Wooden Horses Have Breeds, Too!
by Sara Light-Waller
Published in HorsePlay magazine. [Click here to see a PDF of this article.]
Word count: 604
When I was a little girl, long before I had a horse of my own, my favorite steed was an orange-and-white pinto with flashing teeth and wild eyes and a mane so long and tangled I could wrap my fingers around and through it. This horse was born in 1920, and lived on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. He lives there still. His color hasn’t faded one bit. He, or perhaps she, is a carousel horse.
Everyone who’s ever ridden a carousel has a favorite horse. Before the music starts and the carousel ride begins, everyone rushes to get to his or her favorite first.
But did you know that your special carousel horse has a breed, just like a real horse?
Most carousel horse breeds are named for the original carvers or carving companies that produced them. Each breed has distinguishing features, just like real horse breeds. With a little practice, you can learn to tell them apart.
Parker horses look like they’re flying through the air. Their legs are stretched out, front and back. Their compact bodies are often much smaller than other carousel horses. The most exciting Parker horses have manes rising high above their necks, like a cresting wave.
Stein & Goldstein horses are the largest of them all. They can be 12 hands high, the size of ponies! They look much less delicate than other carousel breeds; in fact, though they don’t have feathered fetlocks, you could say that these are the draft carousel horses.
Dentzel horses, a famous breed, have roached manes and a unique bridle headstall. it looks like a wide ribbon, running over the head, through the bit ring, and then over the head again nearly a quarter of the way down the horse’s neck. These headstalls are almost always decorated with flowers or other ornaments.
Muller’s horses are similar to Dentzel horses, because the Muller brothers carved for the Dentzel factory for a long time. Mullers are best known for being very realistic, all the way down to the tack, which can even include cavalry sabers and old-west style pistols strapped to the saddles. Mullers have beautiful, expressive, often wild-looking faces.
Illions horses have the look of race horses during a race. Their eyes are wide and their manes windswept; their heads are either thrown up in surprise or straining against the bit.
Loof’s horses have the most gentle and happy-looking faces. Some have closed mouths, and many like they are smiling.
Carmel horses have a sense of humor, they are the only carousel horses to have their tongues sticking out the sides of their mouths. Carmel horses are frequently covered with bright jewels.
Dare’s are some of the oldest carousel horses in the country. (In fact, there are only two dare Carousels left.) Dare horses are simple and small, and look like old-fashioned rocking horses. They have real horse-hair manes and tails and leather ears, and some have separate soft leather saddles.
The PTC breed is diverse because the PTC company had many different carvers over a long time. Most PTC horses, however, have shields on their shoulders or behind their saddles which say ‘PTC’ in elaborate letters.
Many books describe the different carousel breeds in more detail. If you are interested, look for them in your library.
The next time you visit your favorite merry-go-round, look closely at the horses, and try to identify their breed. If the carousel is old, there will probably be a sign nearby telling who carved it and when, so you can see if you’ve guessed right. Is your favorite a Dentzel or a Loof? Good luck!