The Power of an Artist-Driven Property

March 02, 2015

While walking the aisles of a major Gift and Collectible trade show recently, pausing to peruse the window displays that showcased the latest offerings, I was struck again by what makes The Trail of Painted Ponies so unique, and explains, in part, our enduring popularity. Most of the products I saw were new introductions, accompanied by the kind of promotional hype we’ve come to associate with “New Releases,” be they movies, books, CDs, or collectibles. Few would catch on, and in a couple of years would work their way back to the clearance section of the showroom… if you could find them at all. Painted Pony figurines, in the meantime, are entering their 13th year, which is a rarity in the gift industry.

Which collectibles capture the imagination and attract the attention of customers/collectors is a mystery, in the same way which movies or songs or books become a hit is a guess to their producers. There are any number of reasons why Painted Ponies have longevity, but a key reason is that we are an artist-driven property in a pure sense. Painted Ponies were not conceived by an Art Department or a single designer. They were not born in a corporate boardroom. Painted Ponies grew out of a grassroots, public art project that showcased the talents of over a hundred different artists, who responded to the invitation to pair painting and sculpture in the creation of original, one-of-a-kind designs that illustrated the potential of the horse as a canvas. The only thing that has changed since our beginnings in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2001, is that rather than inviting artist to express their creativity on life-size fiberglass horse forms sculpted by acclaimed equine sculptor Star Liana York, we have expanded the number of horse forms available, and made these artworks available to people in a smaller size and at a more affordable price. In that original project, almost ten life-size Ponies sold for between $25,000 and $50,000, and are on exhibition in museums and corporate collections today.

The fact that each Painted Pony springs from the imagination of a different artist also explains why, a decade after our start, we do not repeat ourselves. Painted Ponies today are just as inventive in their designs, and original in their inspiration, as they were when they dazzled those who strolled the aisles of the Gift and Collectible trade shows, over a decade ago.

War Pony
Announced in Winter 2003
1st Painted Ponies figurine release
Guardian of Sunset's Gate
Announced in Winter 2014
30th Painted Ponies figurine release

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    Libby Johnson said on May 18, 2015:
    You should look at the other types of riding and other breeds of horses. The horses that you could create from those would be amazing.

Two for the Price of One

February 02, 2015

In an effort to provide Painted Pony collectors with a unique shopping experience on The Trail of Painted Ponies Official Store, you will sometimes find offerings that are available exclusively through us, and cannot be found anywhere else. Two examples are the Blue Ribbon Edition Ponies – twelve First Edition figurines numbered 0001 through 0012 – and Paint Your Own Pony kits – which give people the opportunity to create their own custom Painted Ponies.

For the month of February, we are offering collectors a two-for-the-price of one Special. If you purchase one of the Blue Ribbon Edition figurines, not only will you be part of an elite collectors club that recognizes the value of very low edition Ponies, you will also receive, at no extra charge, one of our Paint Your Own Ornament kits. Inside each kit you will find four of our copyrighted horse forms in ornament-size, giving you the opportunity to let your Inner Painted Pony Artist express itself, or providing you with a creative gift for someone special.
Quantities are limited. The “Prince of the Wind” Blue Ribbon Edition has already sold out, and we do not intend to craft any more Paint Your Own Ornament kits once those in stock are spoken for.

To shop the Blue Ribbon Editions, Click Here.
Happy Shopping, Happy Trails,
The Trailmaster

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Five Highlights of 2014

January 02, 2015


The longevity of any collectible depends on its ability to not only stay true to the things that made it popular to begin with, but at the same time to creatively reinvent itself. 2014 was our twelfth year in business, which is a successful lifetime for most "collectibles." But, rather than coast on our laurels, we took a number of steps last year that were designed to keep The Trail of Painted Ponies fresh, to attract new collectors, and to give those collectors who have ridden with us reasons to stay in the saddle. Below, are some of the year's highlights.

