Thursday, April 30, 2009

Customer photos

I was hoping to share some pictures of my new Lone Star today, but unfortunately he didn't arrive on schedule. Darn! I didn't have anything else planned so I was extra pleased to find these pictures from Erin Corbett in my inbox. I had the pleasure of visiting Erin's horse room earlier this year. Although she has a great many models I'd be happy to call my own, it was this Hazel that I coveted the most. "Rockette Butt" was sculpted by Morgen Kilborn and painted by Carol Huddleston. Both artists did an amazing job. This is a beautiful model who looks absolutely super in her BCS jumper tack.
Melanie Miller made the nifty Lord of the Rings jump. Isn't it neat?
I can't be certain, but that looks like a Grand Champion rosette to me--yay for Erin and Rockette Butt! I did not make anything in this next picture, but I'm posting it anyway. Here's Rocket Butt in a Western tack set made by Erin. I am a big fan of Erin's work and hope to own one of her parade saddles someday.I love posting customer pictures--please keep them coming!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Trying something new

If you cruise the model horse section on eBay, you've probably seen listings for the Kerioke series of tackmaking books. Authored by Carrie Olguin, these books cover a wide variety of topics including English Saddle Making, Arabian Costumes and Tooling Western Saddles. I really like hobby literature and I'm of the opinion that you can never have enough reference material. Still, it wasn't until Carrie's most recent offering, Modern Sidesaddles, English and Western, that I actually took the plunge and ordered one.That was back in January. I flipped through the book a couple times after it arrived, but it wasn't long before it was buried in the pile of paper on my workbench. Recently, however, I was motivated to dig it out and actually put it to use. I've spent the last two days playing with the #2 English pattern and so far this is what I have to show for it.This saddle is almost equal parts Buxton and Kerioke. Most of the pattern pieces are Carrie's, although I did significantly alter parts of the left side flap. I used different materials to build the tree and panels, and I changed up a lot of the construction processes to more closely match my own usual style of saddle making.I have to admit that I'm pretty pleased with this saddle. It's not perfect--shoot, it's not even actually finished. I still have some some details to add and a lot of clean-up. It's close, though, and that's pretty impressive for a first attempt. Amazing how quickly things go when someone else does the hard pattern work!
I think I've got a buyer lined up for this one, but it's safe to say that I'll be offering English sidesaddles when I reopen my tack books after NAN.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Bedtime stories

Today is my oldest son's ninth birthday. It hardly seems possible, but my little boy isn't so little anymore. He no longer wants me to kiss him or hold his hand, he doesn't believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny and he's prone to rolling his eyes at all my jokes, even the funny ones. His number one birthday wish was for an MP3 player, and when he received one this morning, he told me it was "tight". There's no denying it--Ryan is growing up.

Thankfully, however, traces of his younger self remain. One example of this is his enduring interest in bedtime stories. I always hoped my children would inherit my love of books, and toward that end I've spent untold hours reading them books calculated to hold their interest--stories about trains, dinosaurs, robots and planets. Even now when both boys are more than capable of reading to themselves, they still want me to read to them every night.

Mostly I like this bedtime ritual, but there are some nights when I am tired and crabby, and I just want the kids to go straight to bed. This happened recently. I tried to convince the boys that they could read to themselves, but Ryan wasn't buying it. He absolutely insisted I read him a book.

"Fine," I said. "If you want a book, then you're going to get a horse book." I marched downstairs and returned with one of my own childhood favorites, Irene Brady's Doodlebug.
Predictably, Ryan rolled his eyes at the sight of it. I ignored him and started reading. Within a few pages, I forgot I was crabby. I hadn't read Doodlebug in years and I was delighted to discover that it was as good as I remembered. My kids were equally enthralled. They listened quietly to the entire book and even wanted to discuss it after.
Of course, Ryan will not actually admit that he liked my horse book. He is way too cool for that, and he continues to roll his eyes every time I suggest we choose a book from my bookcase rather than his. Still, he has listened attentively to every horsey selection and has begun to express an inerest in riding with me. I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner! I don't know how long it will be until Ryan decides he's too old for bedtime stories. I suspect that day is coming soon, but I'm glad it's not here yet--I still have a whole shelf full of horse books to read to him!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hurray for Hollywood

As promised, here are the rest of the Arabian costume pictures from last weekend's Equine-aganza. Unlike the red Syrian costume, there is nothing authentic about these three. Their designs are entirely American and are based on glitter and glitz rather than historical accuracy. It should also be noted that these are vintage costumes. I don't know exact ages, but I'm betting that they're all at least twenty years old. If you would like to see more current showring styles, I would recommend this website:

