I was very excited to visit the Kentucky Horse Park to cover the North American Junior and Young Riders Championships (coverage of Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 here), but I might have been even more excited when I found out that Breyerfest would be happening at the Horse Park at the same time. Breyerfest is an annual convention devoted to all things Breyer–a specific and awesome brand of model horses which are an iconic part of nearly every horse lover’s childhood. I collected Breyer horses when I was younger and still have them all saved at my mom’s house in large tupperware at the top of a closet (if anyone is interested in some circa 1998 Breyers with their original boxes, let me know.) Breyerfest goes on for three days of non-stop fun, and I can’t wait to share with you just a little bit of it. Let me also say, as a disclaimer for the hardcore fans that might find this post through the #Breyerfest hashtag on Instagram, I apologize in advance if I don’t have all of the Breyer terminology 100% correct. Bill Clinton was still in office when I got my last Breyer. However, at the height of my Breyer collecting years ago I would browse eBay for custom painted models and I was also a member of the official Breyer Collectors Club, so yes, it was pretty fun to attend my first ever Breyerfest while in my 20’s. Finally.
Breyerfest ran for three days, from Friday the 17th through Sunday the 19th. On Thursday (pictured), I saw trucks with palettes full of merchandise making deliveries to the covered arena while set-up for the event sprang in to action.
I received this fantastic Breyerfest Media credential from the great team at Breyer headquarters in New Jersey. I definitely did not expect to receive such an official button, so this was a really cool surprise and I immediately attached it to my NAJYRC lanyard and kept it on all weekend because it’s awesome.
On Friday, the first day of Breyerfest, the parking lots surrounding the horse park filled quickly and early. You could walk down any row and see cars painted with creative #BreyerfestOrBust decorations, which often played off of this year’s theme of “Vive La France!”
Outside of the park’s entrance, there were police cars with flashing lights and officers directing traffic. Sorry to any of the NAJYRC crowd who left Thursday night and returned Friday morning having no idea what would await them at the park’s entrance as early as 6am. Breyerfest is the Kentucky Horse Park’s second largest event; only the Rolex Kentucky 3-Day Event surpasses it in attendance.
There were license plates from all over, like this family who drove from Nebraska. I later saw on Instagram that some Breyer fans came from as far as Australia.
The lack of crowds/lines in this photo is misleading because I actually took it while on my way out of the park on Friday. However, this entrance was totally packed with a line that stretched and serpentined through the parking lot in the hours before the event’s official start time of 9am.
One girl is literally skipping with excitement in this photo, and she was the not the only one (I was close behind). This is the pathway after you pass through the entrance in the previous photo. The colorful signs on either side of the path show a silhouette of the Celebration Horse for the previous years of Breyerfest. The Celebration Horse is a special horse who you can meet at the event and attendees who purchase a 3-Day Ticket receive a complimentary model version.
The line in the morning as the Kentucky Horse Park Mounted Police begins to lead everyone in. One group at the front of the line had been waiting since 6am that morning, while another was there since 5pm the previous day.
Pal O’Mine, the official Breyer mascot, stands by.
Each year, Breyerfest has a theme with activities designed around it. This year’s was “Vive La France!” and the french touches were everywhere. Attendees also get into the theme. I immediately passed an entire group wearing berets and stripes upon entering the park.
Single-Day Ticket Holders were given complimentary Breyerfest Stablemates (the smallest version of their model horses), and each was one of four randomly distributed models.
This giant inflatable horse is actually named Fluffy, which I learned from my Breyerfest program.
The line to shop the official Breyer store on Friday. It is actually about twice as long as in the photo.
This was the official Breyer store inside the covered arena. I took this photo on Sunday right before the events ended because the line was so long at all other times. There was also a Marketplace along the concourse of the covered arena where independent vendors and model horse farms could have a booth and sell models and accessories as well.
Models available from one of the many model horse ranch vendors.
This store was desperately seeking the Walking Herefords Colton or Logan. My research now tells me these were 2012 Collector’s Club Vault Special Runs and only 40 of each were made. Those are some rare bulls.
It was this father/daughter duo’s first time as vendors at Breyerfest. Doug Shay originally set out to build a better organizational system for his daughter to display her model horses at home, and eventually “Stacky Stables” was born. The stables stack on top of each other for easy storage or can be fixed to a wall for display with the horses securely inside their stalls. Both of them seemed very excited to be at Breyerfest for the first time and I loved the new additions to their collection, which were saddle stands and halters! Check out their website at StackyStables.com.
For an outsider, it may be difficult to understand what exactly is so special about Breyer horses. Breyer even sells official shirts that say “It’s a model thing… you wouldn’t understand.” I collected Breyers when I was little, and over the weekend I still loved going through every vendor booth pointing at and admiring all of the new makes and models that they have come out with in recent years. Not every little girl or boy is able to have their own pony or horse, or even take lessons, but Breyers make learning about and caring for horses an accessible hobby for everyone.
