Monday, September 4, 2023

Stromness in Tack


When I first saw Eva Rossiter's Stromness, an Irish Sport Horse mare, I fell madly in love.  This was a bit strange, as I am Western to the core.  I comforted myself somewhat by remembering I had felt this way about Victrix several years earlier.  There is something about a really beautiful, positively correct standing English Thoroughbred-type that just pulls my heartstrings.  But it was the potential Western application in the back of my mind, I think, that truly explains my attraction.

It was at last year's BreyerFest, 2022, that Heather Moreton let me make off with one of her splendiforous braided-bridle-&-breastcollar sets.  I promised then to photograph it upon a suitable horse.  Ooops,....  A whole year went by, the promise simmering on the back burner, but I hadn't.  Somehow, when I saw Stromness, I knew the time had come to fulfill.

The price for this horse struck me as amazingly reasonable, considering it had to be cast upon request and shipped from Ireland.  Here is a link to her page:  Stromness.  This beautiful resin was a lovely exception to my usual argument that no one buys horses immediately after BreyerFest and indeed they are burned out.  Hah!!  That didn't apply to me this year,.. I was instead inspired,...

When I finally opened her and sat down to a photo session, it was as close as I ever get these days to preparing for a show.  Fun!!   I had a large selection of saddles to choose from.  Given the delicacy of the bridle, and its color, I wanted a plain warm brown saddle with some kind of braidwork on it.  The strange thing was I didn't think my own two famous TSII braided saddles would do.  The braidwork on both the Elk (TSII #432) and the Peach Rose is dense and colorful, of a different texture and feel than Heather's work -- bouyant, almost clamorously loud, rather than restrained, light but tight.  This bridle featured openwork.  I didn't have anything with openwork, but after a thorough search I decided to use my 2004 Kathy Wiggins set, which had a solid-set braided edge.  No other piece I possess has this.  I liked the textural contrast, and the colors matched.

Thereupon followed an hours-long session of polishing!  Also, I wasn't happy with the cinch of Kathy's saddle;  I borrowed another cinch from a completely different saddle, a Toots Geyer.  In addition to this carefree substituting I pinched a blanket from a third saddle.  That one happened to be one of my own saddles.  I cannot claim to have "made" this blanket;  I merely chose the denim-like fabric and added on some corner tassels in the deeps of time.  This blanket dates from the late 1990s.  I love its asymmetry (the right and left sides are different).

Who says an English Thoroughbred doesn't look good in Western!  The alertness and pose lends itself to so much.  The Western snaffle does a good deal to bridge the difference.   My deep apologies for not quite lining up the mouthpiece with the lips though --!

Alas, the bridle ears are a tad too big for this horse.  And I really shouldn't've let the cheek strap cover so much braidwork on the sides.  Eh, no show entry is truly foolproof.  I had way too much fun assembling all this, and that's what should count.

Her pose lends itself to heroic views.  Forest ranger's horse?

I love her expression.  I'm naming her after a character in a Molly Keane novel (Easter from Mad Puppetstown).

This truly is a horse with promise.  There is so much here.  'Stalwart' comes to mind.  She would look good in harness,... and, of course, English gear.

An additional piece of tack I purchased from Heather (Desert Night Creations) in 2022 is this mecate.  I didn't have a bosal that would match it at all, so for now it remains in the bag.

What beautiful work.  It is a privilege and a pleasure to collect this art from my dear friend.

It has become my habit to announce other news at the ends of my blog posts, so here goes.  Work on my next book continues, but it is vastly slowed by taking three weeks of September and 2 weeks of October for family trips.  (Not to mention all January.)  It is clear to me now 'twill not be done by the November 6 Guide publication anniversary.  My husband knew this all along, but I'm just making faces and rolling on.  Only this week has it become clear to me I should place the Braided Buttons chapter ahead of the First Interlude, which treats subjects like Connectors, Braided Rings, Hobbles and Peet's Romal Reins.  These subjects are not part of (or are only partly of) the 8 pieces of headgear the book was originally meant to cover.  I suppose it's mission creep.  I've envisioned including such subjects for so long that I'm putting them in anyway, and thus the book is growing larger as time passes.  Right now we're at 24 drawn Plates plus the 2 from the Guide;  I don't know the page count but it's serious, and there are 66 photos just for the first 3 pieces.  And yet I believe I'm merely at a half-way mark.

