Saturday, August 31, 2013

Antique store find

I pass this antique mall several times each week.
Usually I drive right by, but yesterday I decided to go in and spend some time walking up and down the aisles...
looking for horse shaped objects... 
and tack!
I headed down to the "horse room" in the basement first. 
This booth has all sorts of horsey offerings, including bits, 
and models.
I was sorely tempted by this five dollar Hartland...
but in the end, the only horse than came home with me was this funky Italian pony. 
On his own, he's nothing to get excited about. 
His cart, however, is awesome!
It's dirty and battered and I need to alter the shafts, but oh, the potential! 
It won't ever rival Deb Omel's amazing Sicilian donkey cart, of course, but I think I will be able to turn this antique store find into a pretty cool performance entry!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Riderless performance

Not everyone shares my love for rider dolls.  
RFR Silver Crescent gallops across the finish line at Mt. Pleasant Meadows Race Track…without his jockey!
It's hard to believe, but there are some people who prefer to show their models riderless. 
That's fine, I suppose, but it still looks weird to me. 
Eyemora turns the barrel and heads for home, without a rider... Photo by Shane Rux Photography.
After all, everyone knows horses won't perform without a rider on their back!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Yvonne (dressed) vs. Brenda (dressed)

Yvonne (dressed) vs. Brenda (dressed)

by Anne Field

In my last post I had a head-to-head competition between the new Zica humanoid 8.0 (Yvonne) and the Brenda Breyer doll. Both were completely unmodified and naked so they could not cheat or hide any of their abilities (or lack of). I was so impressed with how Yvonne did naked I wanted to get her dressed as soon as possible to finish testing if she would make a good rider doll. So I chose the most unforgiving riding outfit I could think of; super fitted chaps and a fitted, non-stretchy western shirt. I did some very slight modifications so she would sit deep in the saddle and repainted her face and rehaired her head (neither of those effecting the way she rides of course). The Brenda dolls in this competition have all had heavy modifications including; taping the waists (so they are not floppy), padding the waist (so they don't look like they have on corsets), padded their rear ends (so they can sit up in the saddle instead of falling over or hovering) bendy necks added (so they can look somewhere other than straight ahead or straight to the side), arm joints tightened and so one. To modify the Brenda to get her ready for dressing as a rider doll can take anywhere from 1-2 hours depending on if anything fell off in shipping (I have had legs fall off as soon as they come out of the box) and how hard getting everything to stay where it is supposed to stay turns out to be.

This first comparison is a 3/4 front view. Yvonne has a very realistic face...
but Brenda looks like a doll. Both have a decent shape and ride nicely.
The second view is also a 3/4 front view but a full body shot. Yvonne looks very comfortable in the saddle and still looks very realistic. 
This Brenda has a new sculpted head, which is decent but not nearly as nice as the Yvonne head sculpt. Again, both dolls ride well.
Next we have a 3/4 full body back view. Yvonne's leg looks a bit stiff but that could an adjustment issue. 
Brenda looks very natural to me and quite realistic. Both dolls are sitting in the saddle nicely.
A full on side view is next. Yvonne chose to sit in an English saddle because some people have asked to see her in different kinds of tack. She fits in it very comfortably, even in her chaps! 
Brenda looks fine, and she does hold the reins nicely.
Next is the gaming position. It would also be an over fences position if the horse was jumping. Both Brenda and Yvonne do this very well. They are leaning forward and looking up at what they are heading for. 
Brenda can't do this without her custom bendy neck, though Yvonne can do this straight out of the package.
I've only played with the one Yvonne doll so far but I am a fan. She takes very little modification to make her an excellent rider doll, she has a super realistic face sculpt that I am very excited about, she is shaped like a real person and fairly easy to use.  Her arms do stick out a tiny bit when she is dressed in a fitted top but I think I have a modification that will solve that problem as well.
Both dolls have merit as riders, but I am loving the new Yvonne and am looking forward to making many, many more of them into custom riders. Yvonne is more expensive to purchase than the Breyer dolls but she saves me so much time not having to do a total body rebuild (and I don't have to sculpt a head!) that I will be offering them for custom order for a very minimal extra cost. Happy showing!

Many thanks to Anne Field for staging this compare and contrast photo shoot and allowing me to post it here.  Please visit Anne's blog for more information about how you can order a custom Yvonne doll of your own!

Brenda vs. Yvonne

Step aside, Brenda!  There's a new doll in town, and she's taking the live show ring by storm.  Her name is Yvonne, and she is awesome.  In today's two part guest post, my friend, Anne Field compares the Brenda and Yvonne dolls in regards to their usefulness for the model horse hobby.  Thanks, Anne!  

Yvonne vs. Brenda

by Anne Field

(I realize that some people have an issue with nudity even if it is just in a toy human (*AKA* a doll). The cautionary message below will show up instead of a nude doll photo if you are a subscriber.)

