Friday, April 30, 2010

MEPSA Tackmaking Contest

Ryan's tenth birthday party is just a few hours away. I've spent the day getting ready, but there are still half a dozen small things that need to be done before the great event begins. I don't have time for a real post, so instead I'm passing along information about MEPSA's newest fundraising venture.MEPSA Tackmaking contest

MEPSA is holding a model horse tackmaking contest as a MEPSA Benefit. This contest is open to ALL. Winner will be decided by popular vote. Voting will be open to ALL. One person = one vote. Voters will need to join the yahoogroups MEPSA list in order to vote, but this is free and simple. This is a great way to get your work shown to a potentially huge audience, win a great award, and help MEPSA put on a terrific Championship show.

Contest Rules

1) All tack must have been made by the entrant. All major parts of any sets must have been made by the entrant. For example, you may not make a saddle pad, and enter someone else's saddle with your saddle pad as an entry. However, if the saddle is your work, a saddle pad made by someone else (and noted) may be included as part of one entry. The tack may be previously made, or made especially for this contest.

2) Tackmaker may enter any type tack (Western, English, Native costume, historical, circus, other) in any scale, and the tack may be anything, ranging from a halter and lead set to a complete set with saddle. We will have two divisions- one for an entry including a saddle, and one for entries not including a saddle. You may enter one entry in each division if you wish.

3) All finished tack may have a clear digital or scanned photo of each side, on a model, sent in to MEPSA- Laurel Dedes- MEPSA can do the photographs for you if needed, when we get the tack.

4) ALL entered tack becomes property of MEPSA to raise funds or use as Championship show awards. This is a MEPSA Benefit contest. Tackmaker must send the finished tack to MEPSA upon completion- Sherry Ball, Yorktown, VA.- at their own expense. There is no other fee to enter.

5) Winner of Division A (entry of or including any type saddle) will be awarded a Sandicast Quarter horse model, professionally customized by Lisa Rivera Shepard. We will have photos of this model up when they are available. Lisa has already done a lot of work on him, and he is a gorgeous tobiano paint horse.
6) Winner of Division B (entry without saddle) will receive either a NIB Breyer model or tack making supplies.

7) The contest will be publicized heavily on the Internet and in model horse groups. Please help spread the word!

8) Deadline for producing your tack and entering it is July 15th, 2010. Voting will take place at the end of July or the beginning of August. We will accept entries from now until July 15th.

9) MEPSA appreciates an intent to enter statement as soon as you determine that you will enter, sent to Laurel Dedes- This is not binding, but will give us an idea how many entries to expect.
I've been involved with MEPSA for more than a decade. This is one of the hobby's best organization, and I plan to show my support by entering at least one division of the Tackmaking Contest. Hope to see some of you there, too!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ingredients for a girth

Today I made two girths. This is what they look like now...And here's a look at the girth ingredients. The body of the girth is made from two types of leather--petite tooling calf and sheepskin skiver. Both of these are dyed and sealed, and the cut ends are treated with Edge Kote. Each girth has four 1/8" photo-etched buckles with added rollers (made from the sheet metal) and buckle tongues (made from 24 gauge stainless steel wire). The buckles are attached to the girth with 1/8" kangaroo lace and elastic cord. The entire girth is glued and sewn together. Gum tragacanth is used during several stages of the construction process.
On to the tools! The sandpaper, scissors, X-acto knife, Q-tip and pounce wheel are all used to cut out, prepare and finish the leather pieces. The rest of the tools are used on the buckles. The blue handled wire cutters are used to snip the buckles off their sheet. The tin snips, round nosed jewelry pliers and blue handled smooth jaw needle nose pliers are used to cut out, shape and attach the rollers. The red handled wire cutters, pink handled needle nose pliers and round nosed jewelry pliers help form and attach the buckle tongues. It's not really necessary to have so many different types of pliers and wire cutters, but it sure is helpful. Detailing buckles is tedious work, and I am grateful for every tool that makes my job a little easier.
Before I forget again there is one more "tool" that you can always find on my work desk:
I am a messy worker. If I didn't have paper towels handy, my entire work area would be covered with glue and gum tragacanth. Believe me, these are essential!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Just add water...

