My China Horses

When I was a child, I wanted a horse more than anything in the world.  Unfortunately, I spent the first eleven years of my life living in a city with no horse stables in sight, so I knew that the chances of getting a horse of my own were slim.   I learned to make do with the china horses I purchased from the local variety store each time I saved enough of my weekly allowance.  Eventually, I collected a whole herd of little horses that were proudly displayed on a bookshelf in my bedroom.  Sometimes I made the mistake of trying to play with them, but they were so fragile that the play sessions usually resulted in a “thinning of the herd.”

We moved to rural Kansas when I turned eleven, and I was thrilled to finally get my first real horse.  Gypsy was beautiful, but she wasn’t particularly nice, and it wasn’t long before she had me thoroughly intimidated.  Luckily, we were able to sell Gypsy and buy Tony, a sturdy Welsh pony whose goodwill and common sense allowed me to learn what owning and riding my own horse was really all about.  Eventually, I outgrew Tony and got Prince, the world’s most wonderful horse, whom I loved and enjoyed until his death seventeen years later.

I kept my collection of china horses, displaying them for years after I had acquired a real horse.  I even took a few of them to college with me, where they stood on a shelf above my desk.  If my friends thought it was odd for a college woman to decorate her dorm room with horse figures, they were kind enough not to say so.  The horses (not made of china, I finally realized, but probably ceramic or porcelain) still broke easily, so I lost one or two each time I moved them.  Later, when my husband and I set up our first home together, I finally packed away the last of the herd in a box marked “keepsakes.”

I think it was about five years ago that I first saw a tiny horse figure in an antique shop, just like the ones I used to collect as a child, and I bought it.  Then I unpacked the four horses I had left in my keepsake box and placed them, discreetly, on the bottom shelf of the TV stand in our bedroom.  I have since found a few more horses for sale in shops where antiques and collectibles are sold and brought them home to join the herd.  Last year, I boldly moved them to the top of the bookshelf in my bedroom, where my husband has learned to tolerate them.

IMG_2422They may look like a group of cheap horse figurines, but to me, they are so much more.  They remind me of my childhood dream of owning a horse, and of how that dream actually came true.  They remind me that dreams don’t always match reality, but that if I can find the courage to persevere, sometimes reality is just as good, if not better, than the dream.

I have come full circle now, once again living in a large city where owning a horse isn’t practical.  So once again, I am making do with my little collection of “china” horses.  Only this time, they are more than enough.

(Many thanks to Greg over at Almost Iowa  for the writing prompt, “My Stuff.”)

74 thoughts on “My China Horses

    • I doubt that many people have a shelf full of ceramic (china?) horses in their master bedroom, but I do because of the special memories they evoke. Thanks for your comment, and even more so for your understanding!

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  1. So sweet Ann. I went to riding camp in PA for many years. I loved horses too and finally got some ponies, then horses many years later as a grownup living out my childhood fantasies. The only problem was that they really turned out to be glorified lawn ornaments and I was, by then, too old to really ride them (with a family to raise and a very demanding career), and having utterly no knowledge of equines at all!! But it was fun, until it wasn’t so we found good homes for them all!! xoxo

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    • It really was, Peter, once I learned what horses are really like. I think the trick is to keep an open mind, and be willing to adapt reality to the dream. I am so glad I finally got to have a horse, even if it didn’t go quite as I planned. Because the reality really was better!

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  2. Lucky you, you were able to own horses!

    I had plastic horses. I loved them. I used to get one for my birthday or Christmas. I don’t know what happen to them, but I know I eventually grew tired of dusting them, so I got rid of them.

    I bet, if your husband has not actually voiced it, I bet he actually likes them (he doesn’t just tolerate them). I bet the loves them because they bring you joy!

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  3. This reminds me of my daughter’s shelf, filled sky high full of all sorts of ceramic horses. She’s followed her dream and is now working on a farm but it’s proving to be hard work. Success never comes easy does it and often our dreams and reality don’t quite match up. But it’s always worth peserverjng. Lovely post Ann.

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    • I’m so glad your daughter was able to follow her dream with horses! It may not be exactly what she thought it would be, but good for her for sticking with it. She will discover so much more about herself and about horses, and be an even better person for it. Thanks for the comment, Miriam!

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  4. Seeing your herd brought back memories. I had a china horse and colt too as a stand-in for the horse I wished I could have owned. As a city kid, I finally got to ride at a stable when I was 11. I never owned a horse, but I still like horses.

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    • Yes, these china horses, and books about horses, and the occasional ride at a stable help a lot when you’re a city kid who is mad about horses. If we hadn’t moved to a rural area, I never would have had a horse either. It’s just to expensive and difficult when you live in a city to find a place to board a horse, and even then, the horse is usually no where near your home.

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  5. It’s funny how some small things from our childhood can make us feel like we can still touch our earlier selves. For me, one of them is my Dad’s change keeper. You know, those little oval-shaped rubber things with the slit in the middle that would open up to reveal the coins when the ends were squeezed. Anyway, when I got a good report card, my dad would open that up and give me 50 cents (which could buy a lot of candy in those days). I keep that change keeper in my desk drawer, and when I look at it, I’m 10 again.

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  6. What a fabulous story!

    I always wanted a horse too. Now I own a pasture but when I considered getting a horse, a neighbor put me straight.