Welcome to the first ever (that I am aware of) head-to-head competition between the Breyer female rider dolls and the new Zica humanoid doll Yvonne. We'll call the Breyer doll Brenda (as that was her name for awhile) just so we can talk about them.
Here Brenda and Yvonne are meeting for the first time. It's always nice to start with a handshake.
For the first round I am just comparing the height and the overall look of each doll. Yvonne is wearing the smallest size breasts that she comes with (she comes with 3 sizes) and the hands that are the most appropriate to ride (until I get out the heat gun and mess with another set...). Yvonne seems a little bit shorter than Brenda which will make a lot of hobbyists quite happy since Brenda is often out of scale depending on which horse she is riding.Yvonne looks to have a more human looking waist and thighs that seem to be a bit shorter. Maybe they won't need to be shortened to fit the saddles...

Oh, Yvonne also stands exceptionally well. Brenda takes a little work and holding your breath.
For the second round we are seeing who can bend their head down further. This is good for saluting in dressage, games and probably a whole bunch other things. Brenda isn't very good at this.
Round three is tilting the head back, a postition that is great for speed games, over fences classes and probably Arab showmanship. Brenda doesn't seem to be good at this either. Yvonne is doing an OK job, but there's still room for improvement.
Round 4 is the bendy test. Brenda is trying hard,but that is as far own as she can go. Again, breathing is not allowed because she will fall over. Yvonne is exceptionally good at this challenge. Even with her arms flipped over backwards! (I noticed that after the photo shoot). Yvonne's knees and elbows do something weird in this extreme bend but it does allow her to get down further. Brenda still has normal looking (sort of) knees and elbows. I would say it's a tie, but I like that Yvonne can bend so much without being rebuilt.
Well, now Yvonne is just showing off! Brenda has no chance at this one.
Round 5 is sitting a horse. Brenda does that pretty well but she has to "hold on" or she will slide right off. She can do it though... 
...I think Yvonne does it better. She doesn't need to "hold on" with her hands and can stay seated very easily on her horse. I imagine I could change her leg position as much as needed as well. Also take note, her knees look normal (I can can even switch it so her knee is on the lower pivot point and her thigh is shorter. It's pretty cool!)
Hmm, I think she is showing off again!
Brenda is a nice enough doll that rides fairly well.  With some modifications, she can sit nicely, look human and contribute to a win in the show ring. However, it does take a lot of body work to get her there. The above Brenda has one of the nice, smaller factory heads (I really will miss them when I run out), but I think Yvonne's head and her features are more in scale with a real person. Yvonne looks cranky but I might be able to make her look more happy, or just serious, with a bit of paint. All in all I, am incredibly impressed with the new Zica humanoid female doll. They can be ordered here. I will have to test one out dressed before I can give my final verdict on her usefulness as a hobby doll, but so far I like her a lot!

Note from Jennifer--I included the link to Zica's website, but it seems to be broken.  If anyone has a better address, please let me know.  This is a great looking doll, and I'm sure a lot of readers will want to buy one for themselves!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Playing with dolls

When I was a kid, I never played with dolls.  Toy humans held little interest for me--I much preferred stuffed animals and Breyer horses.  

I did make an exception, however, in regards to my sisters' Best of the West action figures.  Unlike most dolls, these were designed to sit on a horse.  The adults were too big for anything but our Marx models, but the kids were small enough to ride my Breyers.
When I was a bit older, Breyer released the first Brenda doll.  Naturally, I had to have one.  She didn't sit as well as the Marx dolls, but she fit the models better. 
As I grew older, my focus shifted from playing with my horses to showing them.  Since dolls weren't mandatory for performance, I was happy to leave them off.  After all, most of the dolls of this era were pretty scary.  Plus, I didn't want to cover up my tack!

Time passed and eventually I started to rethink that position.  As much as I wanted to deny the obvious, I had to admit that performance entries without riders looked unfinished, unnatural and kind of lazy.  I started trolling eBay for cheap, used rider dolls.  Some of those early purchases showed quite well for me...
but others were fairly frightful! 
I cheered when Breyer introduced a new fully-jointed version of Brenda.  This doll sat so much better than the old dolls.  My first two "new Brendas" were a pair of Western dolls dressed by Traci Durrell-Khalife.  True to form, I bought them secondhand in the early 2000's.  Although they're a little worse for the wear now, they helped me win a lot of prizes back in the day.
My first venture into custom ordering dolls resulted in these two English girls made by Scottish artist, Karon Grieve.
After that, the floodgates opened and dolls began arriving at an alarming rate.  Currently, my collection includes dolls by Kim Jacobs
Paula O'Keefe
Abby Marston and Tiffany Purdy,  
Marilyn Fowler and Mary Jahnke,
Joan Yount,
Sheri Wirtz,  
Jane Schneider, 
and Anne Field.
Who would have ever guessed that a girl who didn't like dolls would own so many of them as an adult?  Life is funny sometimes!