And Breyerfest is a large gathering that celebrates that notion. It brings together a ton of people who love horses, collecting and Breyers and gives them everything they could ever want in a massive three-day event. There is a reason it’s so successful: the people that go LOVE it. It seemed like everyone there was having so much fun, myself included. Even parents that were not exactly there by choice were getting in to it and clearly happy at how excited their children were. Breyerfest also brings people together that love something very unique. You may not have a ton of friends back home that you can discuss the intricacies of which mold is the best, but at Breyerfest you are suddenly surrounded by them.
This vendor, Mighty Minis custom jumps, was another amazing father/daughter team that specialized in horse jumps with raisable rails and intricate jump cups that are identical to the real deal. Judson Jones said his daughter wanted to be able to train her Breyers up from cross-rails to high jumps, so he set about making the customizable jumps they were selling today. All of the other jumps on the market had fixed rails, so it was not ideal for her to be training her model horses over high jumps before they had done the lower courses.
You can see here where the cups fit in to the standard, just like a real jump.
These jumps were insanely cool and customizable. Some major shows had them, and you could also make your own jump with your name in it at their booth.
I was told to make sure and play with the liverpool. You can see all of their awesome and life-like creations on their Mighty Minis website.
Some stores had stacks of NIB (New In Box) Breyers, whereas others just had them all out for perusal.
I LOVED these really cool painted horses hand-made out of copper by Creature Comforts by Erica. I’ve never seen anything like this. They were very high quality, unique, and would make a really fun gift for any horse lover. She also makes dogs! This is her Etsy Store where they can be purchased online and you can see photos of all the cute animals she makes.
Breyerfest was selling tons of official shirts that were very fun at reasonable prices (less than $20). This one was probably the most authentic – “I’ll stop collecting when I’m dead.”
Lots of attendees had made their own shirts with their social media accounts on them. This way they could find each other and finally meet in person after counting down to Breyerfest on Instagram together for the months leading up to it. Shout out to @galaxy_breyers.
This brings me to another aspect of Breyerfest that may not be as well known, but is one of the most fun parts emerging in recent years – social media. There are thousands of Instagram and Youtube accounts dedicated solely to the Breyer horse hobby. Kids are making movies featuring their Breyer horses on Youtube, or creating totally unique video diaries about their Breyerfest experiences and meet-ups. There are already Instagram countdowns to Breyerfest 2016 and plentiful discussion about next year’s theme (which is “Carnival”, btw.) It’s amazing to browse the #Breyerfest hashtag and #Breyerfest2015 hashtag on Instagram, and it will show you that a large portion of Breyerfest unofficially takes places online. For example, this weekend’s #Breyerfest hashtag had over 18,000 posts, whereas #NAJYRC had 2,300. Social media also extends Breyerfest by weeks – with elaborate countdowns leading up to it and even more elaborate posts in the days following the conclusion of the event with “Breyerfest haul” photos boasting the weekend’s greatest finds. Kids that meet at Breyerfest keep in touch via Instagram and Youtube until next year and in the meantime have fun with other aspects of the hobby, such as online model horse shows and photography.
These custom coolers were really ,well…cool. Hopefully your Breyer horse won’t tear his new one up in the paddock too quickly. They were also selling Breyer horse fly-masks for $5, which is awesome.
I think I was a little obsessed with all of the fun and intricate accessories you could buy for your Breyer horse. All this saddle is missing is a little Ogilvy half-pad with the teeny-tiny Ogilvy button on it. For anyone else that has been lucky enough to own a real horse, you can probably relate to the fun of spoiling your horse with all kinds of tack and accessories, so it’s also fun for collectors to be able to accessorize their Breyer horses with the latest accessory in the same way.
The official Breyer store (with the huge line) is where you get “Special Run” Breyers that are only available at Breyerfest and only in limited quantities. There are lotteries for them, and people get really excited when they have finally gotten one.
There were lots of Breyers in arms walking around checking out the sights.
Mother daughter combo with the social media t-shirt.
This scene unfolded outside the official Breyer store. This girl just traded a Special Run horse she had for another Special Run horse she really wanted and was saying thank you. Her whole family was very excited. Scenes like this were numerous: Breyer fans helping out each other.
The Special Run horse she ended up with, and the extremely cool French themed model horse diorama she made.
There is a large part of Breyerfest where people construct extremely elaborate dioramas featuring their Breyers and the theme of the year. How long did this one take to put together? She said “at least a few months.”
A few other diorama shots– Picasso Breyer.
Monument à la République Breyer.
Paris – City Of Lights diorama.
The other side of the line leading in to the official Breyer store.
This shirt speaks to me. Horses for life.
Breyerfest has its share of entrepreneurs buying and selling collectible Breyers. Lots of people were looking to make a deal at the show with their recently acquired Breyerfest-only Breyers. This sign reads “2015 Celebration Horse For Sale.”
That looks like one happy Breyer.
Love the detail on these shirts’ collars.
They had a section by the stables where you could meet and pet horses, lots of which were models for their Breyer counterparts.
