Blast From The Past: Unboxing Vintage Barbie Horses!

Yep, I’ve done it. I committed the unpardonable blogging sin and didn’t publish anything for four whole months. Not even for the holidays! How deplorable. This no doubt marks the end of my promising career as a writer. Perhaps I should just give up?

Just joking! Tink and I may take a break every now and again to deal with life’s random curveballs, but we’ll always return to share our mini craft projects and adventures😉.

There is, however, one tiny dilemma. Where do we pick up after our brief hiatus? Should we open our ever-growing stack of Mini Brands? Finish the pair of doll boots in my sewing kit? Start papering the newfangled doll room I’m working on?

Ooo, Tink is right. These poor horses have been waiting months to be unboxed. I’d say they more than deserve their freedom. Besides, I need to get those big boxes off my table. They’re taking up valuable real estate!

But maybe you’d like to know why I bought the horses in the first place?

A Little Backstory:

You see, my sister and I are on a quest—a quest to re-collect some of our favorite childhood playthings. While she tracks down Barbie princesses, I’m on the lookout for iconic ’90s toys, like Fashion Polly, Pound Puppies, and various model horses.

Yes, I’m the loon who spends $40 for a handful of microscopic kitty figures!

Right now, I’m mostly focused on model horses since horses are as integral to my miniature world as they are my real one.

Yep, my plastic stalls have housed everything from majestic Breyers to gorgeous Grand Champions. Even obscure Star Hill ponies were welcome.

And, naturally, my dolls rode each and every one of these tiny equines. I’m sure they looked pretty ridiculous at times since size accuracy wasn’t at the forefront of my nine-year-old mind. I had 200+ models that needed exercise, for heaven’s sake!

Nowadays, though, I’m less apt to pair an 11″ Barbie with an 8″ Grand Champion; thus, I began searching for a better 1/6 scale steed. Surprisingly, this led me back to the old-style Barbie horses that once graced my mini pasture.

Brushable Beauty Barbie Horses.

Technically, Breyers are 1/9 scale and a bit small for Barbie. Take a peek at the photo below:

See what I mean? Standing next to Petra, Rain and The Black look more like plucky ponies than full-sized horses.

Don’t get me wrong, my dolls will continue riding Breyers, but it’d be nice to have a horse better suited for Barbie, and it just so happens that those made by Mattel between 1970 and 2008 fit the bill.

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce our newest horsey companions:

Sparkle and Sunflower!

Brushable Beauty Barbie Horses: Sparkle and Sunflower.

This post is my opinion only. I realize there are other more realistic 1/6 scale horses on the market. I’m just partial to Barbie horses and not bothered by their cartoony features. They’ve got flair!

I hope y’all don’t mind Elsa and Fiona helping out today (rumor has it they’ve already claimed the horses for themselves).

Over the years, Mattel has created dozens of Barbie horses. The two I have here are called Brushable Beauties. They were released in 1999 and originally retailed for around $10, but of course their value has increased since then. I ended up paying $115 for Sunflower and $55 for Sparkle (shipping was free. Yay!). That may sound steep, but it’s actually pretty reasonable considering NIB Barbie horses can fetch over $200.

Collecting Tip: Brushable Beauties tend to be more affordable than other vintage Barbie horses.

It’s been forever since I unboxed a model horse, so I’m chompin’ at the bit to open these (no pun intended😉). But before we cut the tape, let’s check out the packaging.

The Boxes:

The boxes are fairly plain, so there’s not much to say here. They have a large window at the front, giving us a good view of the horse. The rest of the cardboard is dark pink with light pink and orange stripes.

We see Barbie’s logo near the bottom, plus a short description hyping the horse’s long, beautiful mane. Off to the right is the title of the series (Brushable Beauties), followed by the mare’s name.

Then, on the back is a wide picture showing all the horses in the collection: Dixie, Willow, Sparkle, and Sunflower.

Dixie (Bay), Willow (White), Sparkle (Grey), Sunflower (Black).
Meet The Mares:

Here are Sparkle and Sunflower straight out of the box:

  • Pink Western Tack.
  • Hay.
  • A curry comb.
  • A Mane & Tail brush.
  • A silver trophy.
  • 4 pink barrettes.
  • 2 show ribbons.
  • Brown English tack.
  • Carrots.
  • A curry comb.
  • A Mane & Tail brush.
  • 2 sunflower barrettes.
  • 4 flower ribbons.

