Saturday, May 4, 2024

Tea with Lena: 1:6 Scale Horses

I have animals on my mind most of the time.  That's in part because I have eleven of them living in my house, but also because I spend my days at work taking care of another hundred or so homeless creatures.  But I also just like thinking about animals, especially horses.  The impressive size and graceful movement of horses has always been spellbinding to me.  Realistic 1:9 model horses like those made by the Breyer company are able to capture a lot of the things that I find so beautiful about horses, and so I've always admired them (and also reviewed them a few times).  I was even more obsessed with Breyer models when I was a kid, and amassed a collection that covered an entire wall of my room.

Back in March, when I wrote the Horse Foal Surprise review, I was reminded of how much I enjoy model horses.  That inspired me to do some investigating into what 1:6 scale horse options are available these days.  And my research turned out to be timely, as you'll see, because of something exciting that happened to Lena.

Lena with Hanoverian Horse by JXK, $130.
Lena invited her sister, Sela, over to the house the other day right after Ian called.  She declared it an "emergency ice cream sundae meeting."  

For anyone new to the drama, Ian is the handsome, athletic data scientist who Lena met while she was on vacation last winter...and he's been calling a lot lately.

Okay, so Ian called to say that he's coming here for a visit!
Oh, my gosh!  That's so sweet!
I know.  But get this: he wants to go horseback riding.  Like, sitting on real horses.
Oh!  Haha.  That's not really your thing, is it?
What would I even wear to sit on a horse?
Just go for it, Lena!  I'm sure it'll be great.
Okay, so Emily.  I'm gonna need some horses.  And a really cute riding outfit.
I was excited about this directive, especially because I'm always thinking about horses.

My first goal was to find a nice riding outfit for Lena.  I thought this would be a fairly easy task, but in fact there aren't a lot of decent-looking riding clothes for Barbie.

Recent riding-themed dolls tend to have permanent pants, like this:

Barbie Saddle 'N Ride set.
It would have been interesting to include the Saddle 'N Ride horse in this review, because the doll mounts the horse automatically, and the horse can move on its own.  But the set is hard to find and the special mounting feature wouldn't work with Lena.  

Here's a clip from the Saddle 'N Ride commercial so you can see what I'm talking about:

The gimmick is pretty cool, but the horse is too small and the rider's outfit is not the right style for Lena.

I started to look at older clothing items, but some of them, like 1994 Horse Riding Barbie, are too garish:

I'm not wearing that, Emily.
I could have chosen a Western style for Lena, by hunting down the 1980 Western Barbie (who winks!):

Are we calling that a wink?
Or taken a more contemporary approach:

I would totally wear that.
But I think the English riding style suits Lena best, so I kept hunting.

I finally found this doll, Horse Riding Barbie from 2000, who has nice jodhpurs and boots, and a simple black riding hat:

There's something very wrong with that cardboard horse.
In person, the outfit is a bit frumpier than I'd like:

The sweatshirt looks cozy, but I think it's too bulky for Lena:

Yeah, no.
Also, what I thought was an underlaying turtleneck is actually just a dickie-type thing sewn to the top of the sweatshirt:

The outfit looks better on Lena than it did on Horse Riding Barbie:

Of course it looks good on me, but I'm still not keeping it.
But the hat is too small:

Gak!  This elastic is choking me!
Lena went to her clothes rack and substituted one of her red crop tops (from Elite Doll World) for the blue sweatshirt:

This is totally me.
And a fuzzy black riding hat that came with one of the horses fits pretty well, with no choking elastic:

I think Ian will be impressed.
With the riding clothes sorted out, I turned my attention to finding some actual horses.

My first step was to see what is readily available on today's market.  I found this nameless Barbie and horse set on Amazon for $26:

That's a very tiny horse.
There are three versions of the set, the one pictured above, one with a blonde doll and the same horse:

And another with a brunette doll and a grey horse:

The sets are available at all of the big chain stores (Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc.) and typically cost between $30 and $40.

The packaging is plain, with very little decoration on the back:

Seriously.  Is that a dog or a horse?
Barbie and her horse are attached to a colorful backdrop with a farm scene:

The doll is pretty, but she has unarticulated elbows and wrists, which is not ideal for riding horses:

And her "pants" are painted pink legs with a few molded creases:

I might steal those boots.
I was only interested in the horse, though (and I guess Lena wants the boots).

The horse does not have a name, so I'll call her Celandine.

Celandine is a palomino, who comes wearing an English saddle and a bright pink bridle:

I wish the saddle and bridle matched.