1) January, 2014, marked the introduction of Collector's Choice Ornaments. While some people think of ornaments solely as holiday gift items, many others appreciate ornaments on a year round basis. With this in mind, we came out with a collection of ornaments based on bestselling figurines. So popular did these prove to be that we are continuing with the release of four more Collectors Choice Ornaments this month.
(Click here to see the new Collectors Choice ornaments)

NEW 2015 A Star is Born Ornament

NEW 2015 Prince of the Wind Figurine
Beauty of the Breed Series

2) The "Beauty of the Breed" series, in which different horse breeds are both realistically and artistically presented, has been wonderfully received. It began in 2013 with "Painted Harmony," which honored the American Paint Horse, and was continued in the winter 2014 with "Don't Fence Me In," which celebrated the Gypsy Vanner, and in the summer 2014 release with "A Star is Born," a tribute to the Appaloosa. (Click here to view the Beauty of the Breed series, including a new introduction)

3) In response to the request for more Paint Your Own Pony kits, we introduced the Regal Form, the Trotting Form and a Paint Your Own Ornament kit, all of which were in great demand over the holidays by people wanting to express their "inner Painted Ponies." (Click here to view Painted Pony Kits)

4) Twelve years ago only one horse form was featured - a Standing Horse - and a big part of the appeal of a single form was that we could say every Painted Pony came out of the same starting gate, and crossed a different finish line. In 2014 we added a fifth form. Now, as well as the Standing, Running, Walking, Rearing, and Regal form, artists have a Trotting form to work with.
(Click here to view a Painted Pony on a Trotting form)

5) With the introduction of the Blue Ribbon Edition, discerning collectors who recognize the added value of Painted Ponies with low edition numbers were treated to a new opportunity in 2014: the privilege to purchase guaranteed VERY low edition numbered Ponies - 0001 through 0012. The only problem we have encountered with this special opportunity is that it operates on a first-come, first-served basis. The Blue Ribbon Edition is available to just twelve collectors with each design.
(For more on the Blue Ribbon Edition click here)

Thank you all, artists and collectors alike. We look forward to introducing more "highlights" that will make 2015 a very good year along The Trail of Painted Ponies.

Happy Trails,

Rod Barker

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    Brandon Carter said on January 26, 2015:
    I enjoyed reading the highlights. Love the Painted Ponies!

Make Your Holiday Shopping Easy

November 03, 2014

It’s that time of year again, when the gift-giving spirit of Christmas collides with the search for just the right presents for family and friends. Having trouble deciding what to get? Let The Trail making your holiday shopping experience easy this year by suggesting you CLICK HERE and review the offerings on our Official Store.

And why do Painted Ponies make such great gifts at this time of year? Read on…

1) The variety of designs and images means there is sure to be a Painted Pony for everyone. Take the time to think about the person you are shopping for, their personality, interests, and the hobbies they enjoy, and then find the matching Pony. This will make the gift both thoughtful and meaningful.
2) Everyone loves a story, and what enriches every Painted Pony is the tale behind it. Look for a story that speaks to the relationship you have with a special someone. For example, “A Star is Born,” which features an Appaloosa mare and foal, is the perfect gift for a son or daughter, mother or grandmother.
3) Painted Ponies are miniature works of art. Each begins as an inspired and original, one-of-a-kind artwork created by an individual artist who has taken the courageous and imaginative leap of seeing a horse – an animal with four legs, a long neck, and a head and tail – as a canvas for creative expression. This is why they have become tried-and-true classics.
4) Painted Ponies speak to the universal love of horses. Throughout history, horses have been a best friend, helping us at work and at play. They are the perfect animal to give as a gift to someone you care about.
5) Holiday Painted Ponies give us another way of continuing family holiday traditions. Every year The Trail comes out with four or five completely new Holiday Ponies, which can be brought and displayed annually. Nothing reminds us of the Christmas spirit like a herd of Holiday Ponies!
6) For every Holiday Painted Pony, there is a corresponding Holiday Ornament, which can hang on your tree, be used as festive accent around the house, and brought out again next year.
7) If you forgot what you gave last year, you don’t need to worry about embarrassing yourself. Each Holiday Season we come out with four completely new and different Holiday designs!
8) For the budget minded (and aren’t we all?), this year we have created a Holiday Gift Guide that includes great Trail of Painted Pony gifts at a variety of prices.

Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your Christmas.

Happy Holidays, Happy Trails

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Personalize Your Gift-Giving This Christmas

September 02, 2014

As those familiar with The Trail of Painted Ponies know, we have no “art department” staffed with professional designers. What distinguishes us from other collectible figurine lines is that our designs come from diverse artistic sources. Amateurs as well as professionals, youth as well as students. All it takes is the talent to bring a vision to life on one of our downloaded outlines, or one of our unpainted horse forms available in our Paint Your Own kits, and you too can become an Official Trail of Painted Pony Artist.

