Sunday, May 31, 2020


This is the only model I own who has lived everywhere I've lived, excluding the house my family rented when I was a baby. His name is One Eared Jack. I bought him at the Rose Bowl Swap Meet the summer after I graduated from high school. He was missing an ear, but I thought he was cute and the five dollar price was just right. 
A month or two after I bought him, I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado to attend Colorado State University. I had heard a lot of wild stories about dorm life, so I left all my precious "good" models at home, and brought only Jack. Of course, it didn't take long for me to realize that A) dorm life was just fine and B) Jack was lonely. By the middle of my first semester, he'd already gained a few new shelf mates.
messy dorm room, first semester freshman year
All told, Jack lived with me in four different Fort Collins apartments. He was also the only model who accompanied me to both dude ranches.
my studio apartment, second semester senior year
After I graduated from college, Jack and I moved to Tennessee, where we lived in two houses, two apartments and one duplex in Collierville, Germantown, Collierville and Memphis.
the Cordova, Tennessee apartment herd
Seven years later, it was back to Colorado, where we lived in one apartment and one duplex before finally settling into our current home. I have a lot of really nice resin and custom models now - the kinds I always dreamed of owning - but somehow Jack is still displayed prominently on my shelf. In all our time together, he has never been packed away.
Somewhere along the line, he took a tumble and lost the other ear. It's okay. It's not like he could be any less valuable.
Today's prompt for the May Shelter & Share Photo Challenge was "Model you would never sell." One No Eared Jack is the perfect choice for this one. Even if I wanted to sell him, I don't think anyone - except maybe Lynn - would want to buy him!
Here's my collage for the month. I did a pretty good job for someone who never officially committed to this.
This has been another long month. I hope June will be better, but I am not optimistic.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Trail ride

I didn't ride at all in April. I didn't go to the barn, didn't touch a horse.
It was a long month.
Although I am still mostly staying home, May has brought a return to riding
I've been going to the barn twice a week, splitting my time between Lucy...
and Stealth.
It's not as much as I'd like, but it's so much better than nothing.
Yesterday was a Stealth day. Diana and I rode on the trails west of the barn. We rode along the creek, through the fields and under the bridges.
Along the way, we crossed paths with several wild animals, including this little snake.
He was stretched out across the trail when we spotted him. The horses were nonplussed, but the the snake doubled back over himself and quickly slid away. That's how most of our horse/snake trail interactions go.
Today's prompt for the May Shelter & Share Photo Challenge was "Trail ride." Inspired by yesterday's ride, I set up a small scale horse/snake encounter.
This was an easy one, but I am quite pleased with the result. It's been fun showcasing so many of my "favorite" models over the last two months. Thank you, Kirsten and Sarah for the fun distraction!

Friday, May 29, 2020

Fancy pants

Mary Jo's horse, Scarlett is a really well bred Saddlebred.
She was supposed to be a fancy show horse.
Instead, she's a fancy trail horse.
So fancy!
Today's prompt for the May Shelter & Share Photo Challenge was "Fanciest model." Of course, I chose to use a Saddlebred. They are simply the fanciest.
Two more photos, and then I'm done. It's been fun, but I am ready for a break!


I grew up in Altadena, California at the base of the San Gabriel mountains in Los Angeles County.
My neighborhood looked like a typical suburban neighborhood, but there was a secret lurking behind some of those houses.
Lincoln Avenue in Altadena
Chipper in Cathy's backyard
Altadena was zoned for horses, and there were backyard stables in some of the most unexpected places. 
Jeremy and Snickers at McAllisters
Later, I would ride at many of those tiny stables, but that's a story for another day. Today I'm remembering the times those backyard horses would ride up Roosevelt Avenue. My mom would call out, "Jennifer! Horses!" I'd bolt out the front door and stand at the end of the driveway, trembling with desire, wanting to be the girl on the horse, and hoping with every fiber of my being, that maybe - just maybe - that girl would stop and let me pet her mount. That happened sometimes. Not very often, but sometimes.
Janie and Elliott on Altadena Drive
Today, I went riding with Diana. We crossed under Airport and Colfax and rode to the Star K Ranch area. The horses were great, the weather was fine and the conversation lively.
But the best part of the ride came near the Morrison Nature Center. We crossed paths with a group of moms and kids.
One of the kids saw us and shouted, "Horses!"
We rode past them just a bit, stopped and settled our mounts and asked, "Would you like to pet them?"
They would.
They petted them and fed them all the carrots Diana and I had in our saddlebags. 
I can't be certain, but I bet at least one those kids goes home and draws a picture of Guaranteed or Stealth tonight.
It's been a long, hard week in an uncertain world, but today there were horses, and for that, I am grateful.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Catching up