Celandine has a small head with large brown eyes and a plastic forelock:

She looks like a Disney horse!
Lena's right.  Celandine has the size and narrow head shape that I associate with Disney Princess horses, like this Maximus by Hasbro:

The tack was easy to remove and is made entirely out of flexible vinyl:

Underneath the tack, Celandine has a plastic body with a rooted mane and tail:

You can see her face more clearly with the thick bridle out of the way:

She's cute.
Celandine does not have any points of articulation, but is posed in a casual walking position:

What's wrong with the insides of her legs?
The insides of her legs are hollow at the top, which looks really strange and unrealistic:

No kidding.
There's no detail on the bottom of the hooves, and the contours of the body don't really line up along the midline seam:

This is a cheaply-made little horse, but Lena agreed to meet her anyway.

Hello, little pony.
It took Lena very little effort to get her foot up into the low-slung stirrup:

Don't laugh at me.
I mean, it's hard not to laugh.  All I can think about is something like this:

Gagliano pictured in a cowboy outfit riding a horse at a children's playground

But okay.  It's not that bad:

It's pretty bad.
For reference, a rider's feet should hang down to about the bottom of a horse's belly.  Like this (English):

Or this (Western):

I rummaged around to see what other dolls might fit Celandine better.

Six inch tall Dream Ella mini dolls like Aria are a bit too small:

Dream Ella Extra Iconic Mini riding a Barbie horse.
And the FailFix dolls, at 9.5 inches tall, are too big:

FailFix doll riding a Barbie horse.
So maybe an 8-inch character (like a Cave Club doll?) would be about right for Celandine.  I don't have my Cave Club girls anymore, so I can't check.

Since Celandine clearly wasn't going to work for Lena, I decided to go back to Barbie's roots and look at her very first horse, Dancer:

Dancer came out way back in 1971.  This horse made a brief appearance in one of my Barbie Movie reviews, but I didn't look at her too closely back then.

Dancer is a bay mare who comes wearing a black Western saddle and matching bridle:

That's the wrong style saddle for my outfit!
Dancer has a more realistic head mold than Celandine, but not much detail in her eyes:

The tack was easy to remove and looks really nice:

I like the silver parts.
Dancer has a lightweight hollow plastic body with a molded mane and tail.  She has twelve joints (three in each leg):

She does not have any articulation in her head or neck, but I really like her mold:

She looks friendly.
Dancer has a hole in her belly for a stand that I'll show you in a minute:

She also has some detail on the bottoms of her hooves, with molded shoes and frogs:

In this context a frog is the part of the hoof that forms a triangular shape towards the back of the toe:

For some reason I really like it when horse models have details like this!

Anyway, let's take a look at all of Dancer's joints.  Her elbow joint can move forward, but not by very much.  Also these joints are all old and stiff:

She can't move backwards at the elbow much at all:

Both her knees and her fetlocks can bend backwards but not forwards, which is appropriate:

In the back, Dancer's stifle (or knee) can move forwards and backwards a little bit.  The next picture shows the extremes of this movement, with the left leg extended backwards as much as possible and the right leg pushed forwards as much as possible:

The hock joint allows some forward movement of the lower leg:

And, once again, the fetlock joint can bend the hoof backwards but not forwards:

All of these joints allow Dancer to strike some good action poses.  She can trot:

And canter (sort-of):

I'm not sure I want to go that fast.
And with the addition of her stand, she can do even more.  

The post of the stand inserts into the hole in Dancer's belly that I showed you earlier:

And there's a lever on the base that, when moved, causes the pole to tip back and forth:

The stand also elevates Dancer's feet above the ground, so she's not as restricted in her posing:

I think she's galloping now!

I definitely don't want to go that fast!
Dancer is bigger than Celandine, thank goodness, but she still looks small to me.  Lena had to work a little harder to get her foot into the stirrup:

But yeah.  The fit isn't quite right here, either:

Are you sure?  I really like this one.
I got very interested in Sindy dolls during my review of that brand, and so I decided to explore some of the horse options from that line.

Judging by the promotional photos, the newer Kid Kreations Sindy horse is certainly not going to work for Lena (the redheaded doll is super-cute, though!):

Riding Club Sindy doll, 2021.
That horse looks even smaller than Celandine.
So I went back through the history of Sindy horses and found one from 1978 that is both reasonably sized and well articulated:

Photo courtesy of TreasureTroll65 on eBay.
I wasn't able to find a horse with a box when I was shopping, so I'm grateful to TreasureTroll65 for letting me use the photo, above, which shows the horse, her box, and all of the included accessories.