Besides brushes, ribbons, and treats, we have an instruction manual showing how to unwrap the horses, fasten their tack, and attach the hair clips.

The mares have thin layers of plastic wrapped around their necks, bellies, and one foreleg (the raised one).

Unwrapping their tails and legs and pulling the sheets from under the saddles was a cinch (whoops, another unintended pun🤭). The manes, on the other hand, were trickier. They were sandwiched and sewn between two plastic strips. This kept the hair straight but was a pain to take off.

According to the instructions, you just tug the thread to release the mane, but I resorted to scissors because the thread kept breaking.

I’m afraid the grooming tools will get lost (or eaten by cats!) while we’re admiring the horses, so the dolls and I are putting them in this wicker trunk until we’re ready for them.

That should keep them safe!

As you can see, Sparkle and Sunflower arrive fully tacked up:

Sparkle is decked out in hot pink Western gear, and Sunflower sports brown English tack.

Here is a closer look at Sparkle’s saddle:

It has a geometric-floral theme, with roses and zigzags covering the seat, skirt, fenders, and seat jockey. Barbie is printed on the sides, and there are two huge loops at the front for…well, I’m not really sure. Massive D-rings, maybe?

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Those are the most illogical stirrups I have ever seen (not to mention unsafe).

I’m guessing Mattel chose this design believing it would keep the doll firmly mounted. Still, I’d rather have something that somewhat resembled a stirrup, wouldn’t you?

Moving on, we have Sunflower’s lovely English saddle:

Between the two, I like this saddle best. Its chocolate brown color reminds me of leather, and the molded piping and stitching are similar to those on a real English saddle. There are even little D-rings and rivets embossed on the pommel!

The girth (or cinch for Sparkle’s saddle) fastens under the horse’s belly by sliding the notched section on one side through the plastic buckle on the other.

The bridles are pretty much identical. Both are decorated with rows of piping and sculpted buckles. The only differences are color and the motifs on the headstalls.

The bits hang below the mares’ muzzles, so it looks like they are wearing hackamores rather than bitted bridles.

Growing up, I thought this was neat since the pony I took lessons on wore a hackamore.

The bridles’ braided reins look fabulous. Unfortunately, they are extremely stiff. Getting the dolls to hold them wasn’t easy!

Overall, the tack is okay. I like the well-defined accents and hardware, but the unbending reins and ridiculous “leg brackets” are hard to ignore. Again, I’m not expecting 100% lifelikeness here (that’s Breyer’s forte), but every horse-crazy girl knows what saddle stirrups look like and that they’re for supporting your feet, not clamping down your legs. I can’t imagine this being a popular design.

Do the loops keep the doll in the saddle? Let’s find out—Elsa, hop on Sunflower and stick your legs through those circles.

She’s tied to the horse alright, but I wouldn’t say she’s firmly seated.

Nonetheless, giving up is not part of my vocabulary, and I’m determined to find a way to fix this mess. But that’s a project for another day. Back to our Beauties!

For having stood in a box for over twenty years, Sparkle and Sunflower are in decent shape.

They feature one of Mattel’s most popular molds: Classic Arab. Barbie horses with this sculpt are posed mid-trot and, like the elegant Arabians they’re named after, have big expressive eyes, dainty faces, and arched necks.

The mares are roughly 10 ½” tall to the tip of their ears and 7 ½” at the withers (aka shoulder blade).

Traditional Breyers stand around 8″ to 10″ to the tip of their ears, so Sparkle and Sunflower are taller than Breyer and slightly closer to 1/6 scale. At least, that’s the way I see it.

Sparkle is dapple grey with black points and a white mane and tail.

I don’t see any yellowing on her, which is fantastic. Light-colored models tend to yellow as they age.

Sunflower is blackish with brown highlights and a jet-black mane and tail.

I do see a few blemishes on her neck and body.

Honestly, I don’t think these scars were there when I unboxed her. It often takes me a couple of days to finish a photo shoot, so it seems she got in a scuffle somewhere between me unboxing her and taking these pictures.

Whatever the case, I want to fix those marks, but I’ll have to mix a custom color because straight black won’t match her body.

After playing around with various, I ended up with a concoction of blacks, browns, and chestnuts.

(Ignore the medium gray. I never used it).

For the mark on her neck, I dabbed on a bit of black, let it dry, then patted in some Java brown. Afterward, I brought back the highlights by drybrushing the area with a teensy bit of chocolate brown.

