it's dimples but it has eyebrows and eyelashes and I believe shattered glass eyes. I've been looking for days but I'm so confused.

  11. It's always a dicey proposition getting on to read your blog, because I frequently end up purchasing something that I've read about here. But it's so much fun that I'm sometimes willing to take the chance. Reading this post netted me a unicorn secret foal set, and Neptune the Unicorn. I've never been much into unicorns so I guess I'm heading into new territory. Thanks, Emily!