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A world of games on horseback

Games on horseback. For the column “From animation to action figures, a world on horseback”, we want to talk to you about the horse in the game. A world that fascinates both children and adults, to the point of moving enthusiasts and collectors around the world.


cavallo giocattolo

A world of horse games for children from all generations

It was at the dawn of time when children were already playing with the idea of riding a nimble horse. Soon the toy horse was created, which took on different guises over the centuries.

Initially, the most immediate, and also the simplest way of emulating the rides of the greats was to ride a stick.
But in the field of “chivalrous” games, the most “educational” toy and the most popular for those about to take their first steps was undoubtedly the little horse on wheels. A real psychomotricity tool before its time. Who among us has not had one? Visit your parents’ cellars and you may be lucky enough to find one. ?

In the past, it was much more than just a game. In fact, it was essential for descendants of the nobility to learn to ride confidently from an early age.

cavallo a rotelle

It was not until the 17th century that the first examples of rocking horses, true masterpieces of craftsmanship, were produced for the wealthiest children. It seems that the first rocking horse dates back to 1610. It is now jealously guarded at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where adults and children alike can admire its beauty. Preciously decorated, the first rocking horses were made of wood, papier-mâché or metal, often covered with animal hair.

It was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that, thanks to new materials and modern manufacturing techniques, toy horses became simpler and more accessible to all. From then onwards, at least one toy horse would ride in every child’s room.

From the oldest and most precious horses, rocking horses and horses on wheels, to the beautiful horses for rides; the children’s world comes to life. By the way, would you like to admire some of these wonderful toys and follow their historical path? You can do it! Did you know that the Museo del Cavallo Giocattolo (Toy Horse Museum) exists? It is located in Como, Italy and is a very special place where grown-ups can go back to childhood and children can let their imaginations run wild. A place that preserves a generous past and that finds the link between different generations through culture.


cavallo a dondolo


It is clear that, in the past, the horse, whether real or a toy, already fascinated and won over children… and not only that. Man’s ingenuity and growing attention to childhood have, over time, produced many different and original types of toy horses, culminating in the memorable Micronauts and the latest action figures

A world of games on horseback: Micronauts, what a hobby!

What a hobby, that of following the Micronauts! Toys that have shaped entertainment history and continue to be considered pillars of the pop imagination. For younger people, a little ‘flash back’ is in order to try to explain this world of memories, which is actually quite indescribable in terms of the complexity of emotions it evoked.
Those who belong to the generation aged between 30 and 40 years old will remember those characters well who occupied their games and childhood imagination. We are talking about the Micronauts, a series of action figures representing sci-fi characters inspired by the robots of Japanese animation and manga from the memorable 1970s.

The Micronauts arrived in Italy after 1977 and were a main feature in childrens’ bedroom, mostly boys’ bedrooms, until 1980. Produced since 1976 by the American Mego Corporation, some of them draw clear inspiration from the classic “Microman” action figures. Others, however, such as Baron Karza, were very similar to Jeeg from the Jeeg Robot of Steel series.

In Italy, it was GIG that secured the import and distribution rights with its relative rebranding. In fact, the brand name changed from “Micronauts” to “I Micronauti”.


It was a resounding success, to the point that GIG asked for and obtained a licence to produce further characters: King Atlas, Green Baron and their respective horses, Emperor and Megas, which became very popular in Italy and the rest of Europe, but not so much in the United States.

The winning feature of those that were the most popular models in Italy was that they had body parts that could be disassembled and connected together using magnets.

Then there was the line of space vehicles and bases, complete with lightsabers, and aliens. It is clear that another source of inspiration for the mythical Micronauts could only be Star Wars, in particular the character of Darth Vader for Baron Karza and the imperial soldiers for Force Commander.

Needless to say, the line was a huge success all over the world. Mego earned a turnover of more than thirty million dollars a year from this, plus the sale of licences to other companies to produce related gadgets, such as puzzles and comic books.

Mego itself produced many gadgets, such as robotic vehicles and mounts for the Micronauts, and none other than Micronite, a pink rubbery substance, very similar to Play-Doh, inserted inside a plastic asteroid.

The system in which different models of Micronauts could be broken down into multiple components and, therefore, change shape by combining with each other, like Jeeg and many other Japanese giant robots, which really made them irresistible. Being able to transform them made it possible to meet the demand to develop the manual skills typical of children and of many adults who became passionate about the different series.