The horse I bought on eBay came with her tack, some of the smaller accessories, and the fuzzy riding hat that Lena is using (which looks different from the one in that photo, above):

Articulated Sindy horse, 1978.
Sindy horses like this were made by the Marx company and distributed in the United States in the late 70s.  This particular mold is the same as Marx's Johnny West Comanche horse from the late 60s.  I had a few Marx horses as a kid (both articulated and unarticulated) and so this horse has a lot of nostalgic value to me.

She doesn't come with a name, though, just "Horse," so I'll call her Aspen.

Her tack works with my outfit!
Aspen has vinyl English-style tack that is all the same light brown color except for the metallic silver stirrups.  The bridle is unique because it has a bit that fits inside Aspen's open mouth:

Aspen has a hollow plastic body with thirteen points of articulation (three joints in each leg, and a neck joint):

All of the Sindy horses like this that I found on eBay have a common problem: the saddle and bridle have caused the plastic body of the horse to melt at points of contact.

The damage was less severe on this horse than on some of the others that I saw, but you can still see shiny areas of plastic where the bridle used to be:

Oh my gosh!  Poor thing!
Here's the part that was under the saddle:

What happened?
My guess as to what happened here is that the vinyl tack has a lot of plasticizer in it, to make it soft, and over time (especially in a warm environment) the plasticizer migrated into the plastic of Aspen's body and caused the melting effect.

Aspen has a painted mane and tail, and her forelock is white, which looks strange.  I've never seen a bay horse with a white forelock:

It's like the designers wanted to give her a white star, but the forelock was in the way.

Sadly, Aspen does not have any molded detail on the bottoms of her hooves:

You're obsessed with frogs, Emily.
Like Dancer, Aspen is old, and so her joints have become quite stiff over the years.  But I'll quickly run through what they can do.

The neck joint allows Aspen to lift her head up a little:

I had to prop the head in the upwards position with a strip of cardboard because it won't hold that pose.

Her elbows have very little movement, and can only hinge forward a tiny bit:

Did that leg move at all?
The knees have better flexibility, and can bend back to about ninety degrees:

The fetlock joints can bend backwards nicely, too:

In the back, the stifle joint can move forwards a little:

And backwards a little:

The hock can also move forwards:

And backwards:

And the fetlocks can move a little bit forwards and up to ninety degrees backwards:

Overall, Aspen has similar articulation to Dancer, but she doesn't feel quite as flexible--mostly because of the limitations in her front legs.

She has to stick mostly to the same trotting pose.

That's fine with me.
Aspen is taller than Dancer, though, so it was harder for Lena to mount up:

I've got this.
Lena's feet are hanging at about the right level, but Aspen still looks small:

This feels comfortable.
Aspen is a good contender for Lena, but I wanted to look at more horses.

Some of you might remember way back in 2012 when I did a comparison review of Spin Master's Liv horse, Nutmeg, and the Moxie Girlz horse, Cricket.  That was a fun review for me, and I still have all of the Liv horses in my collection.

Moxie Girls Cricket (left) and LIV Nutmeg (right).
In addition to Nutmeg, there was Hayden's horse, Clover:

And Katie's horse, Walnut:

Those in-box pictures of Clover and Walnut are from 2012, but I thought I'd see if my now out-of-box Walnut could work for Lena:

Liv horse Walnut (2010).
I've always appreciated how these horses are so easily recognizable as belonging to the Liv line.  The inset eyes give it away:

They're also a little freaky.
Here's Walnut from the other side, where you can see her body shape better:

She comes with a Western style saddle and bridle, with a colorful saddle pad:

I'm not crazy about Walnut's extra-long mane, because it's not very realistic and the hair fiber doesn't feel good.  It's got that squeaky, high-friction synthetic texture:

And a bad haircut.
Walnut's body is plastic, but it feels heavier than the other horses I've looked at.  She has thirteen points of articulation:

And she has painted horseshoes on the bottoms of her hooves!

But no frogs.
I did a run-through of all the joints in my older review, but it can't hurt to summarize them here, right?

The neck joint allows Walnut to raise and lower her head quite a lot:

I really like it when horses have neck articulation, and this joint has a good range of movement, but the contours of Walnut's body don't line up very well in most positions, so the joint can look unnatural.

Walnut can also move her front legs forward (and a little bit backward) at the elbow:

The knees and fetlocks can bend backward, but not to ninety degrees:

In the back, the legs move forward:

And backward at the stifle:

And the hocks and fetlocks have a small amount of movement:

Walnut does not feel as flexible as I remember these horses being, but she can strike an awkward running pose:

And nice walking...