From time to time over the years we have made changes to our Paint Your Own kits in an effort to give artists different ways of expressing their creativity, and our most recent kits reflect our commitment to continue to offer new creative opportunities. Available exclusively through our Official Website store, you have a choice of two new figurine-sized horse forms - the trotting and the regal form. As well, for the first time we have come out with a Paint Your Own Ornament kit that includes four different ornament forms. All of these forms are unique to The Trail, having been created exclusively for us by nationally acclaimed equine sculptors, and all are cast in solid, artist-grade resin, not a hollow plastic. As well, to keep the figurines from falling over while they are being painted, they come mounted on a rectangular base, and the ornaments include their own cord for hanging.

Regal Paint Your Own Pony Artist Kit

Trotting Paint Your Own Pony Artist Kit

Something else we have done with our kits is remove the paint pots and brushes. Custom Painted Ponies are miniature works-of-art, and the paints and brushes used with them should be of a higher quality than the cheap standard fare that comes with most kits. The paints in most other Paint Your Own kits don’t mix well, making it hard to get shadings and highlights right, and they dry out quickly. The bristles on the brushes often deteriorate after one or two uses. That may be okay for beginners, but not Painted Pony artists.

By eliminating paints and brushes, we are now able to offer our kits at a much lower price – under $20. And, by encouraging you to select your own paints and brushes at your local arts and crafts store, we are sure if you look around you will find surprising embellishments and attachments that will help you create an even more fabulous mini-masterpiece.

And that, in short, is what our kits are about. As much as anything, we want to give you the means of creating something artistic and precious - for yourself, or for someone dear or near to you.

This Christmas, personalize your gift-giving by painting one of our figurines or ornaments. They will make great once-in-a-lifetime gifts for a special occasion, or simply a personal gesture that will be appreciated forever.

Paint Your Own Pony Ornament Set

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    Ann said on September 03, 2014:
    Will the Trail consider having a design contest for the new ornaments?

How much is my Painted Pony worth?

July 01, 2014

One of my favorite TV programs is Antiques Roadshow, the popular PBS series that features people who bring in a variety of old and vintage items – antique furniture, historic paintings, political memorabilia, collectibles – for professional assessment and valuation. After learning the story behind their supposed treasures, hearing about details that either add or subtract to their overall worth, the people are given an estimated market value. The Oh my God! reactions of people who picked up priceless pieces for pennies at a swap meet are as much fun to watch as the crestfallen expressions on the faces of those who expected to be told they’d hit the jackpot with a family heirloom passed down to them through generations, only to learn it was a fake to begin with.

At the end of each evaluation, at the bottom of the screen, the estimated price range that the piece could be expected to bring at auction is posted, and I’ve noticed recently that a second price range is added. The first refers to the estimated value at the time the show aired, and the second refers to what the value is estimated to be today. Rarely are they the same. Some prices have gone up, but the majority have gone down, reflecting the changing times, and the new reality that very few “things” are invested with an intrinsic worth that can be objectively determined, but rather are worth what someone is willing to pay at a given time.

I have been reminded of this updated feature on Antiques Roadshow recently as I read and try to respond to the questions that are entered into the Ask the Trailmaster feature on our website. I would estimate that three out of five questions are versions of, “How much is my Painted Pony worth?”

I wish we could provide a simple and straightforward answer. A comprehensive price guide that Trail of Painted Ponies collectors could refer to for insurance purposes, replacement purposes, or if they just want to sell the Ponies they have, unfortunately, does not exist, for Painted Ponies or indeed for most collectibles. Price depends on so many variables. The condition of the Pony. Whether it comes in its original box. How rare it is, i.e. how many were created. The edition number on the bottom of the base (the lower the edition number, the higher the perceived value). Whether the Pony was part of an Official Autographed Edition, or hand-signed by the Artist. Whether it is retired, which means no more are being produced. The personal significance that particular Pony may have for someone. If it is the only one missing from a particular grouping that is the focus of a collector. Whether a collector that is new to The Trail wants to add a particular Pony to his/her collection that is no longer available in stores.

