Trends can come and go but some things will always remain popular and the traditional rocking horse is one such example. Toy horses have been around in some guise or another throughout history and the rocking horse that we think of today was developed as far back as the early 17th Century.
The Origin of the Rocking Horse
Early examples of toy horses tend to be rather crude and in many cases were simply a long pole with a simple horse shape head at one end, much the same as the simple ‘hobby horse’ which is, to this day, still a popular child’s activity toy. The conventional rocking horse design is thought to have been a development from the Middle Ages when children would playfully re-enact jousting tournaments upon simple wheeled boxes, crafted to crudely resemble a horse figure.
The oldest surviving rocking horse is currently on display at the V&A and is believed to have belonged to the young Charles I around 1610. This example pre-dates other similar examples by almost 200 years and it’s thought that the horse was used by the young Prince to build strength in his legs after a serious bout of rickets. This would reinforce the popular notion that early rocking horses were provide to help young children develop a sense of balance and strength in their legs as a preparation for riding real horses at an older age.
Over time, rocking horses have become more lifelike as craftsmen have developed their skills and techniques. Through the 18th and 19th Centuries it was common for such horses to be highly crafted and meticulously finished to the point where the expense involved resulted in rocking horses being affordable by only the very wealthy.
Modern Day Rocking Horses
Nowadays much of the labour intensive production process has become highly automated and rocking horses in various designs are much more affordable. Many examples are now mass produced and relatively inexpensive although there are still some craftsmen producing rocking horses using time-honoured methods.
A traditionally made rocking horse can cost between £500 and £2,000 but will generally hold its value very well. Of course, by their very nature, wooden rocking horses will last forever and can become family heirlooms. There are many examples of rocking horses being passed from one generation to the next, as well as examples where antique horses become much sought after and have achieved respectable prices at auction. So by buying a rocking horse for your child you are not just providing a a great activity toy which they will love, but could also be making a rather shrewd investment.