The streak on her haunch was harder to hide. It took 3-4 very thin coats of alternating chocolate brown, toasted pecan, and cinnamon to match her shading. Finally, I sealed the repainted sections with a few sprays of Tester’s Lacquer so my work doesn’t rub off.

Not to brag, but I think I did a fairly good job erasing those imperfections.

Sorry about the cat food cans. I needed something to prop up my backdrop, and they were easy to reach.

Now, let’s have a look at those lengthy manes. We might as well grab the brushes and barrettes too. I have a feeling we’re going to need them.

Although the blurb on the box sounds like a marketing gimmick, the mares really do have long, silky manes.

Each one comes with a round curry comb and a long-handled Mane and Tail brush.

Fiona is right. Curry combs loosen dirt from a horse’s coat, while toothier Mane and Tail brushes detangle knotted manes and tails (hence the name).

But Barbie horses are different, being plastic and all, so our dolls can use their tools however they wish.

Excellent idea, Elsa! Braiding is great for mane maintenance. I often braid my horse’s mane to keep it clean (it’s a lot harder for mud to get caked in her hair when it’s braided😉).

Here are the mares, all braided and fancified with their flower and ribbon hairclips:

Elsa gave Sunflower basic three-stranded braids, whereas Fiona was a bit more extravagant with Sparkle’s coif.

I was hoping the horses’ barrettes would hold their hair, but it appears they are more for decoration than securing tresses.

So, the dolls and I simply tied the braids with clear bands, then clipped the barrettes to slivers of the mares’ manes.

I doubt I’ll use these barrettes again. They’re just too flimsy. The only one I plan to keep is Sparkle’s rosette. I like its resemblance to a classic show ribbon and think I can replace the weak clasp with a stronger one.

The rosette isn’t Sparkle’s only award. She also comes with a shiny silver trophy.

All these prizes make me think she is some sort of champion sport horse.

Freestyle Reining, is it? Interesting choice.

The mares would probably like a tasty pick-me-up after all that grooming, so let’s go ahead and give them their treats:

Sunflower came with a bundle of carrots, and Sparkle has a small flake of hay.

The treats are plain plastic pieces. No magnets or hidden mechanisms to make the horses “eat” them. That is okay, though, because my dolls are more than happy handfeeding their beauties!

Re-introducing Sparkle and Sunflower to my miniverse was such a fun experience. They bring back so many happy memories!

The only difference now is that Sunflower belongs to Elsa instead of Vitameatavegamin Lucy😆.

It doesn’t matter that they’re not the most realistic toy horse on the planet. I wasn’t looking for photorealism this time around. I just wanted cute horses that were slightly larger than Breyer for my dolls to ride.

The tack needing a major overhaul isn’t a problem either. In fact, modifications are already underway!

Notice the newly sewn saddle pads?

The last thing I need now is another project, but making tiny saddles and bridles sounds so exciting! I may even throw in some blankets and boots.

Oh yes, we’ve got to have halters!

I wanted a few pics of the dolls and horses on the farm, but it’s been cold and rainy all week, and trekking out into the drizzle for a handful of overcast snapshots doesn’t sound appealing. So, I’m going to try bringing the great outdoors inside.

Lucky for me, a beautiful forest just arrived in the mail!

It’s my Christmas gift to me!

This is a bonafide doll photography backdrop. I’m slowly replacing my foamboard backgrounds, and this winter scene from Tiny Frock Shop caught my eye.

The image is about 17 ¾” across, which is a little narrow for landscape shots, but I’m willing to compromise for those enchanting, snow-covered woods.

Through The (Miniature) Wardrobe
Now it’s your turn!

What’s your favorite Barbie companion animal? Do you prefer vintage Barbie pets or modern-day ones?

Feel free to drop a comment, and we’ll be back soon with more crafts and unboxings! (Probably an unboxing. Tink really wants to open those Mini Brands!)

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Unboxing Vintage Barbie Horses!


  1. The horses are lovely! I absolutely adore Fiona’s dress!

    1. Author

      Thank you! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who likes them. I’m usually a fan of hyper-realism (especially when it comes to horse-related toys), but these classic Barbie horses will always have a special place in my heart.

      Yes, Fiona’s dress is one of my favorites too. In fact, I’m working on a second one to possibly sell—just need to finish the bodice.

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