There are certain aspects to Painted Ponies that are unique among collectibles and that give them a value which tends to appreciate over time. Some of the Native Ponies were created by tribally-recognized Native artists. Some have been created by celebrities in other fields. Every Painted Pony shows an exceptional degree of craftsmanship and an attention to detail and design that is commonly associated with legitimate works of art that sell for a much higher price than Ponies to begin with, and appreciate in value over time

So how does this translate into an answer to “How much is my Painted Pony worth?” I don’t think the specialists on Antiques Roadshow can tell us. What I think they would say because I’ve heard them say it is, “Ultimately, it’s value is how much enjoyment it gives you.”

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    Daleann Considine said on January 18, 2015:
    If I have approximately 250 Westland painted ponies that have never been displayed and are in there original boxes and are from around 2006 and before is the best way to sell them still individually on EBay?

    Mary Figley said on December 05, 2014:

    I would like to know the value of Medicine Horse #1549 I inherited it recently.

    Mary Fairchild Shader said on July 20, 2014:
    I would agree with you 100%. The true value of a Painted Pony no matter how beautiful, how low the edition number is, whether or not it is signed by the artist remains what it means to the person who bought it. I have several including a couple of one of a kind ponies which are priceless to me but to others may not be worth a thing. I do wonder however if there is a way to evaluate for insurance purposes the amount a one of a kind Painted Pony is worth? The problem as I see it is even if the artist were to reproduce the pony it would never be "just" like the one I originally bought.

    Trailmaster said on July 16, 2014:
    Hello Jackie, In order to find out the current perceived value of your figurine we would recommend checking on eBay for the same figurine with a similar edition number.

    Jackie said on July 15, 2014:
    how much is Medicine pony worth #1549 with box and papers

Appreciating the Runner-Ups from Previous Art Competitions

May 30, 2014

As the Magical Design Competition winds down to an end and before we invite everyone to vote for their favorite (voting will begin on June 9th and run through June 22th), we thought we would put together a slide-show featuring some of the previous competition entries that did not make the final cut. Reviewing them again and seeing how clever and creative they are, we are reminded how difficult it is to narrow the field down to a “top ten.” And these are just ten designs that used the Rearing Horse form as a canvas…. Enjoy. 


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Painted Ponies Inspire Creative Expressions Around the World

May 05, 2014


With each release of a new herd of Painted Ponies we are reminded not only of the inspirational power of the horse, but the unique showcase that The Trail provides to artists willing to explore an expanded notion of canvas. But this creativity is not confined just to imaginative designs on figurines. It expresses itself in a variety of ways, to different people in different places around the world. Recently we heard from two creative people from who have taken the spirit of Painted Ponies into new realms. Our way of thanking and supporting them is to share their creations with friends and fans of The Trail.

Jennifer Moffatt is a digital scrapbooker from Western Australia who is very well thought of within the industry. Recalling the wonderful books that her grandmother sent to her as a child, which she still treasures, she decided to create a similar bond with her horse crazy teenage granddaughter, Ameeka Barrett, who resides in Bakersfield, California. Each birthday and Christmas she began sending her granddaughter a Painted Pony figurine, chosen carefully and with a special meaning. And then she came up with the idea of creating a digital shadow box with the Ponies. Shadow boxes, which are created to put ones treasured possessions, favorite memories and dreams and wishes, on display, seemed like the perfect way to showcase the Ponies. Featured are Christmas Carousel, Sweetheart, Lovey Dovey, Storm Rider, Follow Your Dreams, and the Horse Whispers figurine, Heaven on Earth. 

Shadow box by Jennifer Moffatt

Halfway around the world in the United Kingdom, Laura Cohen drew on imagery from The Trail when she hand-painted her 6 year old dun mare as the “Blue Medicine Horse” to help raise money for Prostate Cancer UK. She won best-dressed amongst 30 other entries at the Western Nationals in 2013. The response was so great she followed up in April of this year at the Horse&Rider Extravaganza at Chaltenham Racetrack with another paint-and-costume entry in the Your Horse Live show. This time she drew inspiration from the figurine “Black Jack.” Laura uses a non-toxic face paint which is chalk based so it doesn’t hurt the horse and is easy to wash off with water, and has turned this idea into a business. She performs at horse events, festivals and weddings. We welcome and will feature other creative uses of Painted Pony imagery on our Facebook page

"Black Jack"

Painting "Black Jack"

"Blue Medicine"

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Celebrated Equine Sculptor Becomes Part of Painted Pony History

April 01, 2014

As everyone familiar with The Trail of Painted Ponies knows, we have been pioneers in the creation of an entirely new art form: the horse as a canvas for artistic expression. Part of what has made this exploration so unique is that all of our horse forms are exclusive to The Trail. We have commissioned some of the finest equine sculptors in the country to create them just for us.