...and trotting poses (although she can't balance on her own like this):

I braided Walnut's long mane to get it out of the way, and then Lena mounted up:

Okay, this feels like real work.
Lena can't sink down all of the way in the saddle, but her feet are hitting at about the right level:

This is awkward for some reason.
Overall, these two are a decent fit, but Walnut's body looks too short and skinny, and of course her cartoon-like inset eyes don't fit well with Lena's glamorous realism:

The eyes have grown on me, though.
Another horse that I happened to have in the house and figured I could include is the Spirit Riding Free articulated horse by Just Play:

My son and I had a great time watching the original Spirit movie way back in 2002, and I even enjoyed the newer television show, Spirit Riding Free.  I did a few Spirit-themed reviews in 2017 and have continued to keep an eye on any new merchandise.

I bought this horse used on eBay a while ago because of my fondness for the character, and because the articulation looked really good:

Articulated Spirit Riding Free horse by Just Play (2017).
He has the typical Spirit face, complete with eyebrows:

He looks angry!
The eyebrows look especially intense from the front:

I don't think I want to ride this one.
Overall, though, he has a really nice shape, and I like that his mane and tail are molded:

Spirit doesn't come with a saddle (because he's wild) but there's a small rectangular section on his back:

And this flips over to reveal a grip that can hold a doll in place:

Spirit even has great detail on his hooves, but no shoes (again, because he's wild):

More frogs for you, Emily!
It looks like Spirit has a joint at the top of his neck, but this doesn't actually move very much.  It just wiggles, which is confusing:

The lower neck joint moves more:

Spirit has more forward movement in his elbows than anything we've seen so far:

However, I had to lay him on the ground to get that picture, because the joint is too loose to hold its position.

The legs can move backwards at the elbow, too:

Spirit's knees can't quite bend to ninety degrees:

And his fetlocks bend forwards a bit, which is wrong...

And backwards a little, which looks graceful:

I wish that elbow joint wasn't so loose, but the posing options are good.

In the hind limbs, Spirit can move his legs backwards at the stifle:

And at the hock:

I hope he doesn't kick me!
And, just like in the forelimbs, the fetlocks can move forwards:

And backwards a tiny bit:

There's even a joint in the tail, so the tail can lift up and down:

I refuse to count the upper neck as a joint, because it barely moves, but Spirit still has fourteen points of articulation, which is great!

Spirit's size is a good fit for Lena.  He looks impressively large next to her:

His eyebrows scare me, though.
I knew he wouldn't be a good contender for Lena's riding trip, mostly because of his cartoonish look and his lack of tack, but Lena still got to have a quick (and very fast!) ride:

Whoa!  This is actually fun!
Since it was Ian's idea to go horseback riding in the first place, I figured it would only be fair to include the horse from his brand in this review.

As it turns out, though, 1:6 World Peacekeepers horses are hard to find.

I found this promotional photo of a bay police horse:

But I couldn't find that set for sale anywhere.

I did some more digging, and there are apparently a few military-themed Peacekeeper horses, too.
This set is called In Pursuit:

What is happening with that horse's reins?
There's an alternate version of the horse (dark chestnut) with a different rider as well:

I like the chestnut color best.
There's another 1:6 horse called Blitz from a different company that I kept getting confused with the Peacekeepers horses.  If you look closely, though, you can see that it has a different mold (and nicer tack):

Blitz from Dragon's Horst and Blitz set.
I wasn't able to include Blitz in this review because of budget constraints, but he's worth mentioning.

I eventually found a used World Peacekeepers horse on eBay, but he doesn't match any of the promotional photos that I dug up.  He's a light bay, but his saddle pad is a bright burgundy color and he has saddle bags that aren't in the other sets:

He has a ridiculous mane.
He has a cute face with a white stripe, although I agree that his curled, rooted mane looks silly:

He needs a haircut.
I like him best from the right side where the mane is not as visible:

The tack set includes a vinyl Western saddle, imitation leather saddle bags, a lightweight saddle pad, and a bridle that's made out of elastic:

This is one of the largest horses I've looked at, but his hollow plastic body is lightweight and feels fragile.

He has a lot of muscle definition and some dark shading in various places:

Those muscles don't look right to me.
His cheek bone structure is very angular, but I like how he has a little smile on his face!

His head is skinny from the front, especially in the forehead area:

At least he doesn't have angry eyebrows.
And he doesn't have any detail on the bottoms of his hooves:

I think I'll name him Pursuit, since he might be from the Peacekeepers In Pursuit set.