I haven't forgotten about the May Shelter & Share Photo Challenge. Other than "favorite rare or one of a kind model" - which is never going to happen - I am yet to miss at day, at least as far as the Braymere Facebook page is concerned. I'm a few days behind here, so today's post is a three-fer. 
The prompt for Tuesday, May twenty six was "Quarantine quandary : Have you learned a new skill?"
In fact, I have not learned a new skill this month.
 However, I have learned a lot about squirrels.
So much.
Because of this, it was an easy decision to make this one about squirrels. The Google search on the laptop screen reads, "Do squirrels make good pets?" The answer is an emphatic no. Enjoy your squirrels outside, people!
Yesterday's prompt was "Domestic animal." I have lots of these in my collection but I decided to use my Beatrice sheep.
Beatrice was sculpted by Anna Dobrowolska-Oczko and painted by me. Here's another picture of her. She's so sweet.
That brings us to today. The prompt was "Chillin' poolside - let's see those aquatic critters!" I may have a couple tiny sea horses somewhere, but aquatic critters aren't really my thing. I decided to ignore everything after the dash and just go with "Chillin' poolside."
And just like that, I'm all caught up again. Tomorrow I will try to remember to post my daily photo on the proper day, and I promise, that one will actually include a model horse!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Making bits for model horses

The early stages of my tack making career were marked by a distinct lack of funds, so I made everything myself, including hardware. I made buckles out of paper clips and straight pins and bits out of jump rings and silver beads. Later, I fashioned a few more complicated bits with wire and solder. I wish I had kept some of those! Eventually, I became a little less broke and tack making supplies became a lot more abundant. Aside from the loose ring snaffles, I haven't made a bit in years. The same can not be said for tack maker, Katherine Bone of Barefoot Appaloosa Studios. Katherine hand makes all sorts of nifty competition bits and hackamores, and in today's guest post, she shares some of her secrets. Thank you so much, Katherine. Because of you, I am actually considering making a whole new batch of Little S hackamores!

Making Bits for Model Horses

By Katherine Bone

Thanks to the rise of technology in manufacturing, more small scale hardware than ever is available for model hobbyists through sites like Rio Rondo, The World of Model Horse Collecting, and Blue Duck Saddlery—to name a few. But if you’ve been making tack long enough, then you’ve likely noticed the limited styles available for etched and cast bits. Rio Rondo and other sites are adding new inventory each year, but when the bit you need isn’t sold anywhere, what can you do? My answer to this problem was to learn to make my own bits, and I will be sharing my method in this tutorial. 
I would like to preface this tutorial by saying that soldering would likely be an even more durable alternative to glue or epoxy, but as I have not experimented with a soldering iron YET, I can’t give any tips.

For this method, you will need:
  • Drawing paper and pencil, with a model for size comparison
  • Jewelry Gauge Wire in sizes 18, 20, 24, etc.
  • Jewelry pliers, I use needle nose and round tip
  • 2 mm crimp beads, 8 mm jump rings
  • Wire cutters, I use a very fine tip pair
  • A small pair of scissors
  • Loctite super glue with precision tip (epoxy would work here as well)
  • Clear nail topcoat or other clear lacquer
Optional: Silver Sharpie

The simplest style of bit to make is an o-ring bit. This is a good starting point for newer tackmakers, as these bits can be found across multiple disciplines and styles and learning to make them yourself is a useful skill. I prefer to use 8 mm premade jump rings for my o-ring bits, but of course you can make your own with 18 gauge jewelry wire and round nose pliers. 
I add the “mouthpiece” of the bit by modifying a 2mm crimp bead. Using scissors or the fine-tipped wire cutters, I cut a slit down the bead before trimming back the sides. This makes the bead sit tighter to the jump ring. 
With a dab of super glue on the inside of the crimp bead, I then lay the jump ring in place and after waiting a moment for the glue to grab hold, pinch the crimp bead closed with needle nose pliers. And that’s it!
Making more complicated bits requires a little more proficiency and practice than the standard o-ring, however.