The color and design of this first costume seems almost Native American. The saddle is actually a Western saddle tree with the horn removed.
There are no tassels anywhere on the body of the costume--just fringe. I can't help but wonder if the reins were borrowed from a different costume. Unlike the other pieces, they do look Middle Eastern.
This close-up captures the costume's homemade charm perfectly--craft store materials and safety pins!
Shawnee and her horse Little wore this sparkley purple costume.
I think these are the biggest, shiniest tassels I've ever seen.
Close-up of the breastcollar showing the pom poms and tassels.
More gigantic tassels, pom poms and fringe--this costume has it all!
Ashley and Jedi sported another shiny purple creation.
I love the pom poms on the bridle. Here is a better look at Jedi's costume, bridle excluded.
More fringe and gigantic tassels.
At first glance the saddle looks pretty exotic, but it's really just an old Western saddle. The horn and fenders have been removed and the whole thing has been covered in fabric.These big tasseled, retro costumes probably wouldn't do well in the model showring, but I know of at least one person (hello, Sue!) who's made a few recently. I understand the attraction. How fun to make something so over-the-top glittertastic! I'm halfway tempted to make one myself. I don't know what I'd do with it when I was done, but I'm pretty sure I'd have a lot of fun along the way!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sneak peek Teke

Last Saturday I showed you some pictures of my Fly By Wire resin as I began his transformation from sporthorse to Akhal Teke. At that point, I'd successfully removed the horse from his base and had made a good start on the resculpting. He was beginning to look somewhat Teke-ish, but I still had a ways to go towards creating true breed type. Since I do not have a real Akhal Teke to look at, I did the next best thing--I went to Google and started collecting pictures. I have never thought of myself as an Akhal-Teke fan. I'm much more of a pony girl. I like "cute" horses with short, round bodies, big eyes, broad foreheads, little ears and lots of hair.Nothing could be less ponylike than an Akhal-Teke. They are long, angular and narrow with prominent withers, ewe necks and long ears. Their coats are extremely fine and their manes and tails sparse. Their faces have an exotic beauty to them, but they're not cute.So I didn't expect to fall in love with the breed, but that's exactly what happened. Even after I had more than enough pictures to work with, I kept on looking and looking and looking. You do not even want to know how many pictures I saved to my hard drive!Here are the results of that research. This is how my resin Teke looked yesterday when I boxed him up and sent him off to Tiffany.Hopefully the changes are obvious. He has much less neck and his topline has been reduced substantially. Just look at those withers! The roached mane and forelock look seems to be common among Russian and Czech Akhal Tekes, and I chose to go with that look. Not only is it delightfully exotic, but it also makes him completely tack friendly.Sometimes small changes make a big difference. I didn't do much to his face--I lengthened his ears and made his profile a bit less straight--but I think it looks very Teke like now. He may not be a match for Khan, but I'm still pretty pleased with my budget Akhal Teke.
Of course, I couldn't send Tiffany a box without putting a little something in it for her. This is what she gets in exchange for the paintwork.
Oh, that was fun! It had been several months since I'd played with the dremel or the epoxy and I was overdue. Can't wait to see how Tiffany finishes him up!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Arabian costume pictures

I have made a grand total of one Arabian costume. It turned out fine and I kind of enjoyed making it, but I have no immediate plans to make another. Still, I'm not ruling anything out, so I was delighted to get some good, close-up reference pictures of Trisha's imported Syrian costume at the Equine-aganza last weekend. This is a lovely costume made in a traditional style with modern materials. It is shown here on Trisha's twenty six year old Arabian gelding, Phoenix.
Here's a better look at the bridle. Although you can't see it here, the bit attaches to the headstall via a leather strap and buckle. Phoenix has never had a lot of go in him, so this loose ring snaffle is all the bit he needs.
Close up of the browband decoration. The tassels here and throughout the entire costume are made of a synthetic material.The bridle and breastcollar are decorated with cowrie shell and crystal medallions. The breastcollar fits very low on Phoenix's chest and has a center strap that goes between his legs and attaches to the girth.
A better look at the medallions and tassels.The breastcollar is tied onto the rings on the front of the saddle.Here's a good look at the entire body part of the costume. Note how much bigger the back panel is than either of the side panels. The stirrups are regular English irons. The saddle is higher in front than in back. Despite the padding, Trisha says it is not comfy!Detail of the embroidered side panel. Most hobby costume makers use the little Turkish rugs and runners for the panels, but there are a few people who actually stitch their own. I would love to learn how to do that. It makes for a much more authentic look.
This picture shows Trish cinching up the saddle. The panel and stirrup are flipped up over the seat, exposing a rigging that looks very much like that of a Western saddle. Trish was happy to point out that the latigo is not original. In fact, it is made from an old seat belt! Oh well, whatever works, right?As more and more hobbyists are using dolls in the showring, I think it's important to include at least one picture of someone actually sitting in the tack. It's not enough to make tack that fits your model, it's got to fit those pesky dolls, too!
I will upload pictures of some "Hollywood" style Arab costumes over the weekend. Prepare yourself for big tassels and lots of glitter!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I am a slacker