To keep our offerings fresh, over the years we have added new forms. To the standing and running forms that were created for our initial public art project, we added the walking form and the rearing form. Two years ago, we introduced the regal form. Now, ten years after the very first Painted Ponies came down the trail, to add diversity to the line we have modified all of these forms, giving more movement to the mane and tail, more expressiveness to the faces, more action through muscle definition. We have also added new positions, including the trotting form. And as you have seen and will see more of, with the "Beauty of the Breed" collection we are featuring one-of-a-kind forms and with the mare-and-foal series, even a second horse.

Petals on the New Trotting Form

Kathleen Moody

The talented hand behind most of these changes belongs to Kathleen Moody, a name that collectors of the realistic Breyer horse line will recognize because she is the creator and designer of many of their most popular horses, such as Huckleberry Bay, Big Ben, Gem Twist, Marabella, Winter Song, the Wind Dancer line, and many others. Kathleen, who says she was born with horse hair between her teeth, grew up in a little city in southern California where there were no horses, so to make up for the loss she would draw them on paper and carve them with a stick out of dirt clods in a vacant field down the street. When her mother brought home a bag of potter's clay and she created her first full-bodied horse, the dye was cast.

Just out of her teens, she was hired as a Production Artist in the model shop at Disney Studios, where she painted, clothed, sculpted and did whatever was necessary to bring life to the animatronic figures for the different rides and exhibits. A career creating and sculpting beautiful and realistic horses for Breyer came next. 

The freelance opportunity to ride with The Trail is a departure in some respects, but one she welcomes. "The idea that anyone with a great design idea can create a unique horse for others to enjoy unites horse lovers all over. I have seen great, clever and beautiful designs come out of The Trail that add so much more to art, than just collecting pretty things. There is a special place in the world of equine art for these ponies! I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to create new horses for The Trail and to become a part of Painted Pony history."

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The Pasture Calls: Six more Painted Ponies Retired

February 28, 2014

A week ago, I officially retired my Quarterhorse mare, Shyloh. I was present at her birth twenty-two years ago, and other than those few years when I leased her out as a brood mare, I’ve had her my whole life as a trail horse. Whenever I had difficulty dozing off at night I didn’t count sheep, I saddled up Shyloh in my mind, and somewhere along our ride I would lasso a good night’s sleep. This decision was made easy by the recommendation of my vet. Shyloh has developed a condition in her rear legs that makes it painful for her to carry the weight of a rider. A condition that came with age and a genetic predisposition. So now she roams the 40-acre New Mexico ranch where her mother was put out to pasture ten years ago.

With horse retirement on my mind, we are announcing the next six Painted Ponies to be put out to pasture. They will ride no more. They are now, in art parlance, limited editions, since no more will be produced.

Rod and Shyloh

Looking at the Ponies on the list, I’m reminded again of how versatile the horse is as a canvas for creative expression, and how absolutely ingenious these talented artists were who accepted our invitation to “let your imagination run wild.” From the Pop imagery of “Peace, Love and Music,” to the retro Cowgirl imagery of “Cowgirls Rule,” to the elegant beauty of “Emergence,” to the charged realism of “The Front Runner,” to the Holiday spirit in “Song of Angels,” to the classic American West iconography featured in “Bonanza,” these Painted Ponies have honored the art movement that we like to call “Pony Expressionism.”

To view all of the Retired Painted Ponies, Click Here.

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    Jessie said on July 05, 2014:
    A most beautiful, heart warming story Rod. Thank you. Sounds somewhat like mine. The gelding owned by my best friend, since he was eleven,(I had his mom at the time), was born in my lap 27 years ago and rode in our local parade,(he has been in many 4th of July parades here since he was 7 months old), rode proudly (as he always does) along side my beautiful, 13 yr old QH mare. Thanks again for a terrific story!

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