There will a pause in programming while we travel the high plains; but we will return!  As ever,

Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

New Hat Finished

 This is another 'started out as a few pix that should've gone on FB but didn't' posts, for whatever reason, possibly pride.  There will be at least one shot on my FB, but here you get to see the full glory of all three.  As of tonight my next hat is finished.  Somewhat to my surprise, it does not get feathers -- unlike almost every hat I've ever had.  It doesn't seem to need them.  See for yourself:  It's enough in itself.

When we last saw this hat it looked like this:

That was the 20th of August.  Since then I've scrambled and struggled and scraped together time to work on the hatband.  Not only are we preparing for a long trip, I was working on a book (still not done), cleaning the whole house, mending pajamas (Dad's), seasoning a new wok (still not done), dealing with a squamous cell on my cheek (healing well, praises be), painting the storage shed, selling two resincasts and playing with my new Stromness, amoung many other things.  It was fun brushing up on my knowledge of braiding real rawhide.  This is one of those projects where the artist thinks it was done fast and simply and not so perfectly and everybody else thinks it looks fine.  

Tonight I did the last big button, third from right.  Instead of the previous large herringbone with 5 rings (I think), I did a button I like to claim I invented, a 9P 7B Fan in a 1-3-3-1 pattern.  This Fan button will be in my next book.

It's harder to do than it looks.  A close up:

My best buddy took these portrait shots in the tack room, otherwise known as the tack shop or pony room.

Note the new stampede strings.

Little floppy brim there, but on the whole, I'm happy!

Monday, August 21, 2023

Towards a New Hat


This was going to be a 3-pic FB post, but it kind of ran away with me.  Still, these are mere snapshots in the middle of a process which I'm thinking will be rather long.  Let's start with a few memorable looks at my old hat, Coondoondah 13.  The below portraits were shot at Cranberry Bog, north-central PA, on July 31, by George.

 (They do a good job of showing I really was ankle-deep in the bog.  Wear swamp shoes!)

As it happens, these two pictures are the last photographs taken while my thirteenth hat was still in use and whole.  All my hats have been named Coondoondah, an Australian aborigine word meaning 'hat.'  All the ones since about 1990 have had silver and rawhide on them.  The first one to have silver conchos, which were given to me by my grandmother, was stolen in December of 2002 (the only one I've lost in such fashion).  But I was able to find more silver at the Tucson Gem Show.

Hats do wear out, especially when you don't clean them regularly, or treat their leather every year.  Also, when they get rained on and don't get re-oiled.  For the last year or so, this particular hat had been getting older and dirtier and I was so busy I didn't have time to clean it, until it reached a stage where cleaning would have destroyed it.  This close up doesn't show it, but this hat is on its last legs.

Here's a couple shots that do show it.  These were taken in the shop as evidence of which buttons were used, and the spacing of them, on the hatband.  In this first shot you can see the old stampede string of braided leather, black with age.  Yes, it broke, triggering all this.

Note, above, the missing concho on the left.  Note, below, the condition of the rawhide:  stained, shrunken and in some cases actually broken.

 Fortunately, a replacement hat was waiting.

The above shot shows the "shoelace" string that the Tilley company originally supplied the hat with (for a tie-down strap, or stampede string).  I've already cut half of it up to make small strips which will become the new keepers for the hatband.

I started out not particularly happy that Tilley had discontinued my beloved white hat color.  My favorite could not be replaced directly.  So we went with the next best choice, an off-khaki sort of color, almost olive.  When I sewed together the "shoelace" strips (above) and installed them as keepers, I started to really like this hat.  The keepers lend a classiness that the old white elastic ones just didn't have (themselves put on by me).

And then I started braiding new buttons.  Why am I not surprised that my skill is very rusty?!  But it is a great pleasure to re-learn them...  The new conchos -- I bought three Navajo ones to replace my lost one -- are bigger and have better shanks, and they have interesting new designs on them.

Coondoondah 14 is off to a good start.

Monday, August 7, 2023

My BFest 5K: Sunrises


My BreyerFest 5K races this year contained a lot of exclaiming at the Kentucky sunrises.  I had a tough time deciding on the opening shot here:  Should I use the best sunrise shot, a pic of Tachyon (who traditionally carries this role), or should I go chronologically, as my camera dictated?  Heh:  y'all get a fourth option.  Above is the start of the third day's sunrise.