Pursuit's neck joint doesn't have a huge range of motion, but the contours look more natural than they do on the Liv horse:

Pursuit's front legs can move forwards quite a lot at the elbow:

And they can move backwards a little bit, too:

The knee and the fetlock joints both have a bit of backwards movement:

The hind limbs can move backwards at the stifle, but there are no hock or fetlock joints:

Pursuit looks really tall next to Lena!

Hello up there.
I searched around for a photo that shows a dismounted rider next to a horse, to check scale, and this was the best I could find:

The horse in that photo has his head more relaxed than Pursuit, but you can see that the rider's head comes up to the level of the saddle, which is about the same for Lena and Pursuit.  So the scale looks good to me.

That doesn't mean it was easy for Lena to mount up!

I've got it under control.
She looks really good once she's in the saddle, though:

I think Ian will really like this horse.
The last horse that I want to look at is not articulated at all, so it's surprising that I even bothered to purchase him...especially because he cost $130.

In the world of 1:6 scale animals, there's a brand called Mr.Z that I see everywhere (Amazon, eBay, AliExpress, Big Bad Toy Store, Lana Time Shop).  Mr.Z is a Chinese company that makes a wide variety of realistic resin animal models.

I bought one of the horses, a Hanoverian, and was surprised when it came in packaging that said "JXK" instead of "Mr.Z:"

Not what I was expecting.
That big styrofoam box was mailed inside a simple plastic wrapping, too.  No cardboard box.  And I know that Mr.Z animals are shipped in cardboard boxes.

So what the heck is JXK?  Well, turns out it's another Chinese studio that produces realistic resin animals.  And it appears to be a completely different company, judging by the fact that it has it's own menu on reputable sites like Big Bad Toy Store and Lana Time Shop:

I bought my horse on Amazon (he was sold out in most other places) and the listing clearly says "Mr.Z:"

That photo, with the vignetted orange background, is the official Mr.Z studio shot, too, which I know because it appears on reputable retail sites like Big Bad Toy Store:

With a Mr.Z watermark.
And, in fact, you can only find this particular horse listed in specialty shops under the Mr.Z heading.

However, that exact same picture, with the watermark removed, appears on places like AliExpress and eBay, which are attributing the horse to JXK:

I might be making a big deal out of nothing, and perhaps the companies are linked, related, or interchangeable somehow, but it also seems possible to me that JXK is using Mr.Z molds.  Does anyone know for sure?

In any case, since the Mr.Z version of this horse was sold out at my favorite shops, I was happy to have an alternative.

The horse came nestled in the styrofoam, wrapped inside a plastic bag:

The de-boxing was incredibly easy, and the horse made the journey from China without sustaining any damage.  He's gorgeous:

Oh, wow.
Well, okay, he's gorgeous except for the flocked mane and tail, which can look unruly (especially that silly forelock!).

It's still better than Pursuit's mane.
But he's got phenomenal molding, with fur, veins, muscles, and little wrinkles.  I would have gone bananas for this guy when I was a kid!

You're going bananas for him now, Emily.
Look at how the molded hair is going in all different directions.  It's so realistic!

I think I'll name him Orpheus:

Because of Hadestown?
I just like the name Orpheus.

Something that's hard to appreciate about Orpheus from photographs is how heavy he is.  Because he's made out of solid resin, he weighs nearly 3.5 pounds, which feels substantial.  For reference, little Celandine doesn't even weigh one pound. 

Other things are impressive about Orpheus, too:

He doesn't have any detail on the bottom of his hooves, but that makes sense to me, given his weight.  He needs those flat feet so he can balance solidly.

Even though Orpheus isn't articulated, different parts of his personality come out as you look at him from different angles.

He looks alert to me here.
And a little sleepy here.
Here he looks like he just stepped out of a fairy tale!
My pictures don't light up his eyes very well, though, so I took a close-up:

They're glossy, with a dark black pupil and a reddish brown iris.  The shape of the pupil is not exactly right for a horse (it should be more oval) but it looks fine.

I also feel like the eyes are a bit too small.  Here are some real horses for comparison:

Another thing that detracts from Orpheus' realism is that he has two metal hoops, meant to be the edges of a bit, coming out either side of his mouth:

The permanent bit interacts with the rest of the bridle, but it wasn't clear exactly how that would happen at first.  All of the tack came in a jumbled, partially-assembled mess:

I attached the two-part girth to the saddle first.  These pieces are mostly elastic, but they have imitation leather straps on either side that buckle to the saddle:

Oh, cool! Just like a real girth.
It was hard to get the second set of buckles fastened because the girth was stretched tight against Orpheus' belly.

