Monday, July 30, 2018

Unanswered prayers

At the beginning of our eighth grade year, my on-again, off-again friend, Dawn, leased a pony named Cinnamon from a local day camp. She boarded the pony at Eaton Canyon Riding Club, which was just half a mile from my parents' house. Together, we visited Cinnamon a few times, but it was obvious, at least to me, that Dawn had very little interest in riding.
Sure enough, a few months later Dawn approached me between classes and said, "If you're ever at the barn, you're welcome to ride Cinnamon."

"What if I'm there every day?" I asked eagerly.

She rolled her eyes and sighed. "Whatever."
I found myself at the barn almost every day for the next six months. It was glorious.
Before I knew it, it was time to return Cinnamon to the camp. This would have been unbearable, but fortunately, I'd managed to finagle a junior counselor position on the camp's horse staff. Cinnamon and I were going to camp together, and I was equal parts sad and excited as I led her up the ramp onto Kathy's trailer. It wasn't until we were halfway to La Canada, that I learned that our destination wasn't actually Tom Sawyer Day Camp. It was, instead, Flintridge Riding Club.
This was a huge and exciting piece of news. I may have been an underfunded barn rat from a rundown public stable, but I had big riding dreams. I knew - everyone knew - that Flintridge Riding Club was the premier hunter/jumper facility in the area. It was where Anne Kusinski had learned to ride. It was where Susie Hutchison still rode. Most importantly, it was the home of legendary trainer, Jimmy Williams. 
And I knew - everyone knew - that Jimmy Williams was pretty much a god.
I spent the entire drive envisioning Cinnamon's grand new home, but instead of turning into the Club's elegant front gate,
Kathy drove us up a little driveway on the other end of the property.
We unloaded Cinnamon into a dirt corral that was bordered on two sides by busy streets.
It had the same pipe fencing as Eaton Canyon Riding Club and a couple little shelters for the horses to share. It wasn't fancy, but it was fine, and I was too excited about meeting all the other camp horses to care much anyway. I figured there would be time later on to tour the rest of the facility and, perhaps, to see Jimmy Williams in the flesh.
On the first day of camp, however, it was made abundantly clear that neither of those things were going to happen. 

"The horses live here," we were told, "but you are not members of Flintridge Riding Club. You may not venture beyond the corral area. The Club facilities are off-limits to you. Even the bathrooms. Plan accordingly."

Every morning, we caught and tacked the horses, then rode them to nearby Oak Grove Park (now Hahamongna Watershed Park), where we kept them until the end of the day. Aside from the corral and driveway, I didn't see a single inch of Flintridge Riding Club, at least not until Captain C got sick.
the "C" stood for Clueless
Captain was a tall, skinny, varnish roan Appaloosa with pink-rimmed eyes and almost no mane. He was not a pretty horse, and looked positively horrifying as he grew sicker and sicker. Flintridge Riding Club got numerous calls about the "starving" horse in their pasture, so they moved him temporarily to a stall in the main part of the property.

We still had to care for him, of course, and that was something I eagerly volunteered to do. I became an expert at finding new routes to and from his stall and lingering as I passed the grooming stalls and riding rings. Every day, I hoped to see Jimmy Williams, but I never did.

Eventually, poor Captain died, and I never again stepped foot on the fancy side of Flintridge Riding Club. Two years later, the camp ended its association with Flintridge. The horses moved across the street to Rose Bowl Riders, which was a better fit for everyone.
Earlier this year, The Chronicle of the Horse published an expose on Jimmy Williams
It's terrible.

One of the things I knew - one of the things we all knew - about Jimmy Williams was that he was a womanizer. What I didn't know - what I never could have guessed - was that the term "ladies' man" was code for predator, for pedophile. Back in 1983, that summer when I tried so hard to catch a glimpse of Jimmy Williams, I was probably too old for him.

I was fourteen.

And I think back to all those stolen moments by the Flintridge riding ring, wishing I could trade places with the girls taking lessons on their fancy horses... Did any of those girls look over at me in my dirty camp shirt and sneakers? Did they also wish they could also trade places? Did they wish they could enjoy their horses without pressure and expectations? Did they wish they could ride without Jimmy Williams?

I'm guessing the answer to all these questions is yes.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Gifts from Japan

I met Bobbie Allen right before she and her husband moved from Rapid City, South Dakota to Misawa, Japan.

