Sunday, March 29, 2020

The horses of Europe: Ted

After our wonderful experience with Robby and his driver in Bruges, Belgium, Carol and I decided that more carriage rides were in order. 
So on the fourth day of our European road trip, we rolled out of bed and went looking for horses on the streets of Amsterdam.
Fortunately, we had some help. Leah Peretz is an American expatriate living in nearby Rotterdam. We'd met her at the Dutch NaMopaiMo party and had made plans to get together in Amsterdam. She told us the best place to find horses was in front of the Royal Palace, so that's where we headed.
Sure enough, that's where we found them.
And look how beautiful they were!
I was instantly in love.
We paid for a tour and climbed into the carriage. Leah and I sat in the forward facing seat so that we could a better view of our horse.
Carol sat opposite us and laughed at our excited horse girl utterances.
Before we set out, we asked the driver what our horse was named. 

He answered our question with one of his own, "His legal name or what I call him?"

"Both!" we said.

That's how we learned that our horse was an imported French Comtois. His registered name was Voyageur de Vignes (Vinyard Traveler), but he answered to Ted.
With that settled, the ride began.
Ted and his driver took us on winding tour of Amsterdam.
I tried to pay attention to everything the driver told us...
but I was distracted by Ted.
There he is!
Still, I managed to take in some of the sights.
Here's a cat and a red horse in a window.
Millions of bikes.
We paid for a forty five minute tour. 
Carol said we got almost an hour, but to me it seemed like it was over in the blink of an eye.
Carol took a couple pictures of me with Ted, then it was a mad dash across town to make our lunch reservation.
That was such a fun day! Thank you, Carol, Leah and Ted the Comtois for spending it with me.

Rebuilding the Sjees

During my recent visit to her home in Middlebeers, the Netherlands, I could not help but notice the disassembled Friesian Sjees on Charlotte Pijnenburg's work desk . I asked her about it, and she said it was a personal piece that she had been working on for a long time. 
Well, I'm happy to report that the Sjees is done. Charlotte told the story of its restoration on the CharArt Facebook page and has generously allowed me to share it here as well. Thank you, Charlotte, and congratulations on finishing your big project. You did a spectacular job!

Rebuilding a Friese Sjees

by Charlotte Pijnenburg 

In these strange times, I’d like to brighten your day with nice pictures and stories about a recent adventure of mine.

I’ve always been much interested in carriages, driving harnesses and horse carts. I’ve been driving with horses a lot in the past, and I was enjoying it much! And I remember always visiting the Friesian Horse Days here in my village, where these mighty black beasts were trotting around, shaking the ground. Sometimes running loose, sometimes with a foal, sometimes on long lines, and sometimes when these beautiful carts behind them; the Friesian sjees.

It has long been a dream of mine to have a nice, traditional Friese Sjees in my collection. But carriages were always too expensive for me. Until, one year ago, I came across one! A sad, broken Sjees, the white parts yellowed, the velvet stained, the seat hanging skew in its fake-leather bonds.
Not a pretty sight, but the basics were well made, and underneath these rough edges it showed much promise.  
So I bought it, and this is where the story begins!
Where to start? Well, that decision was easy. First I wanted a solid cart to work on, before I could get to the fun parts. And the scariest thing? Replacing those broken shafts!
Since I’m not much of a carpenter. I contacted several people who could perhaps help me with this, s. It took a while, but but finally the father of the girlfriend of a friend of my partner had offered me a helping hand. He taught me how to work with his wood tools, and helped me to make a new set of shafts! I also slightly changed the shape (compared to before), so a traditional sized model would fit easier in front of the sjees.
It took us only a morning to make the new shafts. And since I was already on a roll with sanding those shafts, next step was to sand down the rest of the cart! Off with those ugly layers of yellowed paint!
Okay, the shafts have been replaced, and everything has been sanded nicely. Now I can start the fun part; making it pretty! So painting is next up.
The chassis had been white before, but it was now more yellow than white. Hmmm, I don't want that happening to my paintjob. Remco advised me to go for a professional paint-brand to get the best result. While the downside is that these brands usually don't sell very small volumes, I agreed with him that this would be the best way to go. So I bought a semi-gloss white paint and a glossy black paint,a good brush, and degreaser. Now I can start!
The black part had to wait for a bit, for it needs some more preparation. But the chassis is ready to go! So I painted this (over and over and over again) untill it was all white. Also the black details were taken care off.
And in the meantime, I was secretly still looking for a better horse to go with the Sjees, since Totilas feels a tad too big. And than someone showed me Jorinde, one of Eberl's Friesian resins! She turns out to be a perfect fit; right size, nice position, and she is not the "perfect horse", which makes her all the more realistic in my eyes. So far, we have a white horse and a whole, white chassis. Now I can start concentrating on details, and the preparation of more details.
While the paint on the chassis was drying (especially the black paint, that took ages!) I continued work on the cartseat. It was already sanded (I didn't take off the paint completely, just smoothed it out), so now I could prepare the decorations. The Friesian Sjees usually has a lot of woodcarved details, highlighted with gold paint on the shining black background. This beautiful look is something I really wanted to recreated, but I wasn't planning on doing any woodcarving.
Luckily, epoxy is not only suitable for model horses, but can also be applied on wood! So I roughed up the parts where I wanted the "woodcarving" to be, and started building relief on the wood.
I used many examples of real Sjees-carts, to stay as true-to-realism as possible. The "carving" on my sjees is not as elaborate as on some real ones, that was just beyond my skills, but this more simple version will also turn out super nice, I think.
The chassis won't get any "carving", I see that oftentimes this part is only decorated with gold paint, the relief is not needed per se.
I did not do all epoxy-decorating in one go, but in several sessions (because else I’d probably smash whatever I had just created within a short time). And every time when the epoxy was drying, I had time to decorate the chassis with golden drawings!
I based them on a combination of drawings from several real sjees carts. The chassis is decorated on many many places, I’m just highlighting the nicest parts in these pics.
After decorating the chassis, the Sjees sat abandoned on my desk for a few months. Mostly because I was scared of the black, glossy paint. How on earth would I get it on the cart smooth enough so it would have that mirror-like look that all those real Sjees-carts have?
In the end, I just went for it, and started painting. After the first painting session I hung it somewhere to dry, which went fine until it dropped to the floor, argh!!