Are you calling him fat?
The length of the stirrups can also be controlled by movable bucked straps:

And the stirrups themselves are made out of metal.

The bridle came in two pieces: the noseband section and the crown piece/browband section.  The two parts attach with working buckled straps that lay along the cheek:

You can do better than that, Emily.
I had to use tweezers to pull the tiny straps through the buckles.  It was not easy!

But once I tightened everything down, the bridle looked good:

Last, I clipped the reins onto the permanent bit, and Orpheus was ready to go!

The stirrups were hanging so low that it was easy for Lena to mount:

I wouldn't say easy.
But once she was up in the saddle, the stirrups were nowhere near her feet:

I shortened the stirrups and handed Lena the reins, and everything works...sort-of:

Lena's feet hang down right to Orpheus' belly, which is good, but he still looks too small somehow.  For example, Lena's head is big compared to Orpheus' head.  And Orpheus' body is too short.  Given that Orpheus was by far the most expensive horse in this review, it's a little disappointing that he's not a better fit for Lena.

But I love how Orpheus' white coat and black tack look with Lena's riding outfit.

I love it, too!
I actually had one more horse that I intended to include in this review, but then I straight-up forgot about him.  He's a Lord of the Rings themed horse by Asmus from 2015:

There's no room in this review for another horse, Emily.
I've had this poor guy in my collection for almost ten years now and have yet to take him out of the box.  He looks to be about the same size as Pursuit, but it's hard to tell for sure.   Maybe I'll do a follow-up review just for him someday.  This post is already too long--as usual.

Here's a lineup of some of the horses from today (I couldn't fit them all together in one shot):

From left: World Peacekeepers horse, Liv doll horse, Sindy horse, Barbie Dancer, Barbie palomino.
You can see that Pursuit towers over the rest of them, although Spirit comes pretty close to his height:

From left: World Peacekeepers horse, Spirit Riding Free articulated horse, Sindy horse.
Here are the two extremes together:

Work Peacekeepers horse (left) and Barbie horse (right).
Celandine is comically small.  I'm embarrassed for Mattel that they made a horse this size for Barbie.  And yet the reviews for this toy are surprisingly good.  Maybe scale doesn't matter to most kids, but I was pretty obsessed with it when I was young...something I never got over, apparently.

Orpheus is about the same height as the Sindy horse, but he has more bulk:

Hanoverian horse by JXK (left) and Sindy horse (right).
Orpheus and Pursuit have about the same thickness in most areas of their body, but Orpheus is shorter...and much more realistic:

Except for the forelock.
I feel like all of the horses who are larger than Dancer work convincingly for Lena, so she had quite a few steeds to pick from!

I ended up choosing Aspen and Pursuit for the horseback riding date.  Pursuit is the only horse that's big enough for Ian, and Aspen has a similar level of realism and articulation.  I think they make a cute pair:

Sindy horse (left) and World Peacekeepers horse (right).
Speaking of cute pairs, right after I settled on good horses for Ian and Lena, guess who showed up at the door?

Oh my gosh! I can't believe you're here!
Hey Lena, it's really good to see you.
Things were a little awkward at first, I have to say.  I think it was partly because Ian had clearly taken a more Western approach to his riding apparel.

I'm dressed all wrong again.
Why didn't you pick that cute pink Western outfit, Emily??
But Lena pulled herself together and made friends with Riker, Ian's dog.

Hi there sweet boy.  Can we be friends?
He's such a cutie!
He doesn't usually warm up to people this quickly.
Lena showed Ian and Riker up to the kitchen:

This is where I hang out most of the time.
Lena offered Ian something to eat while Riker made a beeline for Lena's cat, Bruno:

You must be hungry after your trip.
Bruno wasn't immediately sure what to make of Riker...

But Riker is a good boy.

Meanwhile, thanks to Make-it Minis and Kitchen Littles, Lena had a lot to offer Ian:

Does anything look good?
Ian chose a sandwich and soda, and the two sat down to catch up.

It's strange to be sitting here together.
Very different from the beach.
How's work been going?
I spent last week building a geospatial database using cloud optimized geotiffs, so I can look at my data on a map.
That's cool, but how do you ensure efficient searching across the time domain?
Great question, Lena.  What we have to do is...
Wait a minute.  Where are Riker and Bruno?
Oh, my gosh!  We should have been watching them.
Worried, Lena and Ian ran around the house searching for the furry pair...and then found them on Lena's bed:

Best friends.
Being in the bedroom made things even more awkward for Lena and Ian, though.

So, um, maybe we should head out for our ride?
Sure, but it's chilly. You might want a jacket or something.
Oh, yeah.  Haha.  Good idea.
Ian went back downstairs while Lena changed into a sweater.

