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What are Rocking Horses?

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  • Written By: Paulla Estes
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Rocking horses are riding toys for small children that are reminiscent of simpler times. Rocking horses are simply small, sturdy toy horses that are big enough for a child to sit upon, as if riding a real horse. Most rocking horses are made in the shape of an actual horse, with head, back, legs, and tail; but along the bottom, attached to the hooves, are curved bow rockers similar to those found on a rocking chair. This style is known as the Victorian rocker. When a child sits on the horse's back, a back-and-forth bodily movement will allow the child to rock to and fro. Foot straps, foot rests, or stirrups provide the child with a place to place his feet while there are often handles protruding from the sides of the horse's head for the child to grasp with his hands.

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Perhaps the first known wooden horse was the infamous Trojan horse, though the first known rocking horses came centuries later. Rocking horses date back to the Middle Ages and are thought to have been made in Germany. Medieval knights practiced jousting on wheeled horses, but wooden horses made for children came later. A few rocking horses have been found that date back to the 17th century, but the idea didn't really take hold until the middle of the 18th century. The Victorian models were the only rocking horses available and only affluent children were privileged enough to own one. In 1851, none other than Queen Victoria visited the workshop of J. Collinson in Liverpool, England to see his famous carved rocking horses. Word quickly spread that her majesty had chosen a dapple gray horse to ride. Before long, dapple gray was by far the number one choice of color for rocking horses all over Europe. In the late 1880s, safety glider rocking horses came on the scene, providing a safer design and a horse that utilized less space.

Today rocking horses are still enjoyed by children all over the world; those scarcely old enough to hold on to the handles will grasp them with surprising tenacity while older children who are nearly too large to ride will happily enjoy this favorite toy. Long after the children are grown, many parents find it difficult to let go of their children's rocking horses. Rather than selling them or giving them away, many rocking horses will be found several years later in a forgotten attic, covered with cobwebs and dust, but just as beloved as when it when they were first bought.

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