At Guy's Farm and Yard Monday afternoon, Jill Floyd meticulously set up one of her model horses for display. She carefully placed the saddle and reins on a tiny Arabian horse she's nicknamed Sir Dappy. As a final touch, she set a miniature rider on the horse's back in the sidesaddle position. It's a routine she's honed after years of working with her hundreds of model horses.
"I have what people might call a black hole or bottomless pit collection," she said with a laugh. "(The models) come in, but they never really come out."
Jill Floyd's model horse, Sir Dappy, is on display at Guy's Farm and Yard in Williston. There will be a model horse show on Sunday as part of the Everything Equine and Horse festival at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction.
Collecting model horses is a passion Floyd discovered as a teenager and has pursued for more than 20 years. She's accumulated more than 700 models, keeping a select few on display in her Colchester apartment.
Floyd enjoys sharing her hobby, and this weekend she'll help run the model horse show at the two-day Everything Equine and Horses event at Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. Other events include a live horse show, demonstrations and seminars.
The model horse portion of the festival is part of the Breyer Model Horse Tour, sponsored in part by Breyer Animal Creations, a New Jersey-based model company, and Guy's Farm and Yard, a home and garden store with locations in Williston, Morristown and Montpelier. Floyd works part-time at Guy's in addition to her full-time job at Stantec in South Burlington.
Kathleen Fallon, communications director for Breyer, has known Floyd for more than seven years and said her dedication to her hobby made the upcoming show possible. Fallon said Breyer picks different geographic areas every year for the model horse tour, and chose the Champlain Valley as its only Northeast stop this year.
"(Floyd) and her large group of hobby friends are invaluable," Fallon said. "They're always trying to get more kids and adults involved."
Floyd, who has put on smaller model horse shows in the area for more than 13 years, said it will be a chance for the model horse community to get together, and for the public to see what a show is all about.
A lifelong horse-lover
Describing herself as a "horse crazy little girl," Floyd learned to ride while growing up on a horse farm with her parents. After her family moved away from the farm and she couldn't ride as often, she latched on to model horses.
"For me, it's the challenge of finding that rare model," she said. "It's the collector in me. It's a hobby that got me through some rough times as a kid."
Depending on the breed and the model's rarity, most Breyer horses retail for $10 to $40. Special lines cost more and other brands, including the Peter Stone Company, sell comparative models at higher prices, marketing mostly to collectors.
Floyd said the most expensive models she owns retail for $600 to $700. She got them by volunteering at a three-day model horse show in Kentucky several years ago.
"Breyer has the most popular and affordable horses," she said. "Lots of collectors start with them."
The model horse event at Everything Equine and Horse on Sunday will feature a judging contest. Floyd, who has attended numerous model horse shows on the East Coast, said creating an award-winning model takes much more effort than just removing the horse from the box.
Models are sometimes repainted and have miniature horse tack added for authenticity. Floyd said judges look for realism and creativity, as well as at many of the same qualities analyzed by a judge of real horses.
"Everything I've learned from the real-horse world I've taken over to the model-horse world," she said.
Stephen Mease, communications director for Champlain Valley Exposition (Editor's note: Mease also does freelance photography for the Observer), said past Everything Equine events, which have been going on for five years, have drawn 5,000 to 7,000 people. He expects the model horse show to bring more attendees.
Floyd loves being part of the model horse community and has made lifelong friends.
"The community is growing, which I'm really excited about," she said. "I, for years, thought I was the only one in the state who did this. It turns out I wasn't."
Everything Equine and Horse show takes place Saturday, April 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, April 27 from 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m., at Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the gate. A two-day pass is available for $14 and kids under 5 are free with an adult. For an updated shedule and information go online to http://cvexpo.org/equine.aspx.