Saturday, February 20, 2016

1:9 scale hunter seat equitation: doll basics

When it comes to riding, all dolls are not created equal.
Unaltered, original finish Breyer dolls have terrible hunter seat equitation
The biggest problem is the stiff, plastic boots. These make it impossible for the doll to properly flex his ankles. 
Even a stylist like George Morris can't make these boots work.
Fortunately, it's fairly easy to remove plastic boots and replace them with a pair of custom tall boots
Look at the difference this makes! This doll's heels aren't way down, but the increased ankle flexion has greatly improved his leg position. Unlike George, he looks secure in the saddle.
Of course, the best rider dolls come from our hobby's many wonderful doll artists. With their polished clothes and clever body modifications, these dolls look and ride better than any unaltered Breyer doll.
Still, even the best  dolls need help to ride well! Here are two really nice huntseat dolls by two of the hobby's best doll makers (Joan Yount and Sheri Wirtz). The male doll is standing with straight arms and legs and his head facing forward. He looks stiff and doll like. The female doll has been posed with her left leg forward and slightly bent, her torso and neck turned and her hands on her hips. All these little adjustments make her look much more natural and human.
Similarly, if you put a stiff and straight doll directly on the horse...
 you're probably going to end up with something that looks like this.
I find it works better to position the doll before I put her on the horse. Because it's much to straighten than to scrunch, I tend to exaggerate the pose.
Heels down! 
When everything is where I want it to be, I place the doll on the model, squishing her seat deep into the saddle.
I  put her feet in the stirrups and the reins in her hands. Then I step back and take a good look at the overall picture. From there, it's usually just a matter of a few small tweaks.
Compare this picture to the earlier version. The doll's hip, knee and ankle angles are much more appropriate for her chosen discipline. Additionally, she is sitting in the deepest part of the saddle and her eyes are looking in the direction of travel. Before, she looked like a passenger. Now, she is riding.
Stay tuned for the next installment of 1:9 scale hunter seat equitation! I will delve more deeply into the specifics of rider position.


  1. I knew that rider dolls had to be tweaked and corrected before being performance-ready, but I wasn't sure about the details. This hobby is full of minuscule details and alterations, it's amazing how good some people are!

  2. What a wonderful article!
    It's good to see Snickers out and about :) I just can't get over how cute she is!

  3. This is a good series, I hope you can cover how to work with unaltered dolls.

    1. I honestly don't think you can make an out-of-the-package Breyer doll ride hunt seat well enough for my taste. The plastic boots are too big a hurdle to overcome.

      For the record: The three custom dolls featured in this post have varying degrees of body modifications. The adult female doll has little if any aside from clothes and boots. Not surprisingly, she's the hardest to work with. She's very stiff and it takes a lot of manipulating to get her to sit well. Adult male doll has some minor body modifications and a bendy neck (which I absolutely love). Child doll has had major bodywork. I suspect only her head and torso are original. She is awesomely bendy!

  4. Your series made me beginning to change all of my doll's boots. You're definitely one of my inspirations xD

    1. It's worth the effort. A flexed ankle is absolutely essential to the hunt seat rider. You just can't make them look right with those plastic boots.

  5. Yes I also am working on changing my dolls' positions

  6. making dolls look less like dolls is one of my favorite subjects!

  7. Thanks to sharing this post its all information is really great and useful.

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  9. When I was a child, my mom bought me a horse and rider set call Anna and Happytime. They were fully jointed and Anna could be articulated to ride perfectly. Wish I had kept those dolls. I still have the horse. I think it was made by a British company called Prestige? Sound familiar to anyone?