My favorite part of Breyerfest was seeing people just genuinely happy to interact with these fantastic animals; the looks on their faces as they would reach out to pet the horses is something that is hard to put into words. You can lose sight of the special nature of horses when you are around them so frequently at shows and they are a part of your every day world. To see people who love horses come to Breyerfest and get to be around horses is truly special, especially as many of them are not able to be around the non-model variety except for a few times a year, or ever.
Everyone in this photo was smiling.
One collector opening up her limited edition Stablemate to see which version she got.
I was beyond excited to see these Clydesdales in person. They were amazing and true gentle giants.
This was the year’s celebration horse, Simba du Pont de Tourney. Simba was a real people pleaser and many were very excited to get a picture with him and their new Breyer model of him.
They also had several autograph sessions with other Breyers, which led to extremely cool pictures with their Breyer models. This one is Smokin’ Doubledutch.
And this is Chocolate Chip Kisses, who was taking a break in his stall. Outside of his stall he had a few photos of himself and cards with his headshot that you could get signed later.
One of the attractions was a very cool acrobatic horse show. On Saturday night there was a Celebration of Horses event in the Alltech Arena, which was an evening of entertainment on horseback, as well as games, photo opportunities, and other activities on the concourse around the arena.
On Friday, there were a few show jumping riders schooling in the ring next to the Breyerfest Special Run line. Both of my worlds were colliding.
Arguably the coolest activity was in the craft tent: painting a Stablemate. For free, you picked out a Stablemate and painted it yourself. It was so much fun and everyone was doing it.
Some of the finished masterpieces drying.
A common debate: who is more intensely painting their Stablemate, the parent or the child.
That one is going to turn out well.
Overheard from a parent at the craft tent: “Of course I am going to paint one, I paid enough to be here!”
Painting Stablemates, and Breyerfest as a whole, is truly fun for all ages and the memories will last forever.
The Breyerfest volunteers estimated that there were about 10,000 stablemates painted over the three-day event.
This is the one I was working on. The before…
…and after. I had so much fun painting my new chromed-out jumper.
I went back and painted another Stablemate on Sunday, and this is him. He didn’t turn out quite as well but I gave him a cute pink nose. Sorry for the photo on the asphalt–I’m not yet a model horse photographer and the grass was really not to scale.
Loved this girl’s painted Stablemate. It looks like an official Breyer one.
They had numerous hands-on workshops throughout the weekend on the finer points of all things Breyer. Some of the workshops included etching, dioramas, tack making, jump making, and model horse photography.
That glorious moment when you take your Breyer out of the box for the first time.
This is a kids’ jump off, where, just like you would on a horse, you go over jumps and try to have the fastest time with no faults. They even had a championship every afternoon at 3pm.
I loved these fashion letter Breyerfest shirts. Even better as matching set!
I saw them filling up this giant pool earlier in the week and had no idea what it was for. I later discovered it was an event called “Splash Dogs,” a competition to see which dog could jump the furthest off a ramp into the pool of water.
It was insanely fun watching these dogs defy gravity and jump very far.
The owners had all sorts of tricks to get their dogs as aerodynamic as possible.
No dog was more happy than when they finally got the toy that had been thrown in the water.
Some dogs were so excited that they would leap out of the water, run down the ramp and immediately up the ladder to do it all over again.
Some dogs were a little more hesitant to jump in the water at first. “I’ve made a terrible mistake.”
Maddie Chenoweth, a rider competing in the show jumping championships, brought her dog over to give Splash Dogs a shot.
Breyerfest also had pony rides. I think it is pretty safe to say that some of the cutest and happiest moments happened aboard these very patient ponies.
This girl was so excited to ride a pony she immediately ran over and pointed to the sign up sheet.
They also had a petting zoo with all sorts of very cute animals, including this goat who is enjoying the affection.
This goat after I asked him if he wanted to trade me his volunteer model Breyer he was getting for working Breyerfest.
This camel had had a long day waiting in line to get his volunteer model Breyer.
The pig races at the petting zoo were also a huge hit.
I should take this moment to also point out that they had a ton of other activities and things going on that I didn’t include in this post, like the horse demonstrations in the indoor ring featuring all sorts of breeds, the model horse show, a Horseball tournament, silent auctions, daily raffles, free seminars with people in the equestrian industry, parkour, a mechanical bull, a big Tonka truck play area with dirt, and more.
The Clarion Hotel in Lexington also hosted special “Breyerfest After Dark” events since it was the official hotel of Breyerfest. Events included workshops, swap meets, auctions, and an Artisans Gallery. There were also many unofficial meet-ups created via social media held at the Clarion, including meet-ups for Breyer you-tubers and Instagrammers so they could finally meet in person.
The camel is now up…and attempting to eat non-edible things.
They had a few museum-like displays with historical Breyers.
Checking out the loot. If you search for #breyerfest on social media, you will see very intricately laid out pictures of people’s extremely impressive hauls from Breyerfest.
Pal O’Mine leading himself on a golf cart ride.
There were life-size Breyer models out front to take pictures with.
I went into Breyerfest this year knowing it would be a fun experience, but I ended up being blown away by how truly awesome the whole production was. Breyer does a really good job and as a result everyone has a really good time. I’m so glad I went.