Hobby horses

Published 8:23 pm Friday, September 14, 2012

Walter stands by part of her extensive collection of horses.

Walter stands by part of her extensive collection of horses. (PHOTO BY ROBBYN BROOKS)

Walter’s collection tops 3,000

When Linda Walter was only 18 months old, she ran away from home.

Her parents found her down the street chasing a horse-drawn milk wagon.

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For Walter, that was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with horses.

Her dad, the late Ed Walter, was a professor and her family always lived in an urban area. As a child, she never had the opportunity to have a “Black Beauty” of her own but that only spurred Walter’s interest in horses.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by horses. I started collecting model horses when I was about 6 years old,” Walter said. “I still have the head, neck and back of my first model horse and I have, Mouse, the gray horse I bought nearly 40 years ago at the dime store here in Troy. There’s nothing special about those two except the emotional attachment that I have to them. But, I have an emotional attachment to many of my model horses because of the memories associated with them.”

The memories are about as many as the model horses that fill four rooms, bottom to top, in Walter’s home.

“I’ve collected every breed of horses and models of every material,” she said. “Collecting model horses is what I do. It’s what I am.”

Walter had more than 3,500 model horses at one time but has reduced her collection to about 3,300 or more.

“I realized that it was time to let go of some of my horses. It’s not easy to do. I just closed my eyes and said, ‘You can go.’ And, ‘yes,’ she said with a smile, “I’ll probably find others to take their places. I’ve been collecting for years, for decades. I don’t see how I could stop.”

Although Walter’s collection tops 3,000, she said in the world of model horse collecting, her “herd” is relatively small.

“Some collectors have 15,000 or more,” she said. “I know of one collector who added a wing to her house and turned her collection into a model horse museum. Model horse collecting is huge and, not just here in the United States, but around the world.”

Each year, about 5,000 collectors come together for BreyerFest at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. And, Walter is right there among them.

“I’ve been going to BreyerFest for about 20 years and I’ve made my reservation for next year,” she said. “I don’t want to miss it.”’

Walter has a large number of Breyer model horses in her collection. Breyer is the oldest maker of model horses and hosts BreyerFest, a three-day festival that features horse performances, meets and greets with the horses that inspired Breyer’s portrait models and, Walter said, most importantly, a trade show.

“The trade show is fabulous,” she said. “I can’t describe what it’s like to be there. I look forward to it all year long.”

In addition to the Breyer’s trade show, model horse collectors open their own trade shops at their hotels.

“They’re called great room sales,” Walter said. “You put out the model horses that you want to trade or sell and open the door and your shop is open. People come, look around and buy and trade. When you want go shopping, you close your door and go from room to room, and there will be hundreds of rooms. You always take a note pad and pencil to keep up with rooms where you find a model horse you might want to buy or trade for. It’s a lot of fun and you meet people who have the same interests as you.”

Each BreyerFest is themed and this year’s theme celebrated the London Olympics and was called the “British Invasion.”

“I don’t have favorite models but one that is very special is a model that I bought in London in 1971,” Walter said. “It was a Beswick and I saw it in the window of American Express and I said, ‘I want that horse.’”

Walter named the horse, Alconbury Hill, for the college where her dad was a professor and she remains “emotionally attached” to it. “My favorite breed of horses is Appaloosa because no two are ever alike,” she said. “So, I have a lot of Appaloosas in my collection. I have models from all the major makers and I have some of what I call junkies that are caricatures. I have china and porcelain models and I have cloth and cast iron models. I have model horses that were made in small garage shops and I have models that were made in the USSR. Some of my model horses probably aren’t worth a dime, and then, there are some that I wouldn’t sell for any amount of money. And I love them all.”

Although Walter said she probably should keep one thought to herself, but it’s probably not a thought unlike others might have. “I have one model horse that I would like to be buried with me,” she said. “Some people might think that strange but, these model horses have been such a part of my life that I think it would be appropriate. For me, it would be quite all right.”