Once upon a time the Rocking Horses of the world were but few and all ridden by the children of the affluent and wealthy. The sons and daughters of dukes and earls rocked in preparation for their horse-riding days to come much as the young children of today’s world move about in toy cars and trucks. The nineteenth century, positioned after the industrial revolution and before the invention of the automobile, was the golden age of the rocking horse. While no longer as wildly popular as in days gone by, there is still a huge demand for this toy. Rocking horses are now produced all over the globe and are rode upon by children of many social ranks. They are produced in many shapes, sizes, and colours and from various varieties of wood and other materials.
A Rocking horse should technically be distinguished from a “gliding horse.” The former sits on bow rockers; the latter is suspended from a safety stand. The rocking horse market is divided into the cheaper plastic and metal mass-produced models and the upper tier hand-crafted wooden horses. It is also divided into newly-made and restored antique sections. There are small decorative-only rocking horses as well as the “kid-sized” for-use rocking horses. Some are incredibly realistic-looking while others are was basic or abstract in design.
One historic and famous rocking horses is the English traditional dappled grey. It was very popular in the Victorian era and one was purchased by Queen Victoria herself. Another of note is that currently most popular in Europe- a beech wood rocking horse that is well-made though not realistic-looking. It has mop-like strands for its mane and tail. Yet another rocking horse variety of note is the group of Indian War Pony rocking horses manufactured in Texas.
Australian-made wooden rocking horses are commonly made from the Camphor Laurel tree. This tree of Asian origin emits a pleasant aroma and creates beautiful wood-swirls on the horse. It is a strong and durable wood made more durable by the polyurethane protective coating provided. The wood is also resistant to insects and bacteria. High quality leather saddles for the rocking horses are made by professional leather-workers. To top it off, genuine horse hair composes the mane and tail. Australians have become world-renown for their highly skilled wood-working expertise, and those expertise are put on full display with these rocking horses.
Every kind of horse and even burro it seems has its rocking horse look-alike. The details of the spots, colours, muscle-tone, saddle-design, etc. of real life horses are all mimicked by their wooden counterparts. Rocking horses bear the peculiar designs of many lands and cultures: English, German, Russian, French, Spanish, and many more. The rocking horse is truly both a fun toy for children and a nostalgic collector’s item for adults.