If real live horses showed up in the stable with the damage that many old Wagner horses have suffered, well, you know what the verdict would be. (The Gary Larson cartoon in which "Doreen breezes through Chapter 9," equine medicine--because every antidote is "shoot"--comes to mind.)
If Wagner animals were truly originally created as playthings, I guess nobody expected toys to last almost forever unless they were made of metal, stone, or wood.
An animal made of a composite material such as cardboard and clay, or even of plaster, is inherently prone to being crushed, growing moldy, or even disintegrating if exposed to water. Flocking rubs off or gets filthy. Rabbit-fur manes and tails get "trimmed" by scissor-happy kids. Tack is removed and clumsily put back on.
And those legs! The wooden ones snap. The plastic ones break at the top and take an entire plaster hindquarter or forequarter with them. The paper-over-wire ones fare much better--they don't break, though they crack the flocking at the top and leave you with some severely bandy-legged ponies.
But the nice thing about having a thoroughly wrecked Wagner horse is that you then get to have some fun with it by reconditioning it.
For example, Wagner horses typically come in either bay, white, or black (though ponies also come in pinto and palomino). I saw a rare chestnut horse once, on eBay, and now and then there's a palomino; and some very old pre-Wagner-label MC Original horses were produced in dapple gray.
But if you've ever wanted an Appaloosa, a skewbald, or the like, you were out of luck.
So when you have a Wagner horse in pretty bad shape, you can turn it into the equine of your flocky dreams.
I have a small stable of wonky horses. Some of them are in good enough shape that it'd be rather a shame to totally redefine them; those ones just need a bit of fixing up and perhaps a mane or tail replacement. But others need reflocking--it's usually the formerly pure-white steeds that require this service.
Here's a horse I fixed up this weekend. She limped into the stable with a broken leg, a ratty mane and tail, and a blue saddle so timeworn and dusty that it couldn't be cleaned.
Her flocking was in good shape, though, and it was an unusual beautiful gold color, so I wasn't going to touch that.
I started her fix-up by gluing that wobbly leg. Her legs were plastic ones inset with a peg into a composite body, so a dab of E6000 soon set her right. You can still see the line of breakage, which could be concealed with flocking if I ever get some flocking in the right color.
After the glue dried, I considered her mane and tail. The tail, obviously, needed to go. The mane could've been glued down again, but I didn't have the right color fur scrap to make a complementary tail. She'd originally been bay, but the black of mane and tail had faded over time, and so it had a rusty color to it. A pure black tail would've looked weird with the mane.
So I decided to yank off both the mane and the tail. Check out how lovely the crest of a Wagner horse is, sans mane!
I decided, with that beautiful gold flocking, she'd make a gorgeous palomino, and I had plenty of white fur scraps for that job. A few more dabs of glue, and she was adorned with a billowing white mane and tail.
Then I carefully peeled off the sorry-looking saddle and used it as a template to cut a new one out of blue felt. A little more glue, and ta-da! The bob-tailed nag was now a proud parade horse.
Not too bad. She was an easy fix, however. In addition to her flocking being in fine shape, she had also never suffered the indignity of having her tack removed, and her ears were still in place. In a future post I'll share some of the truly knackered horses who are getting rehabbed.