Yes, that’s right! For many people, the Micronauts have gone from being an exciting game in their childhood rooms to a hobby that has continued into adulthood. Collecting, participating in competitions, fairs … and there you have it. It is a success story that transcends time and generations.

In Italy, the Micronauti series reached the height of its success with characters Baron Karza and Force Commander. And it is here that horse enthusiasts will remember the splendid mounts, Andromeda and Oberon!

In particular, the toys in this series are now so highly prized that they are now really valuable. Did you know that a complete series in good condition can also be of significant economic value on the collectors’ market? Go rummage around in the cellar, who knows, maybe among some old rocking horses you might even find a complete Micronauts set! ?

Barbie’s horse: the boom of a carefree life on horseback

The adventures of little girls from the 1980s to the present day could really come to life thanks to Barbie’s legendary horse.

Yes, because Barbie, the most dynamic and versatile doll in history, was able to immerse herself in new and more eventful adventures together with her new horse. Or rather, horses: in the 1980s, the doll that made at least six generations dream became a skilled rider of several horses. Mattel, in fact, also included these beautiful playmates to meet the needs of horse lovers and their different tastes.

Barbie a cavallo

From the chestnut horse with articulated jointed legs and western-style saddle, to the grey horse with a very long mane and Andalusian-style stride, to the black horse and pony belonging to Skipper, Barbie’s little sister.

In an increasingly dynamic range, the world’s most famous doll takes on new disciplines with her usual agility, from show jumping to cross country.

As always, everything that revolves around Barbie has to be perfect. Every detail is taken care of because, as we know, it is the details that make the difference. The riding school becomes it own real world. The stable with the box, the fences, the paddocks and even the hay bales, the wheelbarrow, the buckets.

But that’s not all: Barbie is a precise and demanding aesthete, even with her horses. Here, then, is everything you need to care for your horse. All kinds of accessories such as brushes and harnesses, halter, reins, saddle, stirrups, blinkers. Barbie has thought of everything, also of floral blankets, very country, shin pads, hoof guards, riding bags, very cool, right down to the riding school obstacles.

Of course, Barbie’s clothing and the little girls riding the ponies had to be designed and sewn to suit the fashion mood: riding boots, rain boots, a riding helmet and a protective jacket.

Everything, truly everything, in the name of fashion trends from the 1980s to today. Then the curtain would be opened on new technologies. How? In the 2000s, the talking and neighing horse was introduced and finally the interactive horse. With the help of the latest technology, it moves itself on command and interacts with voice commands.

In short, everything in the world of Barbie represents much more than just continuous development over the years: a real revolution to make this world irresistible!

Horse soldiers: unique, one of a kind pieces

Another nostalgic dive into the “horse riding” games of the 80s and 90s takes us back to toy soldiers.

At the Museo del Cavallo Giocattolo (Toy Horse Museum) in Como, Italy, you can also admire the collection of prized lead soldiers, painstakingly painted by hand. They are part of the “Nuremberg” type known for making two-dimensional toy soldiers, which are therefore also called ‘flat’ soldiers. Made to a scale of 1:32, they each stand on a small base, are about 4cm high and each of them rides a splendid horse.

The beauty of these irresistible and often very old playmates is not only their completed appearance, but the winning idea of assembling them, gluing elements together and, above all, painting them.

Well, here we enter the complex and intriguing world of actual modelling. Millions of children all over the world became skilled artists every time they eagerly opened the magical package.

The little box that held the pieces of toy soldiers, complete with a brush and paint to paint them, was a treasure chest that opened up a world. A world of future adventures, the result of subtle, fine work, which in the hands of children, well-made serial objects were transformed into precious specimens, unique because they were personalised.

museo di como

It is not difficult to imagine that these objects, which combine fine industrial workmanship with artistic craftsmanship, conquered and still conquer the adult world.

If you want to get an idea of the extent of this passion, just take a look at the toy soldier collections marketed by none other than De Agostini!

In specialised shops or online, every channel is good to buy, sell, exchange and compare the heroes who, first in tin, then in lead and finally in plastic, ride the adventure of imagination on the back of their horses.

My little pony: a cosmic success

Those of us who were lucky enough to see The Toys That Made Us, the series that landed on Netflix a few years ago, couldn’t help but let out a prolonged “Ooohhh” of amazement when we discovered that we could become very rich just by keeping one of those collections from when we were kids.