He didn't eat his sandwich!  And my clothes are all wrong!
This is a disaster.
I reassured Lena that her clothes were fine and she should try to relax and have some fun.  She huffed at me, but pulled herself together.

I can do this.
Lena's beautiful "all wrong" sweater, by the way, is from a lovely Etsy shop called Alina's Barbie.

While Lena and Ian are getting started on their ride, I'll tell you a bit more about Ian's outfit and dog.

Ian's Western-inspired outfit consists of a pair of jeans, a long-sleeved knit tee, and an imitation leather jacket.  The set came from an Amazon vendor called HiPlay and cost $64.  His hat is a craft novelty (also from Amazon) that cost $1.  His shoes, unfortunately, are the dress shoes from a Click 'N Play set.  I haven't been able to find him many good shoe options, let alone riding boots.  Most action figures have detachable feet, and Ian does not.

Riker is two resin Staffordshire terriers that I thought were from Mr.Z, but are actually from JXK:

Familiar situation.
One of the dogs is walking and the other is sitting, and both have heads with a magnetic attachment.

The sculpting on the dogs is gorgeous and realistic:

Although the paint on the open-mouthed version is not as detailed as I'd hoped:

I wish that there was some color difference between the gums and the tongue, and that the pink color was less bright and opaque:

The promotional photos make the mouth paint look better:

Since my dog is from JXK, it's possible that there's a difference in quality between the two versions.  The dogs aren't cheap ($50), but I'm tempted to order a Mr.Z dog from somewhere trustworthy and see if the paint job is the same.

Let's catch up with Lena and Ian, who have just started out on their trail ride:

It's so beautiful here, Lena!  I didn't expect this.
And you're a pretty good rider.
Thanks!  I've had some practice over the last few days.
Emboldened by her gallop with Spirit, Lena decided to show off a little, and urged Aspen into a canter:

Catch me if you can!
Things got a little out-of-control as Aspen decided she wanted to veer off the trail and leap over a fallen tree:

Be careful, Lena!
But Lena stayed calm and didn't fall off. 

Wow.  You amaze me, Lena.
Lena blushed, and tried to downplay how great that compliment made her feel.

There's a stream just ahead.  See if you can keep up!
Yes m'am.
They raced down the path to a rock-lined stream, then let the horses catch their breath.

Whew!  That was so fun.
There was a fallen tree over part of the stream, so Ian and Lena dismounted and waded out for a little rest.

You like snorkeling, traveling, cats, dogs, horses, there anything you don't like, Lena?
Well, we should talk about the snorkeling.  But I seem to like anything that has to do with you.
I'm so glad you're here.
They cuddled for a while, falling back into the relaxed banter that they'd enjoyed together on Culebra.  But as the sun started to get low, and the breeze picked up, it was time to head back.

So, do you have to drive home tonight, or can you and Riker stay for a few days?
I'd like to stay, if you're sure.
I'm sure.
Bottom line?  I had such a good time looking at 1:6 horses for this review.  Probably not as much of a good time as Lena and Ian had, but still.  There's a nice range of options out there, especially if you're willing to consider used vintage horses on the secondary market.  A common problem across all brands is that the size of the horse is too small for standard sixth scale dolls.  Mattel was the worst offender here, with their comically tiny horse that's literally designed to be used with a Barbie doll.  But several of the horses have a believable size.  Spirit and World Peacekeepers Pursuit are both a good fit for Lena and Ian, and JXK's Orpheus and Sindy's Aspen work pretty well, too.  The articulation is similar across all of the horses (except for Orpheus, of course).  But the original Barbie horse, Dancer, has my favorite articulation in the group--even though her joints have stiffened with age.

This is not an exhaustive survey of 1:6 horses by any means.  In fact, I discovered at least three other promising-looking models that I'd love to review someday.  Maybe I'll do that next time Ian is in town.


  1. This review is so fun!! It’s so cool to see the wide range of doll sized horses available.
    Also, I am so invested in Lena and Ian’s relationship!! Their date was so Cute!! Your photography has so much character !!

  2. I love Ian and Lena together! What a cute romance. Pursuit is quite nice, though I agree the muscles don’t look quite right. I like his size though! I don’t think the scale of horses even really mattered to me as a kid, more so as an adult. It’s funny how every kid has different things that bother them! -Sarah Koala

  3. Thank you for this review! How wonderful! Ian and Lena’s romance is so fun!! Thank you for introducing me to the world of resin animal models! Riker and Orpheus are outstanding!