If only it was that easy!It's taken me all day, but yesterday's pile of ingredients now looks like a saddle.
Anne and I first started trade negotiations for this saddle nearly two years ago. I hope she's not disappointed. My saddles are nice enough, but I'm not sure they're worth that kind of wait...
Tomorrow I'll tackle the girth and pad. Is anyone interested in seeing the ingredients that go into that?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Ingredients for a saddle

Today I am going to start building Anne's huntseat saddle, and I thought it might be interesting to take pictures of all the parts and pieces that go into a Braymere saddle.

The first photo shows the actual saddle "ingredients"--these are the things that make up the saddle itself. They include two types of leather (petite tooling calf and sheepskin skiver), craft felt, copper sheet metal, 1/8" kangaroo lace, sewing thread, 24 gauge wire, a pair of stirrup irons (these are from The World of Model Horse Collecting), photo-etched 1/16" D-rings (from Rio Rondo) and stainless steel straight pins.
Although the skiver in the above photo is shown in its natural state, it won't stay like that for long. Each piece of leather will be dyed and then sealed with Satin Sheen. All exposed edges will be treated with gum tragacanth and Edge Kote. The gum tragacanth will also be used during several other phases of the saddle building process. The Aleene's Super Thick Tacky Glue is another constuction essential. Although I also sew all the major stress points, the majority of the saddle is held together with glue.
Last but not least--here's a look at the tools I will use to turn the items in the top picture into something resembling a saddle. The mallet and the mechanical pencil are used to punch holes in the billets and stirrup leathers. The tin snips will cut the saddle tree out of the sheet metal. The pounce wheel acts as a stitch marker. The blue handled wire cutters are used for photo-etched parts and the red handled wire cutters are on the straight pins. The small round handled awl is used for general leatherwork, while the long pencil handled awl is strictly for punching holes in the front part of the saddle tree. The needle nose pliers are useful for shaping the saddle tree and also the "stirrup bars." I use the pen to trace the patterns onto my leather and the scissors to cut out the pattern pieces. The Q-tips are handy for applying both Satin Sheen and Edge Kote. The X-acto knife has many uses including both cutting and skiving. The sandpaper is used to both to thin the leather and also to help shape the seat and panels.
And that's it--everything you need to build an English saddle is pictured here!

(Well, everything that is except the time, patience and know-how... I'm not sure those things could be properly described in just three photographs!)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Post weekend show report

Remember that in-hand set I made for Tiffany's custom Alborozo? Here it is again making it's debut at the Quabbin Valley Performance Open show held last Saturday in Ludlow, Massachusetts.Der Fliegender Feldman won his class so he is going to NAN. Woo hoo and congratulations to Tiffany! Thanks also to Linda White for letting me use this photo.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

An unlikely performance horse

One of my favorite things about photo showing is that with the right camera angle and a lot of creativity, even the most unlikely models can be potential performance superstars.

Touch of Red is a perfect example of this. He is a Peter Stone rearing horse, a mold which is unpopular with halter and performance showers alike. Despite that, Touch of Red has had a long and successful showing career in the tough MEPSA show series. Here are a few of his pictures. Touch of Red is shown wearing a Hartland Collectibles saddle made by Kathleen Bond. His cinch was made by Doreen McGuire, his pad by Deb Messner and the boots, bridle and breastcollar were made by yours truly. Traci Durrell-Khalife dressed the doll.
Competing in Western Trail with a jump by Jane Schneider. I love this picture!
You won't see Touch of Red accompanying me to any live shows, but he's just as unlikely to end up for sale on MH$P. This good old boy with his good old pictures (taken with a film camera!) has earned his forever home. Who knows, I might even take some English performance pictures of him one of these years!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Size is relative