    “If you buy a young one,” he said,”it will live to be thirty, do you have that much time? If you buy an old one, can you care for it when you are both too old to care for anything?”

    Hmmmm.

    Hey, thanks for responding to the My Stuff Writing Challenge

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    • Yeah, isn’t it fun to have reached the age where our choices in pets (and other things) are dwindling? Not to mention that if we get thrown from a horse, which does happen from time to time, our bones are so much more likely to break. But maybe you can get a middle aged horse, and that would be the perfect balance?
      And the thanks go to you for the writing challenge prompt! I really enjoyed writing this one.

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    • Hello 🙂 … am here via Almost Iowa and have loved your story. You may be right that most folks don’t have a collection of very fragile horses on a shelf, but many of us other things. Mine is elephants, some ‘china’, a couple of jade, one wood and two in some form of metal. I love them as much and have never had an opportunity to know a real one personally — perhaps I will. I do love “hephalumps”.
      Ha! I have also loved Almost Iowa’s musings and haven’t previously said so, I really must now. 🙂
      Thank you for this memory; it is a heartwarming one. ~ Mame

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      • I think elephants would be a wonderful collection! My Aunt Mickey always loved elephants, and even looked into sponsoring one at the local zoo, but it was far too expensive. (Sponsoring entailed paying for a year’s worth of food, and elephants eat a lot.)
        I agree that Almost Iowa is a wonderful blog: humor and insight all wrapped up in one! Thanks so much for your comment!

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  7. It is amazing how much certain things become near, and dear, to us. Much because of the energy and dreams we invest them with. It can be baseball cards, miniature cars, train sets or horse figurines. When we look at them occasionally, the years fall away and we become that child again who first gave them love. Beautiful story.

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  8. Growing up, I lived on a ranch and we owned many horses. I love my horse Geronimo. I learned young responsibility. I too now live where I cannot have a horse even though much of the area is rural. I have many memories of riding my horse in the orchard behind the house. it was a nice place to spend a Saturday. thank you for your memories.

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  9. I can relate to your story on both points – horses and keepsakes. I longed for a horse as a girl, but lived smack dab in the middle of an industrial town. My first boyfriend boarded a horse in the country, so … say “hey” to Big Swede – my wonderful grey gelding. I loved him to bits, and used to dream about him. He and I had a connection (I’m talking about Swede, not the boyfriend!)
    I understand the appeal of icons, or tokens, or some small thing that takes on the emotional essence of your attachment to who or what it represents. I’ve move many times over the years and each move involves a certain amount of purging. I’d always test my reaction to throwing out something that was still in a box. If I wasn’t ready to let it go, I moved it with me.
    Thanks for the follow, by the way – I look forward to reading more.

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    • There is something so special about the connection we develop with our horses, isn’t there? I have kept very few keepsakes from my childhood, but the horses bring back so many memories that I have hung on to them, and now display them as well.
      Glad you got to have Big Swede in your life! And I know what you mean about deciding what boxed items to keep and what to throw out. Some things are worth moving with us. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. What a beautiful story of dreams come true. I, too, wanted a horse as a child. But my father said horses only ate the hay intended for the cows, thus no horse on our farm.

    When my second daughter was a preschooler, she developed an affinity for horses. She drew horses and collected horses, a collection which now fills a tub in my basement. Some day, when she has space in a home, she will need to claim these and perhaps, like you, display some of them on a shelf.

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    • Thanks for your comment! I’m sorry you were never able to have a horse of your own (it was a stroke of luck that I was able to), and I think that’s interesting that you passed your love of horses to your daughter. I bet she may decide to display her collection again. I’m really glad that I did!

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  11. I collected rocks. They were much sturdier. 🙂 Fun post. My wife has quite a collection of small things. Most of them live in her office. We had special shelves made for them. I came over from Almost Iowa. –Curt

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  12. I’m so glad you have displayed them again, Ann. It’s important for us to remember the little girl, teenager, twenty-something, etc. that we were, because she is all a part of who we are. Yoga is one of m passions, though I don’t practice it or study it anywhere near as much as I used to in my heyday, but in my bedroom I have hanging on my wall a small painting of a cross-legged young women and the text says, “Yoga Girl”. We need these reminders, I think, so good for you!

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    • Exactly! I’m so glad you have that wall hanging of yoga! We do need to remember who we are, and where we came from, and I believe that is what those horses are for me. We do change as we grow, but we should never forget who we were, or where we came from, because that is an integral part of who are now.
      Dang, Kim, I really can’t say how glad I am to have you back!!!!

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  13. The brown one in the way back looks exactly like one of the ones I had. I think 3 were the most I ever had at once, breaking them as well whenever I tried to play with them. My one experience with a real horse petrified me so that ended that. Now dog figurines……….I still have one on my bureau, along with some Beatrice Potter figurines, Inuit……I’m just thinking now that I wonder what my husband thinks.

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  14. I always love the way you take moments or times in your life and apply them to lessons learned or experiences. I also love that you took these keepsakes to college with you and didn’t care what anyone thought.
    What means so much to us is what makes us who we are, whether it’s a life experience or a small dream in the form of a horse.
    Nice post, Ann. As always..:)

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    • Thanks, George! And that’s exactly why I have decided to display my horses again, after all these years. I finally realized that what you said is true–they represent a part of who I am. And there comes a time when we stop trying to conform and just own who we are!

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  15. Pingback: My Gray* – The Zombies Ate My Brains

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