* The 'Blab' mentioned below refers to The Model Horse Blab, a popular model horse community. *
On August 03, 2006, I spotted four mysterious mare and foal sets at my local Target in the Southwestern US. I didn't know if they were special runs, regular runs, or some sort of fluke release (a girl can dream, right?), but I did know I would be buying them all that day.
I have since found a Blab post on July 27, 2006 from an East Coast member mentioning these sets, so people were finding them on the shelves at least a week earlier than I did.
It is well that I purchased the models when I did because two of the four sets saw some fairly major changes very soon after their release.
The most dramatic alteration was to the Paint Horse set, called #720599 Horse and Foal Set - Sport. This set originally consisted of a G2 Thoroughbred in a lovely and detailed dark bay frame pattern with off-hind stocking, near-hind pastern and leg patch, and an apron face and her G2 Frolicking Foal in an equally complex chestnut dun frame with apron face, off-hind stocking, and near-hind sock.
Around this time Breyer moved away from the metal mold masks and adopted the new sticker-type masking, through this process a whole new level of intricacy in pattern designs became possible, as illustrated in the above models.
Sometimes the remainder of these stickers or their residue can be left on a model. A rub with the finger is generally all that's needed to remove the stickiness, stickers, or coloured (often red) edging. The stickers will be painted over with the body colour, so it will usually look like the model has a paint flaw. My little paint mare had quite a bit of the red edging to remove and a horrible paint flaw on her leg which turned out to be a whole marking that had been left covered up.
When you have a Target with a well-stocked Breyer section within an easy walk of your apartment, you find that your evening stroll takes you in that direction at least once every two weeks or so. With that in mind, I am fairly confident that the release date of first variation was pretty close to my date of purchase.
While doing some date checking, I found a Blab post on Sept. 1, 2006 from a Minnesota member, discussing the new variations, so I wasn't too far behind in finding this out.
A little over six weeks after purchasing my first set, on September 17, 2006, while I was giving the local Target's Breyer shelves a quick check over, I noticed something odd about the new family sets; they had changed! The lovely paint horse set was now just a solid pair with extensive facial markings!
The face and leg markings remained the same (though the mare lost her leg patch), but those lovely frame patterns were gone, and after only around a month or so, which is like five minutes in the lifespan of a run. Though the mare was now a little on the dull side, after all there were already several other bay G2 Thoroughbreds out there, the G2 Frolicking Foal looked rather sweet in a simple, solid chestnut dun.
Not too much later, this set underwent another change. The colours were the same, but the mare had become a stallion, the G2 Warmblood to be exact. The foal remained unchanged and unamused. I didn't purchase this set until October 2009, but I have found Blab posts referring to the change as early as November 27, 2006.
This set was later released in the catalogue as the regular run #5924 Sport Horse - bay and chestnut foal which ran from 2007 to 2015. The regular run doesn't seem to differ significantly from the special run issue besides the usual inconsistencies caused by different paint batches, extra shading, and misapplication of the sticker-masks.
The same time the frame mare and foal were turning solid, the #720599 Horse and Foal Set - Appaloosas - Grullo and bay foal (2006) set underwent some changes of its own.
The G3 Cantering Warmblood started out as a golden-toned black dun with four stenciled socks, an apron face, eye-whites, and a lacy, bisected, stenciled hip blanket with masked spots. Her plastic was of the translucent variety, giving her a slightly yellowed look next to white plastic models. The G2 Trotting Foal was a pink bay roan with a blaze, white muzzle, stenciled off-fore and near-hind socks, and a lightly speckled body.
In September this set changed names to #720599 Horse and Foal Set - Appaloosas (2006) and the horses changed too. Now the G3 Cantering Warmblood had four air-brushed stockings and an airbrushed blanket with chestnut splatter spots covering her rump. Her body colour and facial marking remained the same. The foal was now a plain bay with air-brushed off-fore and near-hind socks, and an air-brushed hip blanket with splatter spots. The facial marking remained unchanged.
This set was later released as the regular run #5921 Horse and Foal Set - Appaloosas (2007-15)
The final two sets have remained unchanged throughout their history.
Target special run #720599 Horse and Foal Set: American Quarter Horse - Palomino (2006), later regular run #5922 Horse and Foal Set: American Quarter Horses - Palomino (2007-2015) consisted of a G3 Stock Horse in metallic palomino with off-white mane and tail, blaze, and an off-hind sock. It was accompanied by a G2 Cantering Foal in palomino with stark white white mane and tail, star, and near-hind and off-fore socks.
Target special run #720599 Pinto - grey sabino and white with black and white foal (2006), later regular run #5923 Horse and Foal Set - Pintos (2007-2015) had a G2 Prancing Morgan in a soft water-resist dapple grey tobiano with star, snip, and bi-coloured mane. The G2 Scratching Foal was a black tobiano with a large blaze, eye-whites, and bi-colour mane and tail.