Like most girls of elementary school age, I went through a horse phase (preceded by a dinosaur phase). My horse phase just happened to continue all the way to sixth grade, when most other girls had abandoned it for different obsessions. I did take riding lessons at one point, but by that time my social awkwardness was gaining speed which made it difficult to be in a class with older kids. It was also in the midst of another phase in which I hated pants. Skirts and dresses don’t work well for riding, and the ranch wasn’t the type to keep a sidesaddle hanging around.
As a very young child, the first wave of My Little Ponies were hitting the stores. My parents recorded the first tv special on VHS (technology baby!), “Rescue at Midnight Castle” for my siblings and I to watch. That first special actually did a good job of closing the gender gap as it had pretty singing and dancing ponies, as well as dragons and an evil overlord who looked like a centaur crossed with Satan.
So, of course I had the toys. The baby ponies were my favorite, followed by a winged one that was fuzzy. I had a Sea Pony too, which I eventually convinced my mom to let me keep her in the tub BECAUSE THATS WHERE SEA PONIES LIVE! We had to compromise in the end. The sea pony lived in the tub, but became a bath only toy. No taking her out for living room adventures, or outside in the sandbox.
The Gem of the My Little Pony universe had to be the first tv special. It was a masterpiece of 80’s animation, complete with lame jokes, a human child (teen?) meeting a fantasy creature and following it without question into an entirely different world, and a demon centaur with his pack of dragons. Just another day in the life of a girl in a vest, and her talking pony friends. I miss cartoons where a bad guy is just a bad guy, not just misunderstood and in need of a friend. Sometimes a villain just wants to plunge the world into eternal darkness without a complex backstory.
No need to take it from me, you can enjoy yourself thanks to the powers of YouTube! (And rainbows, always rainbows)
As the pony obsession waned, and I learned to read, I started collecting Breyer horses based on my favorite horse books. I had a few favorites. There was Misty, and her foal Stormy. I know I got them at Kiddie World, which is an oddly specific memory. I also remembered that they smelled like bar soap. I may or may not have even licked one to see if they tasted like soap. (It didn’t.)
My other favorite was a set from Black Beauty. Merrylegs was always a hit, because, come on, his name is MERRYLEGS! I had a cartoon version of the book (though I didn’t read the books, multiple times ) in which all the horses had English accents. Merrylegs had the best voice in the entire movie. He was jolly and friendly, and was in everyone’s business. I get his first line stuck in my head all the time, “Helloooo there! My name is Merrylegs! And who might you be when you are at home?” Which isn’t random at all.
Then there was the Black Stallion. The horse who rescues a boy from drowning after a shipwreck, they eventually gain each other’s trust on a remote island, culminating in a scene where the boy finally rides the horse with exciting music in the background! Then they get recused, and Mickey Rooney teaches the boy how to ride, then race. I wasn’t so into that half of the movie. I much preferred the part on the island. (If you skip to the 7 minute mark in the video you can watch the riding on the beach part I was so fond of.)
Finally, in 4th-5th grade, a new style of girly horses came out. I’m not even going to describe them, you just have to see for yourself:
Magnificently awful, aren’t they? I had a whole shelf of them, including the teenage versions that came out shortly after the adult ones. I had the yellow one (my 4th grade self would have insisted that she was a Palomino), as well as a green on, and I think the purpleish/silver one in the ad. I think I had a pearly white one too. My mom sewed some outfits for them, including legwarmers that I thought were the coolest ever. I think my Barbies rode them sometimes, with their unbendable legs sticking straight out.
There were other horse themed things of course. Books, a stuffed Clydesdale I named Feathers, riding lessons (I wasn’t very good at it.), and my grandparents taking me to see the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions when they came to town.
Kids may go through phases growing up, but I knew how to commit. I’m just lucky my family went along it!