Who Doesn't Love a Stuffie?

comments: 11

Pho_stuf_mickie_lg In the midst of our recent decorating binge, I went through our shelves of personal photos last month. On top of the neatly arranged albums I made when I was in my photo-album phase was a plastic grocery bag filled with odds and ends that had gotten left out, somehow -- handfuls of childhood photos, high school embarrassments (remember the Disc camera?), and absolute piles of pictures of my horses. Model horses, that is. Posed realistically in puddles, in leaf piles, next to tiny twig fences, wearing felt horse blankets and pleather bridles. On the back of each picture, in my curly-cued 7th-grade handwriting, were the names of the horse, her "sire" and "dam," and her stable (Autumnbrook Farm, i.e. the Ieronemo residence).

For those of you unfamiliar with the  secret world of model horse showing, you aren't alone. I personally have never met anyone in real life who had this same obsession (what else is new, for me), but what you do is take pictures of your model horses, and then send them to another horse-crazed girl across the country who is having a "show." The horses are entered in "classes," where they "perform" against other (often the exact same) Breyer model horses -- meaning, that girl looks at the pictures and decides which picture she likes better, I guess, since like I said the horses are often exactly the same. Then she sends your pictures back to you with some, often homemade, ribbons. I still have a few of my ribbons, which are cross-stitched by hand to say "First Place" alongside a cross-stitched picture of a horse. Amazing. Who made these? Where is she now? We would probably be fast friends, I think.

But this was back in 1981 or so, when I lived in a constant state of horse-craziness (though I didn't have a real horse) and pen pal mania (I did have pen pals -- many pen pals). All day long, in school, I drew pictures of horses and wrote letters, mostly full of made up lies about myself -- I had a twin sister and a puppy, was a ballet dancer, was from the Isle of Man (I have no idea where I got this idea -- I'm sure I barely knew where the Isle of Man was, but I told people this a lot, for some reason). Not one of these was true; in reality, of course, I was only a fantasist, and horses occupied most of my imagination -- and imaginary horses occupied much of my reality. I cantered home from school each day. I was pleased when my parents built a new red and white garage, because it looked like a barn. I knew exactly how much it would cost for us to keep a horse "at grass" and rattled off long catalogs of facts about Pony Club (which of course no one I knew had ever heard of, this being suburban Chicago). My parents stared at me nervously -- where did I get this one, and when was it going to end? I stomped my hooves. I shook my mane in disgust. What was wrong with everyone? Why couldn't we move to the country?

Lots of girls fall in love with horses. I haven't thought about it in a long time, but I'm sure there are dozens of dissertations out there analyzing this special obsession particular to teenage girls, and maybe even to city girls. But I know that part of my own love for the creatures had everything to do with their sweet, soft noses blowing oat dust into your hand, their sad eyes so earnest and willing, their impossibly soft-but-hard ears flicking toward the slightest breeze. I loved the velvet whiskery-ness of their noses the best. I had read somewhere that you should always stroke a horse's face the way you would stroke a bird, and I did this, wandering up and down the aisles of the riding school where I took lessons, softly petting each and every old beast waiting at the gate. The physical reality of horses still makes me cry when I'm around them. I've never gotten to own one; although I rode them in lessons for many years I've always lived in urban areas and I've never been rich. But to this day, whenever I see a police horse on the street downtown, or a pony in paddock on the side of a highway, I get a actual jolt of love and longing that rivals anything I've ever felt.

Well, sniff sniff. All that said, who the hell doesn't love a stuffie. We city dreamers take it where we can get it.


what an amazing post! I love it! and isle of man?! wonderful. really wonderful. and i love reading about the horse shows and homemade ribbons-have you thought about short stories with this? i am so happy you have this blog!

Oh, I feel the same way - I had horse mania too when I was a girl. I still point out the horses when we go past paddocks in the car, even stating to my boyfriend which breed they are sometimes... It's the old fascination blended with melancholia, I guess. You're right though, we have to take it where we can get it!

i think this is one of the most beautiful posts i have ever read.
thank you.
my partner & i talk about girls & their horses. it is so interesting.
"wanna play horsie,?" was something heard on the playground.
i would love to see your collection of photos, ribbons, memorabilia.
i never knew girls did that!
so cool.

Love your post. I had to laugh the other day when the Wisteria holiday catalog arrived at our house; the front cover says, "My favorite season - even if I never, ever got that pony." I didn't have the pony/horse fascination but several of my younger sisters did, so I have a vague familiarity with this world you talk of.

Heather in Seattle says: November 09, 2005 at 10:35 AM

This was a great post! I remember exactly what you were talking about with the horse "shows" - I did the same thing and remember little newsletters that were put together with info about things to trade etc. Sometimes I think my knitting and craft blog obsession has replaced that secret model horse world in my life. I love the crafty blogs since they give you a whole world to peep in to, the way I was trying to with horses who I created whole lineages for. And neither obsession is really shared with the people in my daily life.

The horse obsession is still with me too, I still take riding lessons once a week, and when I found an old Breyer model set - mare and foal in some boxes from my parents' house, I held on to it for a long time until just last week I finally gave it to the 5-year-old daughter of one of my best high-school girlfriends. It had to be a really special and imaginative little girl who I gave that gift to! Especially since the foal was still wearing the tissue paper leg wraps that I made for it as a kid - complete with one blue stripe at the top and one blue stripe drawn in at the bottom with a felt tip. The barn colors, you know.

I was left wondering what horse books you read as a kid...

Fun post!

I enjoyed your entry. I too was horse obsessed when younger but never got to ride. My daughter became horse obsessed but we have been able to first provide a pony, then a horse for her. Her pony will soon be leaving to retire at a friend's home in So. Carolina and I will really miss him.

I just found this post from your recent one. I never heard of the "shows" you talk of...but my a best friend and I would have loved that! We too used to canter around...we set up jumps in her backyard. And we took riding lessons in at a stable called Peacock Ridge in Crete, IL. We're a little older than you, but you weren't alone cantering around the suburbs! LOL And I thought we were the only ones!

Susan Belcher says: August 28, 2008 at 04:09 PM

I love reading about your obsession with horses. I have a niece with the same obsession. I want to knit her some blankets, etc. for her model horses. Any suggestions regarding where to find patterns or how to make them up? Thanks

I lived in the country with horses. My dad had two, a buckskin and a quarter horse, Rick and Mark respectively. He would never let me ride them because he quick working them. I would spend hours out there holding imaginary conversations with them. There was a riding club down the road from us, I would spend summer afternoons and evenings watching them compete.

My point, Country girls have fantasies too. We don't all get to have beautiful majestic animals. I ended up spending most of my time with cows. LOL

Sorry... that's suppose to be "quit working"... *blushes with embarresment*

OMG! I must have started this as I'm sure I'm older than all of you and at the time I did it my peers thought I was weird and no one would play with me. I grew up in Chicago and when I was 13 we moved to the "burbs"..Roselle to be exact. I pretended I was human from the waist up (the rider) and horse from the waist down. I even had a riding crop (stick) and would hit myself with it! I am laughing so hard right now I can barely type....because it that stick hurt but I did it to make myself, I mean the horse, go faster. I know EXACTLY why the other kids didn't want to play with me now! LOL! Maybe we should start it up again!?!?! Wouldn't that be fun??? But I'm not going out in my yard anymore.

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at aliciapaulson.com