And this applies more than ever to My Little Pony action figures. Delightful (and a little cutesy) little four-legged animals who reinvented the modern doll in an era dominated by Barbie, bringing wonder and amazement to children.

my little pony action figure

White, pink and blue, these little ponies, immersed in a fairytale world, wear the colours of the rainbow… a symbol of inclusion?

Those colourful ponies talk and interact with humans. They live in Ponyville, a small town founded by land ponies, but also open to pegasi and unicorns, and have really conquered the world of children and… not just that.

Did you know that My Little Pony is a world of its own with a huge adult fanbase?

An article published in Italian newspaper, La Repubblica in 2013 went like this: “They come from all over the world, are in their twenties, and are mostly boys. They are the followers of the “My Little Pony” cartoon, part of the latest unexpected mass phenomenon. A documentary tells the story of their life and passion: between plush costumes, good feelings and a dubious ending.

It is truly its own digital community with thousands of followers, from America to Tel Aviv. They profess the values of friendship, respect for those who are ‘different’ (here is the inclusive rainbow) and for others in general. They have no spiritual guide other than My Little Ponies. This is how the little multicoloured ponies, loved by little girls in the 1980s, unexpectedly became prophets of peace and love.

This massive and diverse community of fans, comes together under the term brony. To understand the scale of the phenomenon, you only need to think of the convention called BronyCon, which was created in the United States just for them. But what is its aim? Its aim is to bring the fandom together.

And so the “dubious ending” of the Repubblica article leads to an explanation… yes, because among the thousands of visitors, there are not only parents with their children, but adults of all ages, often dressed as their favourite characters, who come together every year to celebrate the fabulous world of Twilight Sparkle and co.

All this creates a “mixture”, a kind of dualism that is expected anyway. It is an accentuated contrast between the style of animation, the target audience and unforeseen feedback on unintended targets. This creates unforeseen confusion of unclear, when not ambiguous, and in some cases, not always so positive intentions. In reality, the brony community is a complex phenomenon, which deserves proper research.

In 2019, in response to demand, a book was published called “The Brony World: A Survey on My Little Pony Fandom” by Francesco Toniolo, in order to investigate the brony community in depth.


This suggests that behind the adult generation’s passion for little ponies, there is often a search for an escape route from depression, social exclusion and bullying. Many of those interviewed among the bronies admit to having rediscovered the joy of life by immersing themselves in the world of My Little Pony cartoons and action figures. In short, friendship, altruism, peace… and much more, in the
magical world of the Mane Six, with one question remaining…

Spirit: wild horse

In this review, we couldn’t leave out the most recent equine action figure: Spirit, the rebel horse. Here we have gone further in terms of technology. With these little horses, which are a must among millennials’ toys, all you have to do is press on the muzzle for the horse to react with movements and sound effects.

Pressing the button on his back, on the other hand, allows him to raise his front paw and place it on the floor, or to retreat onto his back legs. Again, it can rear up like a real horse. The legs are all jointed so that they can run and jump while simulating realistic galloping sounds.

The mane is soft so that it can be brushed and styled in the most creative way. The plastic stands also come with a variety of accessories: trophies, ribbons, brushes and everything for the mane.

Of course, along with all this, there is also the possibility to build equestrian environments inspired by cartoons.

spirit cavallo selvaggio

Everything needed to encourage creative play, even more so than in the past, thanks to increasingly advanced technology that, again, manages to enhance imagination and interactive play.

So, with Spirit, children have become fond of plastic horses, but also of real ones, so much so, it seems, that the ranks of young riders in the stables around the house have increased.

It is a passion for horses and everything that encompasses horse riding. Freedom, wild spirit, empathy, passion are all developed, thanks to the therapeutic relationship created with this splendid playmate and… why not, life companion.

It is no coincidence that the toy horse has appealed to children of all ages. It is the real horse that is the most suitable animal for pet therapy and for all cases in which there are relationship difficulties.

pet terapy

For thousands of years, horses have stimulated the positivity of those who approach them, becoming an indispensable companion and, when you can’t really ride, there is always room for games and imagination.

Certainly, among all the “equestrian” cartoons, with their action figures and gadgets, the world of horses has been enriched by new fans…who knows, maybe future champions of the equestrian world!



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