"I wish we had met sooner," I told her. "It would have been so nice to have had another hobby/horse friend in the region."
I was right. That would have been nice. However, it's also been nice having a friend in Japan. Last week I received an unexpected box from Bobbie.
The contents included a sampling of Japanese candy
You know someone is a really good friend when they're willing to share their private stash of Sake Kit Kats with you! 
There were souvenirs from Australia... 
and the Tokyo Airport. 
So cute! 
She also sent some new additions to my 1:9 scale world. 
Poka Tia needs chopsticks! 
 I love this one so much. A "pen stand"...
turned tool stand! 
My favorite things, however, are these awesome stackable organizers. It's not obvious from the photo, but these are perfectly sized for hobby hardware. They are so much better than anything I've ever found here in the US.
Thank you so much, Bobbie, for the awesome and extremely thoughtful gifts. I am so lucky to have you as my friend, no matter where you live!

Friday, July 27, 2018


I am organizing my miniatures today, and something has become abundantly clear: My dolls have a drinking problem.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


Today has been a very frustrating studio day.  
I made some progress on the parade tack.
but mostly, I figured out exactly why this set was sold unfinished.
I'mtempted to put everything back in its box and let it marinate for another couple years. We'll see. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Pictures from today's ride

I haven't ridden a lot this summer. 

Santana is my only regular ride and he's been having some minor, age-related soundness issues. His owner has been working closely with her vet and farrier, and today, Santana was deemed ready for a short ride. 

I was happy to do the honors.
We walked to the closest bridge. Santana felt great, and he surprised me by insisting on wading into the creek. 
The water levels are way up thanks to our recent monsoon rains. Santana seemed to appreciate the cold water on his legs. 
It was only twenty minute ride, but what a good twenty minutes those were!
Happy Jennifer. 
Happy Santana. 
In other happy, barn-related news, today I got to renew my acquaintance with an old friend. Chino was one of my regular rides a couple years back. He's had a few homes since then, but now he's back at Kenlyn with his original owner. Hurray!
I was so happy to see his cute face out in the gelding field this morning. 
And you know, I think he was a little happy to see me, too. 
All in all, this was a really good barn day. Here's hoping the second half of the summer will be filled with more days like today.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Onto the next!

This is the summer of finishing old things, and next on my list is a brown and silver parade set that was started by Kirsteen Haley and sold unfinished. I bought these pieces with grand intentions, but they have been sitting untouched in a box for close to a decade.
No more!
Parade tack is way outside my comfort zone, which is probably the reason this has sat so long. Fortunately, I'm in an experimenting kind of mood.
This was a lot trickier than I'd anticipated, but I'm enjoying the challenge.
I have no idea how this is going to turn out, but it almost doesn't matter. This is the summer of finishing old things, and for better worse, this is going to be finished.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The people of BreyerFest

Erin Corbett wrote a paper about the people of BreyerFest for her Cultural Anthropology class. She told everyone she would let me post it on my blog if she got an A... Well, she got an A+ so here it is. Thank you, Erin and thanks also to Heather Malone, Kristian Beverly, Beth Grant, Jeni Lambert, Sara Bowman, Meredith Conrad, Allison Pareis, Laurel Seus, Gina Witters and  Diana Dubbeld for their help with the pictures.

Ponies In The Mist: A Week At BreyerFest

by Erin Corbett


What could motivate a family to pack a bunch of toy horses into the family car and drive 2,300 miles to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky in the middle of July? 
It’s humid, it’s expensive, it’s dusty, and it’s my favorite week of the year. BreyerFest is a model horse convention put on by Breyer Model Horses, the manufacturer of the large majority of model horse figurines available in today’s market. There is an incredibly vibrant collector’s community around these models, and we all gather for a week to celebrate our collections, connect with friends from across the country, and most of all, to buy and sell model horses. 
The pursuit and acquisition of new horses for our collections is a common theme for BreyerFest attendees. We buy model horses only available that year at the Kentucky Horse Park, we enter raffles, we enter contests, we show off our collections to each other, and we sell items from our own collections. We also buy them from each other at the official host hotel, where we all prop our room doors open and wander from room to room, looking over the sales offerings spread out over the beds and TV stands of our peers. The hotel has come to expect this behavior from us, and no longer tries to stop it.  
Cultural Demographics

The collector community is interesting in its makeup. We are overwhelmingly female, middle class Americans of Caucasian descent. 
photo by Gina Witters
While these are not exclusive characteristics, bearing in mind the demographic makeup of the attendees is important in considering our culture. Our material culture is easy to distill down to one thread that carries through to all aspects of this event and its attendees – model horses. We all own, show, paint, sculpt, or otherwise interact with collectible model horse figurines. Some collectors have real horses as well as models, but most do not. Some collectors see their model horses as a cheaper replacement for the real horses they wish they had, but more of us see them as their own art pieces, existing by their own merits rather than as a stand-in for something better. 

