Celebrating antique rocking horses

  • An Oxfordshire antique dealer is holding an exhibition of rocking horses to celebrate the 25th anniversary of a local antique dealers’ association from 11-25 October.

    Greenway Antiques of Witney is featuring a wide variety of moving wooden toy horses, ranging from small pull-along cobs with tip-carts and the rare Victorian tricycle horse to the classic dapple grey rocking horses dating from around 1800 to the mid-20th century.

    The horses come from private collections and reflect differing manufacturers’ styles, especially the two top firms of the Victorian and Edwardian era: FH Ayres and G&J Lines.

    Of particular interest are variations in the shape of the horses and the type of tack used, for example, the inclusion of removable pommels — of a style used on real saddles prior to 1830 — to enable ladies to practise riding side-saddle.

    “From the 17th or 18th century these toys gave children an introduction to riding — antique rocking horses usually lean to the near side, showing that they were mounted correctly,” says antiques dealer Jean Greenway.

    “They are also beautiful objects in their own right, and are once again popular.”

    The predominance of dapple grey as a colour for painted wooden horses is said to have developed after a visit by Queen Victoria to a rocking horse workshop. When asked to try out a rocking horse, she picked a dapple grey to perch on, and the rest of the nation followed her lead.

    But dappling is seen on many earlier rocking horses, so it may have been favoured for its attractive patterning or because grey colouring supposedly indicated a placid temperament.

    For more information about the exhibition, contact (tel: 01993 705026).

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