Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Grand designs

I started making English saddles in 2004. Those early saddles weren't terrible, but they weren't anything like the saddles I make now. I have spent the last thirteen years working on my construction techniques, leather working skills and, also, my saddle patterns.

Oh, those saddle patterns! I think I could make saddles for another thirteen years and never be one hundred percent satisfied with my saddle patterns.  

Still, I persist.
This week, I've been refining my cutback (saddleseat) saddle pattern. Here is the first saddle built from the new pattern.
Comparing a finished saddle to its reference photo is often humbling, but this isn't so bad.
There are a few little things I'd like to change, because there are always a few little things I'd like to change. Still, I feel like this is easily the best cutback saddle I have ever made.
As much as I would love to keep it, this saddle will be among my Breyerfest sales offerings. If you're in the market for brand new Braymere tack, be sure to find me in Lexington. I plan to have a lot in my sales box.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Pony break

I wasn't kidding. It really has been all work and no play around here lately. However, I did take a short break yesterday afternoon to visit Volte Farms in Brighton, Colorado.

Volte is Teresa's home away from home, and I was happy to meet her current ride, Waldo.
Waldo, whose registered name is I'm Lost, is a big, bay Thoroughbred...
with tons of personality. 
 I really enjoyed spending time with Waldo and Teresa.
The two of them together are a like a comedy show. 
So funny! 
We were also joined by Jennifer Scott, whose Morgan mare, Ivy, has recently moved to Volte for training.
Teresa, Jenn and I spent a lot of time trying to get Ivy to pose for our cameras. 
She wasn't entirely cooperative...
but eventually our efforts were rewarded.
Such a pretty girl! 
While we were there, Teresa introduced us to one of the most fabulous barn cats I have ever met.
Squeaks was a feral cat who came with the property when Michael and Shelly bought it. He has one eye, a notched ear and is mostly toothless.
He is also one of the sweetest cats I have ever met.
That was really a fun visit. Thanks to Teresa and Jenn for getting me out of studio at least for a little bit!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Putt putt

It's been all work and no play here lately, but when Jackie Arns-Rossi posted this picture on Facebook, I decided my George Morris needed a golf cart, too.
Fortunately, I knew just where to find one.
This Caddyshack cart has been sitting in my prop stash for years.
I'm so glad it finally found its way into a photo shoot!
The saddle on the back is brand new and will be for sale at Breyerfest. 
Thanks for the inspiration, Jackie. That was fun, but now it's back to work!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

USET Fundraiser

Recently, Breyer unveiled a new program aimed at encouraging hobbyists to raise funds for the United States Equestrian Team. Kim Haymond of Tabletop Studios accepted the challenge. In today's guest post, she describes the roll of the USET Foundation, as well as some of the lesser known disciplines which it supports. Thank you, Kim, and good luck in your fundraising efforts!

Supporting the USET

by Kim Haymond

Have you ever wondered about how the US Olympic equestrian teams are supported?  Since 1950, it’s been thanks to the United States Equestrian Team Foundation!  USET is the international equestrian competition team for the United States, and the Foundation supports the horses and competitors.   It’s more than just the Olympics, though, and the team is bigger than just the Olympic disciplines.  
Teams for international competitions in dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, reining, show jumping, para-equestrian, and vaulting are all supported by USET.  The Olympic disciplines of show jumping, dressage, and eventing are the best known, but the competitors in all the other disciplines are just as talented, dedicated, and performing at the same high level.   Along with the Olympics, these competitions include the World Championships, Pan American Games, World Equestrian Games, Badminton, Spruce Meadows and Rolex along with many more.  
Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event 2017, photo by Heather Malone
Combined driving is the driving version of eventing, bringing together a dressage test, a marathon course, testing stamina and endurance through hazards, and an obstacle driving course that tests agility and precision.
In endurance riding, a horse and rider traverse a cross-country course that is 50 to 100-miles long within a 24 hour period.  While competition tests the fitness and stamina of the pair, there are regular and required vet checks and holds throughout the competition to ensure the safety of the horses.
Dom Turner and friends competing in the 2017 Blackwater Swamp Stomp, photo by Mike Turner
Reining is a Western discipline and one of the fastest growing disciplines with international competitions. The horses perform a prescribed judged pattern in an arena that includes movements such as sliding stops, 360-degree spins, and roll-backs.  
Vaulting is a discipline with ancient roots, originating with acrobatic displays in Roman games and continuing to develop through the Middle Ages and Renaissance.  Developed in postwar Germany, modern vaulting involves an individual or team performing a gymnastic routine on the back of a horse that is cantering a circle on a longe line.  This is also a judged competition that rewards strength and flexibility combined with artistic expression.
Want to help support some of the world’s best equine athletes and their partners?  USET is conducting a fundraiser now and can use your help!  You can support USET by making a donation here.
Donations to USET will help with the training, coaching, and competition expenses for these talented athletes, and support the next generation of top equestrians.  To say ‘thank you’ to everyone who donates through our page, we are offering prize giveaways for all donors! Please visit our Facebook page for more details!
Good luck, Kim. I hope you raise lots of money for the USET and win the prize model!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Today was the last day of school.