  4. I'm amazed how much I like Lena and her circle of friends even though I dislike the Lina mould and have otherwise zero interest in photostories. I smiled a lot throughout this review and the date. I love all the little details you put in photos - like how we see Lena rummaging through the fridge while the camera is focused on the pets. Both Ian and Lena are so expressive and cute. Can't wait to see their next chapter!

  5. Love seeing the comparisons between the different miniatures! The romance between your dolls is adorable. Thanks for the review!

  6. It's perfect that you posted this horse review the same day as the Kentucky Derby...was that intentional? So much fun; your photography is amazing. The dog particularly looks convincing, and it really threw me for a minute wondering how his mouth looks open in some pictures and closed in others!


  7. oooohh my god that blue jumper horse-riding barbie brought back MEMORIES. i had her as a tiny horsegirl, and her and ballet star barbie were the reigning queens of my toybox because they were the only ones i had with articulation that let them ride the horses. i had priorities.
    now as a much-less-tiny horseguy, i just lament for how far mattel's horses have fallen... the running arab and champion are honestly some of the most beautiful toy horse sculpts i've ever seen, and now we get poor celadine who looks like banana pudding. sigh.
    ayway we stan lenian <3

  8. Thank You for Wondrful review & photo story! you should definitly consider publishing as comic book! looking forward to more articulated horses review & lena stories!^^🙌🎉💕✨🍀

  9. Oh they are an adorable couple. And thank you so much for this beautiful post. I‘m having my eyes on the Mr Z horse for a long time but he‘s sold out everywhere. Maybe I should check for this company then cause he looks so beautiful :)

    I also remeber that I was obsessed with the Barbie horses when I was a kid in the early 90s. There was a series of three horses, I think Champion (a black one), Diva (a white girly one) and the third one was a western one, I think Lucky was his name. Oh how much I loved them 🩷

  10. i love your horse reviews so much!!!! always loved horses as a kid but never really had that much horse toys, so i'm loving seeing you explore that zone! also your photography is just so wonderful and charming :) even though it's a bit small-scale for you i'd love seeing what you think of schleich horses, they've always interested me but augh.... so expensive....

  11. Riker is such a sweetheart! I'm impressed by his self-control; my parents' dog always wants to shower my cat in affection, which does not endear him to the cat. Is Ian a TNG fan, or is there another story behind the name?

  12. What a fun review!! Lena's running commentary on the horses and all her attempts to mount them were hilarious.

    I really like Dancer, just such a pretty horse overall. The difference with modern Barbie horses is quite comical, though (and maybe also a little sad). The Liv throwback was great. Their horses are probably my personal favorites, besides the JXK/Mr.Z one. That one straight-up looks like they miniaturized a real horse! The two Rikers also look fantastic. As you know, I'm very much into Schleich. I have a soft spot for realistic animal figurines. So when I saw the Mr.Z animals, I have to admit that I immediately started Googling to see if they ever made guinea pigs. It seems they have made one, yes, but it's half human and kinda freaks me out! I'd rather wait for them to release a 100% furry potato ;)

  13. I loved, loved horses as a kid, so whenever I get a TBP horse review, it's a good day! What a range these have, I'm glad there are some options that are appropriately sized. That used to bother the heck out of me as a kid. It's sad to see where Barbie horses started, vs where they are now. Horse girls deserve better Mattel! Even in the 90s, while they were too small, I know my barbie horse had a nice action sculpt that I loved. I thought she was beautiful.

    Orpheus is gorgeous, my lord, that hair detail! For all that attention to detail, it's a pity he's too small for what the scale is meant to show. Part of that might be due to Lena being stylized, but still.

    Lena's commentary as someone new to horses and riding was great. I. Glad she and Ian had such a lovely day, you tell their stories so well. :)

  14. Emily, this is such a fun review! I could just imagine you creating the story line and okay, admit it, playing with your horses. Good thing you explained the dog, because he /they were really cool. —Mn Girl

  15. Ooh, what a fun review! I went through a phase as a kid where I was really into 1/6 scale horses, and my favorite was the barbie 1994 High Stepper Horse! it's battery operated and can walk, but i usually didn't have batteries in - i just found the articulation really cool, because i had never encountered other articulated horses. But it seems like there are a lot out there! It's fun to see the range that exists.

  16. I really enjoyed the review. The story line made it extra fun. I spent some time a few years ago trying to decide what horse to get for my mini American girl dolls. I suspect that the Breyer traditional horses would suit them the best since the dolls are 1:9 scale. I wound up with Lori doll horses since they came with dolls I wanted. They seem small to me. I'd love to hear what you think.