We are relatively uniform in our dress, in that the average model horse hobby person values comfort and function over style or aesthetics. So much so that to ‘dress up’ at BreyerFest is seen as odd and unusual, and doing so will generate comments from fellow attendees. Athletic wear and sandals or running shoes is the unofficial BreyerFest uniform, as are large screen-printed t-shirts, often with Breyer branding.

The language unique to BreyerFest would require a several page appendix to fully outline, but for the purposes of this brief paper it’s sufficient to say that there’s a whole subset of American English we use that wouldn’t make sense to anybody not ‘in the know’. This ranges from acronyms like “LSQ” (Live Show Quality) and “ISH” (Ideal Stock Horse) to phrases like “Live Model Horse Show”. How can a model horse be alive, and how would you show one? That’s a topic for another paper! We enculturate newcomers to learn these phrases and terms by pushing them off the metaphorical deep end. Comprehensive indexes and definitions of these terms are rare and hard to find, so most often a newcomer will ask a friend, or simply do their best to infer meaning based on context. To keep up with a model horse conversation at BreyerFest means knowing these terms, so many attendees will do research ahead of time to make sure they’re fully prepared.
Cultural Folkways and Norms

A cultural norm for this community is an overwhelming acceptance of newcomers. By and large, questions are encouraged, both in person at BreyerFest and on our various discussion forums and social media groups. We all can remember being a newcomer once, so we go out of our way to help guide the next generation of collectors. 
This ties back to the Cultural Universal need for belonging, to feel like part of a group. BreyerFest is often self-described as a gathering of “crazy nerds”, which speaks to the background of most collectors. We were not the “cool kids” growing up, generally speaking. Some hobby members were bullied as kids for being the weird ones, and they carry those scars forward. A hobby that contains many women that did not have the opportunity to refine their social skills in their formative years can have some unintended fallout, as conflicts are sometimes navigated with less grace. A common source of conflict in the hobby is the perception of “in groups” or “cliques” that are exclusionary by nature. To a population already sensitized around acceptance by their peers, this can cause perceived slights to be magnified beyond their intent. Navigating the social landscape of the model horse hobby can be a minefield, due to the varied backgrounds and experiences everybody brings to the table. Adding to that the fact that most of our interactions happen via social media, you have a recipe for misunderstandings and overreactions.  

On the other side of the coin, our strong attachment to the model horses themselves allows us to overcome some gaps in understanding we might not otherwise bridge. For example, through the model horse hobby and BreyerFest, I am friends with many women whose political and social views are drastically different from my own. I am able to set that aside, and focus on them as fellow horse enthusiasts, and keep conversation topics centered around ‘safe’ topics, like what we just purchased or what ‘famous’ horse we just met. We celebrate universally when somebody makes an amazing find at an antique store and finds a very old or very rare model horse for a low price. At BreyerFest, extremely rare models are given out as prizes and raffle items, and all winners are celebrated with enthusiasm by the community at large! 
Being a “nerd” at BreyerFest is celebrated, and not just a “model horse nerd”. We have a high amount of cross-over from other niche “nerd” hobbies, like anime, video games, other collectible figurines, and sci-fi/fantasy arenas. It’s almost a complete reversal from the average microcosm of people in an American high school, where the nerdy things are looked down upon. 
Overall, this community values kindness, acceptance, helping each other, and the hunt for a good deal. Newcomers are largely enculturated to these values through interactions online, usually through trial and error. The community is not shy about letting somebody know when they are violating a social norm, via real time feedback on social media and discussion forums. As a lifetime member of this community, I’ve found acceptance and lifelong friends. The learning curve may be steep, but it’s worth it.
Thanks again, Erin. That was awesome. I also give it an A+!