I hate to admit this, but I haven't worked on my NAN set in almost a week. I got stuck on the cantle/panel join and needed to take a break to think. Thinking always helps, and the good news is that I've seen the error of my ways. Unfortunately, I'm going to have to redo the back of the cantle. I hate taking things apart so I've been procrastinating. I've done a ton of work on my Fly By Wire resin and I've almost finished a dressage saddle, but the poor NAN saddle has been gathering dust on the horse shelf.I wasn't feeling particularly guilty about this until my donation partner, Jane Schneider, posted these pictures to her Yahoo group last night. Not only has she finished the rider doll, but she got ambitious and added a second doll to our endurance package. Now I feel like a total slacker!Here is Jane's description of the dolls: For my doll we both thought NAN colors would be fun so the girl endurance rider sports a purple and white rugby shirt and black riding tights with a purple stripe. Her brown hair is caught back and turned in on itself with the ends left loose. She has purple and black half chaps and a white custom helmet. She also wears a digital watch so she can keep track of her horse's heartbeat in the field if necessary. She comes with a companion doll who can be a handler,an assistant or a vet in a long lab coat. He wears a burgundy and white rugby shirt with jeans and boots,an ID lanyard and another digital watch.
If you haven't had a chance to see one of Jane's dolls in person, let me assure you that they are absolutely top notch. You can view her (in progress) website here: big challenge for me now is to not just finish that saddle, but to make it equal in quality to Jane's part of the package. No small task, but I think I'm ready to stop procrastinating and get back to work!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Harness pictures

It's always a pleasure to see pictures of my tack in the showring, particularly when that tack is part of a complex and really cool set-up. Look at these wonderful pictures from Lisa Sharpe! They show her Ima Sharpe Cutter resin in an amazing marathon harness entry. "Adios St Ranger" was both sculpted and painted by Lisa, and I think she is also responsible for the cool diorama. Bill Duncan made the marathon cart and the dolls were dressed by Nancy Cortez.I really love it when showers take a "one trick pony" and turn it into an all around performance horse. You wouldn't think a cutting posed resin could be so versatile, but he won nine performance NAN cards in tough Region 10 competition. That's impressive!
I've made a lot of harnesses over the years, and those harnesses have helped my customers win a lot of NAN cards and even a few NAN cookies. Still, despite that success, I am much less comfortable making harnesses than I am making saddles. I think it's because I do not have any real life driving experience. I've done the research and collected some pictures, but that's just not the same as hands-on learning. As I've said before, nothing beats the real thing.

That said, I was really pleased to see this lovely pony at the Equine-aganza on Sunday. His name is KCS High Flying Cloud and he's a four year old Section B Welsh Pony stallion from Windsor, Colorado. I spent a lot of time watching him warm up outside, and most of my attention was focused on the intricacies of his nice, pleasure-style harness.
KC is a really nice pony and he and his owner were happy to pose for my pictures. I didn't have the heart to tell them that I was actually more interested in the harness than the pony.
Here's a close up view of the surcingle and the shaft holders. Good, clear pictures like this are invaluable for the serious tackmaker. I am so pleased to have had a chance to take these.I always struggle with the blinker stays. They are unlike anything you'd see on a riding bridle and I never feel as though I get them exactly right. This picture reinforces that feeling. There's no doubt that I've been overdoing things. I'll definitely refer back to this photo next time I made a driving bridle.
I haven't yet tried to make long box keepers like the ones that run along the bottom edge of KC's blinkers. I suspect this feature will show up on future driving bridles. I'm always striving to improve my work and this seems like the next, logical upgrade. I think I know how I'll make them...
I know there are other tackmakers who read this blog. If you are one of them, please feel free to copy these pictures for your reference files. I hope you will find them as helpful as I do!