Kim's little harness is finished. I think it turned out ok, although I'm not completely convinced. I really struggle with this scale, and I tend to focus on all the things that are wrong rather than those that are right...Part of me really wants to believe that it's impossible to produce high quality tack in the smaller scales. However, there is abundant proof that other people can do exactly that. Here's a picture I received in my inbox yesterday from new tackmaker, Katlyn Cooper. This is the second saddle she's ever made, and not only is it good, it's tiny.
Katlyn writes: I read your recent post about mini tack and I think that harness is incredible. Minis are my passion and I just recently tried my hand at a mini western saddle and wanted to show you the results... I sculpted the stirrups out of Apoxie along with the saddle tree myself, since no one makes them for that tiny of scale, and the stirrups almost drove me to drink lol. The girth is as close to one of the traditional red and white string girths as I could get this tiny and it fastens on exactly the way a real saddle would. Now I just have to figure out how to make a matching bridle!
Oh, that's humbling--I think Katlyn's entire saddle is smaller than my harness' bridle! Next time I start whining about working in Pebbles scale, I'm going to look back at these pictures and remind myself that it could be so much worse!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Progress interrupted

I really thought I'd finish the little harness today. I got off to a good start... but then the mailman delivered the newest issue of Model Horse Performance magazine.
I opened it up, planning to flip through it quickly and get right back to work. Famous last words! I read one article and then another and before I knew it, it was time to pick up the kids. Darn you, Shannon! How am I supposed to get anything done with this sort of distraction?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I like making tack, but I do not like making all kinds of tack. Harnesses are a perfect example of this. While I don't actually hate, hate, hate them, they're not a favorite. If no one ever ordered another harness, that would be ok. Ditto mini scale strap goods. I could happily go the rest of my life without making any more of those.

So, how did I get talked into this? For those of you who are not in the know, this model's body measures less than four inches from front to back. He's tiny!
Oh, I know there are people who work smaller, but those people are obviously insane. I think I would cry if I had to make a stablemate scale harness. Or drink. Seriously people, how do you do this?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Yesterday I featured a picture of a draft horse covered in saddles. Today it's a draft-type horse covered in people!With his black spots and feathered feet, Navajo was the most recognizable horse in the Tom Sawyer Day Camp herd. He was also one of the most beloved. He spent his mornings at PreCamp taking care of the smallest campers...
and then after lunch he'd come on over to the regular camp and pack around everyone else.
I worked on the Tom Sawyer Day Camp horse staff for four summers in the mid 1980's and also spent three years riding camp horses during the off season. This was the height of my brave/crazy riding phase, so I didn't have a lot of interest in actually riding "Nava-SLOW." Despite that, I always counted Navajo among my favorite horses.It was impossible not to love Navajo. He was just a big, cuddly, cute teddy bear of a horse!
The RB Romke resin that I have been working on for the last month is a semi-portrait of Navajo. I hope that when it's finished it will be a worthy tribute to this grand old horse!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Tiffany posted this picture on her blog today. It's my unpainted Scarlett modelling part of Tiffany's BCS saddle collection.Ha ha ha! Poor Scarlett. I bet she can't wait to come live with me. There aren't anywhere near that many saddles at my house!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pictures from live shows past