In previous years, the kids and I have celebrated this occasion together. This year, however, they both made other plans. And none of those plans included me.

I get it. I don't like it, but I get it.

So, instead of having lunch with Ryan and James, I spent some time with Santana.
We went on a leisurely trail ride, just the two of us. 
The river bottom was extra green and pretty...
and Santana was his usual perfect self.
It may not have been the way I hoped to spend the day, but I can't complain. This was a good morning, and maybe, just maybe, the kids will let me take them out for ice cream this evening.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The race after the race

In a little less than an hour, a field of ten horses, including Kentucky Derby winner Almost Dreaming, will contest the one hundred and forty second running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore, Maryland.
Shortly after the conclusion of that race, I will restock my Etsy Shop. My previous Etsy listings have sold out in less than five minutes, so don't delay if you're interested in any of these items.
Good luck to Always Dreaming et al. and also to everyone who participates in the race after the race!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Painting a dapple grey with pastels and pencils

NaMoPaiMo is over, at least for this year, and I haven't touched a paintbrush in more than a month. Still, I'm always interested in learning more about finishwork, so I am absolutely delighted to share this guest blogger post from Zane Lahdentranta of Frosty Birch Studios. Zane's dapple greys are outstanding, and I really appreciate this peek into her creative process. Thank you so much, Zane!

Painting a Dapple Grey with Pastels and Pencils

by Zane Lahdenranta

Every paint job starts with reference pictures. It is important to study real dapples, to get inspiration and also a feel for how the pattern works.  Dapples are somehow very organized chaos. I spend a lot of time just looking at pictures.
Before starting the dapples, I applied a base coat with pastels. I used many different grey tones to do this. In this photo, I have just started dappling Benicio's neck.
Now let me tell you a little bit about my tools. This brush has lost most of its bristles. It is now very hard, sharp and precise. I use it to apply pastels in small crossed lines.
Here you can see result. I blow off the extra pastel dust before proceeding to the next step.
This is a micro applicator. I use it to tap pastels in many small continuous dots.
These applicators come in three sizes. I saw them on the NaMoPaiMo page and had to order some right away! Before I used cotton swabs, but these are much smaller and more precise.
Here are the dapples after being tapped with the micro applicator. Dapples, especially star dapples, are not really stars. They are more like snowflakes. Tapping many dots next to each creates the snowflake effect. 
After I blow off the extra pastel dust, I brush over the dapples with this very harsh brush in the direction of hair growth. Sometimes I take darker pastels and apply them on top of the dapples. That creates the small dark hairs inside the dapples.
Here is a closer look at the first layer of dapples done with brush and micro applicator. Sometimes brushing over the dapples makes the background too light. When that happens, I have to go back and add darker pastels between the dapples.
Here is the first layer of dapples before... and after sealing. The dapples are almost gone!
When the sealer is dry, I repeat all the steps from the beginning. I should mention that I use white pigment mixed with little bit yellow and grey pastels for the dapples.
Here is the second layer after sealer.
Next I use pencils to add more detail. On this model, I used Koh-i-noor grey pencils, Prismacolor white and yellow tones plus color blender and white coal. Unfortunately, the white coal disappeared too much after sealer, so most of the white is Prismacolor.
Benicio's back dapples were done with pencils. I used blender to smooth them out. Otherwise, the dapples looked grainy.
Here you can see the upper dapples done with pencils and the lower with pastels. I didn't like how pencil dapples looked, so in the next layer I went over them with pastels.
Here are some more pastel dapples.
These dapples were done with pencils.
For comparison, Benicio's right side is done with pastels and blended with harsh brush. The left side is not blended yet.
Here is Benicio after blending, but before sealer.
I refine the dapples until I am satisfied with how they look close up. In these last two photos, the dapples are done.
I still have to paint the white markings, mane and tail and other details.
Thanks again, Zane. You make this look positively do-able. Maybe next year's NaMoPaiMo horse will be grey!