Garage Sale Vintage Horse Toy Makeover

Vintage Toy Makeover into Farmhouse Decor

Hello there. Do you ever go garage saling just for the sake of going? For something inexpensive to do? Just to get out and about? Looking for something vintage at an affordable price? For me it’s about finding vintage items, and occasionally finding something extra special I didn’t even know existed like this antique horse puppet.  This puppet looks hand carved even the teeth and tongue.  All the joints work and are carved as well.  I have no idea exactly how old it is or its origin but I am super happy to have it and will guard it dearly.

A little while ago I share a post about garage saling for Christmas decor items, especially vintage toys. This antique puppet definitely falls in that category, but I am going to hang it up as farmhouse style decor.

Where to Start?

The little horse was super dirty, with some missing paint. My first thought was to just clean the little horse.  I had a decision to make.

Vintage Horse Puppet Garage Sale Find Before

Doing some research online I found some antique horse puppets with a similar paint job.  The paint looked redone to me, especially the horrible mouth with the garish red tongue. At this stage, I was hoping I made the correct choice but decided to strip and repaint the horse.

Vintage toy face before picture

I then tried to clean the puppet strings using soap, bleach and a toothbrush.  Although they did get much cleaner, the thread just didn’t come clean enough, I am going to paint them once I get the old paint removed.

Stripping the Vintage Toy

The first step was to strip it and scrap the paint off.   I started by wrapping the real horse hair mane and tail in plastic wrap.  I then used paint stripper on one side of the horse, wrapped it in plastic wrap to reduce the evaporation.  Left it for 20 minutes and then carefully scraped it off.  It took three rounds of stripping to get the majority of the paint off.  I then flipped the horse over, rewrapped the mane and tail and repeated the stripping on the other side.

The little horse has lots of joints that are caked full of old paint layers and dust.  After the majority of the paint was s removed, I used a small paintbrush to apply the stripper in the joints.  I allowed the stripper to sit for 20 minutes and then slowly worked the paint out using a chopstick.  Once stripped this is what the little horse looks like.

I think it was originally painted black by the dark black staining on the body of the horse.  Do you agree the folk art looking paint was likely a makeover?.

Using paint stripper to makeover vintage toy horse puppet.

I did not want the layers of paint stripper to remain on the antique wood.  To remove it I used a soft toothbrush dipped in a mixture of Dawn dish soap and water.   Once clean I dried the horse with a soft rag and let it dry overnight.

Painting the Vintage Horse Puppet

Once I saw the black paint my first thought was to paint the horse all black.  It was given one coat of Fusion Mineral Paint Coal black and let dry.

The horse looked good in all black but it didn’t suit the decor in the bedroom.  You can see in the picture I still haven’t done the hand carved teeth yet.

Black vintage toy makeover into farmhouse decor

I then changed my plan and decided to give it a chippy white look.  I could have skipped the black coat and started with a grey and white dry brush coat of paint instead, but sometimes a plan doesn’t come together the first time.

Two tone grey and white paint job on vintage horse

To get this mottled effect on the horse, I used both white and grey chalk paint.  Taking turns with each colour a little bit at a time, building the paint layers over the black.  To dry brush I dipped just the end of a 1/2 inch artists brush into the tape and then wiped most of the paint off onto a paper towel before applying the paint to the horse.

Using 220 grit sandpaper I sanded the chalk paint smooth, liking the smudges soft appearance it gave to the paint.

The Chippy Finish

To be honest, I have very little experience using milk paint, I really liked the information from My Painted Door, and the final look on the horse. I painted the horse in white milk paint and let it dry thoroughly before adding a second coat.  I did not add a bonding agent and waited for chips.  When the chips did not happen as much as I wanted I used a paint scraper and VERY gently removed the paint on the outer edges where I thought it would wear off when played with.

Antique horse puppet

The mouth was painted all white, which disguises the garish red tongue, and I ditched the painted eyelashes.

This little chippy horse was hung from a DIY shutter and I bought a little hanger for it.  I will be sharing the little stool makeover in a few days.

Vintage toy makeover into farmhouse decor.

Related Posts

I have included the easy tutorial for the DIY shutters made using 1 by six lumber.

DIY Shutters, handmade shutters using reclaimed wood painted white.

DIY Shutters

Vintage toys are great for Christmas decor.  This horse puppet is my latest garage sale find the following post shows several other examples.

Using vintage sleigh underneath a Christmas tree

Garage Sale for Vintage Christmas Toys

DIY Farmhouse decor makeover using vintage toy
vintage toy makeover.


  1. I found a baby doll cradle, dark wood about 2.5′ long, 1.5′ foot wide w a cover halfway over and rocker feet. Also, an old wood potty. Thoughts what to do for looks and function?

  2. What a great find and save! You did such a lovely job, Leanna! And he looks right at home there on that sweet hook!

    1. Thank you Deborah. It was a bit daunting to tackle but I am proud of how it turned out.

  3. Oh she’s a beauty Leanna, what a lovely find and you did the best job ever in restoring her too. I bet she’ll be treasured for many years to come

  4. What a fabulous garage sale find, Leanna! Wow, a lot of painstaking work to refurbish it but the results couldn’t be more perfect. So much better painted black and white and I see you even painted the strings. Your granddaughters are going to squeal with delight when they see it.

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