I moved back to Colorado in the summer of 1998 and attended my first live show the following March. It was a small "fun" show held in a school cafeteria. There were no NAN cards and nary a single resin on my table--just a bunch of common OF's and a few small tack items for sale.The fun show had a small performance division. This is Jane Schneider's QH1 Ronin showing in the Working Western class.
My first NAN qualifying show was the 1999 Rocky Mountain Model Horse Expo. This was held in conjunction with the real horse Expo at the National Western Stock Show Complex in Denver, Colorado. Here's a look at the OF China/Resin Pony class. That's my Beswick Highland Pony over on the right side of the picture.
Not surprisingly, all my other pictures are from the Performance Division. This is Jane's Ronin showing in the Native American Costume class with his travois.
A National Show Horse in the Jumper division? Why not!
Another QH1 resin--I believe this one belongs to Terri Daniels.
The horse in this photo is very out of focus, probably because I was more interested in the jump than the model itself. It's a very cool jump--even eleven years later!
No idea who this Appaloosa belonged to, but I'm pretty sure that's Kathleen Bond saddle. I have one just like it but dark oil.
My friend Trish used to be model horse person, and this was her entry in the Collector/Theme class.
About what you would expect from a high school English teacher!
These last two photos are from a different show--maybe the 2000 edition of the Rocky Mountain Model Horse Expo? The first is a stablemate scale Western Trail horse that was owned by the late June Westenbarger. June was one of my very first tack customers. She passed away in 2003. I still miss her.
Before Jane Schneider started dressing dolls, she built some very nice jumps. I think this one may have belonged to June, but I remember wishing that it belonged to me!
Oh, this all seems like it was such a long time ago! Hope you've enjoyed this little stroll down memory lane as much as I have.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tiffany's tack fix

My friend Tiffany is a tack addict of the highest order. Most performance showers are satisfied with "one of each," but that is so not Tiffany. I suspect she has as many model sized saddles as Imelda Marcos had shoes... And she's still adding to her collection!

This works out well for me because Tiffany is also an extremely talented sculptor and painter. We have spent the last two years exchanging emails, tack and models, and I count my "Purdy Horses" among the jewels of my collection.

Recently Tiffany has been jonesing for a tack fix. I had a little space in my schedule so I told her I could make her something as long as it was "easy" and not terribly time consuming. After some discussion, we decided that an in-hand set for this customized Alborozo would fit the bill perfectly.
Tiffany described what she had in mind this way: It looks like the presentation caveson is put over a simple snaffle bridle with a drop noseband (front of the bit, like a normal drop dressage noseband). The side reins attach to the surcingle (or sometime just around the saddle girth) then the long line to the center ring. Make sense????

It all made perfect sense, or it did before I actually started working on the tack. Then the questions began: Gold hardware or silver hardware? What kind of bit? Should the serreta have one ring or threee? Crupper? Modern type side reins with rubber donuts or something a bit more old fashioned? I hate having to guess at details, and historical sets like this involve a lot of guesswork.

I spent most of yesterday searching Google Images, looking for that perfect reference picture. I never found it. The photo below (which was provided by Tiffany) is typical of what I did find. The headgear is spot on, but the horse is wearing a saddle rather than just a surcingle. Worse, the picture is too small to make out any kind of fine detail.
I ended up cobbling together parts and pieces from several different pictures. That's not my favorite approach, but I think it turned out ok in the end. Here's the bridle and surcingle...
and here's the serreta/presentation caveson.Hope you like it, Tiff, and next time when I say easy I mean easy!!!!

Be sure to check out Tiffany's new blog at:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Almost wordless Wednesday

Dhaulagiri again, this time with tack.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


About a year and a half ago, I went to a model horse swap meet and came home with a bag of resin body parts. I joked about turning the Boreas parts into bookends...
but I opted to fix him up instead. I documented the reunifying process in this post dated November 17, 2008.
I'm better at repairs than I am at painting. As soon as Boreas was back in one piece he took up residence on the unpainted shelf in my basement. Although he gathered dust for more than a year, I hadn't forgotten him. I'm always interested in trading tack for high quality paintwork, and I figured eventually the right opportunity would present itself.

Earlier this year, it did!
Boreas--now called Dhaulagiri--came home yesterday with this wonderful dapple grey paintjob courtesy of Mindy Berg. Be sure to check out the in-progress picture of him on her website: . So cute!
So why "Dhaulagiri"? I really wanted to name him after a mountain, and Dhaulagiri is both the seventh highest mountain in the world and the name of a horse in a Dick Francis novel. I apologize in advance to every judge and scribe who will have to stumble through the spelling and pronunciation. I usually select easier names, but this time I couldn't resist!
I still think he would have made the coolest bookends ever, but on the whole, I'm quite pleased with the results of this particular Resin Rehab!