My first LEGO horses were the four brick-built ones from the yellow 375 Castle, in the early 1980s. But in 1984 a major LEGO revolution happened, when the LEGO Group (TLG) released the first grey LEGO Castle theme with special horse pieces (in black and white), complete with moving heads and studs for saddles and minifigures. Indeed, the 6080 King’s Castle I am currently building was the main set to launch the now-ubiquitous LEGO horse. I eventually got the 6010 Supply Wagon and the 6073 Knight’s Castle from that same year. Later I had the 6055 Prisoner Convoy with five horses and my last horses came from the 6379 Riding Stable, which featured the first brown horse.

It has been almost thirty years since that lauch and the LEGO horse on sale today remains the same, only some of the newer horses – like the black one in my son’s collection – have slightly more detailed or different prints, for example the eyes of the black horses changed in 2010 to accommodate the LEGO Kingdoms headgear. So, certainly the horse has been a long lasting piece for LEGO. A few different horse designs have been seen in non-minifigure LEGO themes though, and I learned that for a very brief period there was also a minifigure-scale LEGO pony on the market.

The last castle theme, the 2010 LEGO Kingdoms, shipped with armored headgear and barding on the horses, but the horse underneath was still the 1984 one – and the barding piece is from the late 1980s as well. New accessories and prints have been added, but the basic hardware remains the same in the LEGO horses sold today. But if the year 1984, and indeed the 6080 King’s Castle as the marquee launch set, marked the start of the LEGO minifigure horse, 2012 goes down in history as the year when TLG launched the new LEGO horse. The theme: Lord of the Rings.

What is the new LEGO horse like? Well, overall it’s a lot like the old horse. It is takes up the same space on a plate, to which its feet can attach to. It has two studs in the middle for a minifigure or a saddle, and you can move its head up and down, just like old times. Looking more closely though, you can see that the feet are different, as is the shape of the head, the body and the tail. Everything is slightly different. There is a (new) print on the front of the head as well, when only sides used to be printed. Overall, it is a more realistic, and a slightly more petite depiction of a horse.

Aside from a more realistic mold, the major new feature is the horse’s ability to rear up like the bear from LEGO City. The new horse is well balanced, it doesn’t need to be standing on studs to keep the pose.

Here are three generations of horses, 2010 LEGO Kingdoms armored white on the left, the new 2012 brown horse in the middle and a 1980s black horse with plain eyes.

The existing barding and LEGO saddles fit the new horse, but the headgear doesn’t, nor can the new horse rear while wearing the barding. Also, the old barding looks a bit heavy on the new horse, which features a smaller head.

Just like the 1984 horse was initially exclusive to LEGO Castle, the new horse starts its life within the bounds of the castle of 2012, the Lord of the Rings theme. But eventually it is expected to replace the venerable LEGO horse everywhere the minifigures roam, just like its predecessors moved from Castle to Town and beyond. Maybe let the old one ride until 2014 in some capacity, to celebrate the 30th? Perhaps a giant commemorative LEGO chess set with big squares that fit the old horse as a knight! Time for a CUUSOO?