To start, I like to create a draft of what the finished bit will look like, using a tracing of the model’s head to sketch on top of. Afterwards, I keep these sketches as a pattern to use again in the future. Here, I’ll be making a ‘combination’ hackamore bit.
Once you have a guide to work from, the next step is more about practice than skill, although a little skill is required to get the best results! With my sketch of the bit as a guide, I start bending wire to create the different pieces. As a general rule, 20 or 18 gauge wire tends to work well for the main shafts (shanks) of the bit, and 24 gauge works best for any extra pieces. I tend to experiment with new styles and select a combination that suits my fancy.

I make the main body of the shanks first in order to build off of them. The majority of my time fine tuning is spent here; it is crucial that the pieces are as similar as possible, as they are the biggest component of the bit and any asymmetry will be more noticeable. Working from the end of the wire, I make an initial teardrop shape using the round nose pliers. 
This is where the sketch becomes a huge help, as I begin to shape each bit shank by anchoring the wire against the paper with pliers (or my finger) before bending the wire. I match the drawing as closely as I am able to while keeping the curve of the wire smooth. I also compare the wire piece to my guide often as I work. This bit style has a loop for a hackamore noseband, which I add with the round nose pliers. 
I finish the bit shank off with a final small loop for the curb chain. 
When both bit shanks are finished, I make the additional pieces I need. The double-sided loop is made with a smaller gauge of wire than the bit shanks; I prefer to make the accompanying jump rings out of the same size gauge. (As a side note, I also use pliers to pinch and flatten the ends of the wire that will be glued directly to the bit shanks.)
From here, I just add the pieces I’ve made to the shanks. Dabbing a bit of superglue to both flattened ends of the trapezoidal piece I attach it to the body of the shank and apply gentle pressure until dry. The double-sided loop has one end pinch tightly closed around the wire bit shank, and fixed in place with superglue. These two steps are repeated for the other matching shank; before I move on to the next step, I like to have at least two layers of superglue around points of attachment. Once the superglue is fully dry I go over with a silver sharpie to blend the joint more seamlessly with the wire.

At this point, I also add the bit mouthpiece by pinching a modified crimp bead (please see instructions from the o-ring bit for a more detailed explanation) closed around the bit shank. Then with the clear nail topcoat or similar lacquer, I dab a moderate amount over the joints of the bit shank where I previously glued pieces down. (For strength, I may add more over top of this initial coat once fully dry.) I add jump rings before setting the piece aside to fully cure.

Lastly, I bend two small s-hooks to use for the curb chain later. 
Now with all pieces firmly attached and secured, the combination bit is basically complete!
Before using the combination bit with a bridle it will need a rope noseband and curb chain, but I’m afraid this tutorial is getting a bit too lengthy already. I have been very pleased with the bits I have made using similar techniques, and the realism and durability that is possible with this method. Like all model things, however, homemade bits are not indestructible. Excessive use or rough handling can certainly lead to breaks and bends, but with the proper care and storage, I have successfully kept similar bits in my tack collection for years of use!
Hope this helps!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Graduation day

Two years and two days ago, Ryan received his high school diploma during a traditional American graduation ceremony.
James was supposed to do the same on Friday.
Then the pandemic happened.
So instead of a big, formal, indoor graduation on Friday, James got a car parade graduation on Tuesday.
This morning, Ryan and I decorated his little Beetle.
The whole family piled in, and we headed out!
Masks off!
Masks on!
 We arrived at the high school...
and joined the long line of decorated cars.
A balloon arch welcomed us onto campus.
We went through the business line first.
James got his yearbook,
 his class shirt...
and his diploma.
He got out of the car for a socially distanced photo with the principal.
Then it was on to the parade!
Faculty members cheered the graduates as they drove by.
There was lots of horn honking and noise making.
It was festive and surprisingly fun.
After the parade, we went home and James opened his graduation cards.
Tonight, we'll get takeout from James' favorite restaurant, and we'll eat outside with his girlfriend, Maya. It hasn't been a traditional graduation day, but it's been a good one, nonetheless. Congratulations to the Class of 2020. You guys rock!