Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Vinegar syndrome

"Model horses don't have any "illnesses" or "conditions", right?"


Just like real older horses getting bad arthritis, old Breyer horses are prone to a "illness" called vinegar syndrome. For those of you who are unaware of this malady, it could/can affect your collection in weeks. The thing is: it is contagious. Yes, you heard me. Very contagious.

Model horse enthusiasts first noticed this in models created through 1987 to the mid 1990's. One of the first things you notice in a horse with vinegar syndrome is warping of the legs, neck, or back. People sometimes just think that the horse has/had been exposed to extreme temperatures. But it is a precursor to the syndrome.

Second thing that you notice is a strange ooze, or "sweat" that appears on the head, hindquarters, chest, belly and hooves. It looks a little like sweat or water. But it smells bad, and that is when you need to take action to prevent your other models from getting it.

First, let me tell you how this issue with old models ever came to be. Breyer horses are made with cellulose acetate, the same substance that is the culprit of the degradation of old films and movies. This is called Vinegar Syndrome.

Vinegar Syndrome was first noticed in India in 1948, where film for movies was being kept in humid, and hot (this is India, you know) areas. The key ingredient to Vinegar syndrome is acetic acid, which shrinks and "molds" the plastic. Acetic acid is also the key ingredient to vinegar, hence the name.

Vinegar Syndrome decomposes old model horses, and is contagious to other models as well. It isn't a disease (though it can seem like it), but a chemical reaction. Other models don't have to come into contact with an infected model to become infected, because the fumes of vinegar syndrome in the air will absorb into another models plastic, and therefore cause a chain reaction and wipe out your model herd. Note: some people have found that some of their models don't get the syndrome when in contact with the affected one, but usually, the models near or around the model and is exposed will get vinegar syndrome.  


The normal life span of vinegar syndrome is around 500 years (!)  And once "activated" will deteriorate the model fairly quickly. So, you need to:

Quarantine your model away from any other healthy models.
Unwrap your model, do not enclose it into bubble wrap or plastic wrap.
Keep your model COLD, this will slow down the desegregation process.
Ventilation will greatly help your model from turning into a mass of plastic within a few years.

Here is a link that will help you further if you happen to have a horse with this issue. 




  1. So what is Breyers response to vinegar syndrome?

  2. Entropy...all molecules seek to break down eventually into their constituent atoms..I love some Breyers, but don't own any..had a 1979 Morgan tiny black horse though.
    I do collect English rocking horses, and they are prone to woodworm and wet rot/dry rot, but if kept safely in a cool dry airy place they won't deteriorate for centuries.
    But I know that Julip horses much loved in my childhood are deteriorating badly, and they are made of a rubbery substance..the material cracks, melts and crumbles.
    Wood seems to be a more 'stable' substance, but the Breyers...such a great shame..people really cherish them, but can anything be done to stop this happening, maybe by changing the 'plastic'?
    Best wishes, Oakleaf :)


Hello! Feel free to comment....I love to get opinions, suggestions, and compliments. I will answer any questions. If you leave a link to your blog, I will check it out! Thanks, and enjoy Bits and Spurs!

~CBL (Colorado Breyer Lover)