Some of the epoxy decorations were destroyed, so I had to redo those. And also the black was not even near mirror-like enough for my taste, mostly because the wood was not smooth enough. So after this unfortunate day, I started re-sanding the cartseat, painting it again, sanding, painting, sanding, on and on until the black was good and smooth.

After this I was very enthusiastic, and forgot to take progress-pics. I went on with painting the gold decorations (which was a pain!!)...
and making the interior of the cart (the velvet seat,leather insides, black nailheads, everything). 
Then I made the scarf which is hanging from the back, and finally I tooled the leather lace which would hold up the cart seat. 
Wow! Those last steps went so fast!!
And here we are, the whole Sjees finished up. And also a finished, customized and painted Jorinde, ready to pull the Sjees anywhere!
Only one thing is missing still.... Yay, finally, time for tack! The harness will be the next step of this project. But this could be a while, cause I have so many fun commissions to do first.
Thanks for following my story, I hope you've all enjoyed reading it!

Friday, March 27, 2020

The ride not taken

My best friend, Carol isn't really a horse girl, but because of me, she's spent a lot of time around horses. She's a solid trail rider by American standards, but she knows her limits. When it became obvious the Dutch beeach was going to be a bit too much, she decided to hike and take pictures instead. Thank you for being so awesome, Carol. I absolutely love the photos you took of us!

The Ride Not Taken

by Carol Beutel

When Jennifer asked me if I was interested in riding horses on the beach in the Netherlands, my answer was an enthusiastic yes! In our many years of friendship, Jennifer and I have have gone on many trail rides together, including Chatfield State Park when the temperatures where hovering around zero, the US Air Force Academy where we were allowed to ride on our own and, of course, the trails near Kenlyn. In the last year, I have gone riding twice without Jennifer, once in Croatia...
and once in Texas!  
When asked to rate my riding ability, I usually say a little above average. I’m not afraid and can follow the usually mellow directions and just enjoy the scenery from the top of my mount.
on Rev in 2013
This ride was different in every way. We were quickly paired with our horses and sent to groom and tack them. I haven't done this in a long time, and never without Jennifer's help. I did my best, but I was already feeling over-faced. We mounted up and rode around a small and crowded indoor ring. This was okay until we started trotting. I'm not used to an English saddle and all the directions being given in a foreign language. It was a lot. After a few good bounces, I decided to bail on the ride. I never even made it to the trail. 
Watching a group of riders leave the barn
The other people in our group expressed concern about what I was going to do while they rode, but I told them I would be fine. I had Jennifer’s camera, so I decided I would drive to the beach and take amazing pictures of them while they were riding.
I asked for directions and was quickly on my way. Unfortunately, the road I was told to turn on was closed. 
I could see the beach but needed to find someplace to park my car.
This was more difficult than I expected, but eventually I parked and started to hike in.
As I walked, I looked for horses. I found some but not the right ones. 
I also found bikers, hikers, 
and even a Santa pole!
I walked and walked. I started to wonder if I would ever catch up with my friends, or if I would even be able to find my way back to my car.
Then in the distance I saw a large group of riders! 
After they were gone, I walked down to the beach. 
I watched the waves and the people...
 and the dogs.
Then I turned around and retraced my steps back to my car.
Overall it was a great day. I hope to go back and explore this area again, hiking or jogging on the beach instead of by horseback. I’ll leave that for the more experienced riders, which is clearly not me!