A surprised friend asked whether I'd entered 3 races.  I told her the same thing happened this year as last:  Since I was running virtually, I did my course three times on 3 separate days.  I turn in the fastest.  What was charming this year was that each time I ran, I went faster.  I can't explain this.  Usually BreyerFest is an excuse to get completely out of shape!! -- worse as the week wears on.  But for whatever reason, my times for Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday were faster each day.   Maybe I have X factor.

I hope that some time in the future I'll be able to run with the crowd again.  Meanwhile I'm deeply grateful to Breyer for allowing virtual runners, and so glad that turning in my time was as easy as it was.  If you're wondering why this is important (and want to see a map of where I'm talking about), here's a link to last year's 5K blog post:  My Breyerfest Virtual 5K race.

This year my first day was Tuesday.   We do have a shot of the very beginning of the first sunrise, seen from the parking lot:

The next view available is the classic one of Tachyon, my CollectA Akhal Teke mare who comes along with me for all my BreyerFest 5Ks, with my stopwatch, standing (posing!) on the course.

July 11  46:09

I remember that first sunrise as awesome.  I spent a long time staring, amazed.  I finally stepped out onto the course, a bike trail on Kentucky State University's Coldstream Campus, and started running.  The moment I was out from under the trees, the sunrise got 10 times more spectacular, a great field of red rows racing across the sky.  What a tough decision!  Should I stop, go back to the car, get the camera and shoot this, thus losing time and energy?  I kept on running,... but decided there and then to be prepared for shooting if there was a next time.

Next time was two days later, Thursday the 13th.  The sunrise was even more spectacular, and I took a movie (which did not work at all well because the camera fogged).  At least I got some stills:

I could hardly believe my eyes.  This was dynamic and very inspiring.

Six, indeed, is the hour for running.  There was almost no one else there.

The Thursday time was a minute faster. 

July 13  45:35

The third day, Saturday the 15th, was the most splendid of all.  I wish I could claim that fantastic sunrises made me run faster!  but alas, no connection can be proven...!  Here are the first glimmers through the trees.  It was like a distant fire.

Things went from good to great in a hurry.

All this because I got up early enough to dodge the heat!   I could hardly believe my eyes.  Pennsylvania rarely has anything like this.  Thank heavens for a zoom lens and enough time to catch it all.  This last shot (below) is looking east, away from my starting direction.

 I have run this course something like 6 times in the past 2 BreyerFests, but I'd never seen anything like this. 

July 15   44:36

I wound up placing 16th out of 34 for all the virtual runners, and 2nd in my (virtual) age group.  This is not "my personal best," but it is very far from a poor performance.  I am well pleased with my 5K this year. 

Friday, July 28, 2023

Why I Haven't Yet Entered the BCC

During BreyeFest I was asked, more than once, why I hadn't entered the Best Customs Contest.  After all, this was as close as the hobby had got to a Master Tack Class!  It might never happen again!  My immediate answer, fear of Covid, while true and 79% of my excuse, was not the complete story.  There were other reasons, echoing like aftershocks, which more fully explained my stance.  I pondered and puzzled and finally wrote them all up deep in the night after I got back home.  That entry, dated July 17, is in quotes below;  all else is afterwards.

Knowing this conflict would arise (you're a king tackmaker famous for harness in a Driving Theme year!), I planned a harness display from my personal collection for my room at the CHIN (612).  Of course, showing off to the public was not exactly Covid-avoidance; but I was hoping, hoping, I could dare to find a middle ground, and be more open than last year.  The numbers were favorable.  In the event, I did find a middle ground (which boosted my ego as much as the hitch).  My ego has been thoroughly boosted by all the reactions.  You'd a-thought no one had ever seen a model draft horse hitch before!

These display photos were taken by my cell phone.  Above: a heavily-customized-by-me sleigh that started life as a green bobsleigh by Dick Eighmey.  Below:  My Grand Champion of Show horse and harness (circa 2000) put to a Dave Blenkey Draft Cart (1999).  Doll by Anne Field.

A Michelle Huskins Wood Wiz Meadowbrook Cart Kit I made and customized (different wheels, leather on the shafts), circa late 1990s.  Doll by Kris Gallegher.

If you still haven't seen enough TSII harness displays, here's a link to my website's own page on the Canadian 8-Horse-Hitch, my "other" 8-hitch, created from 1991 to 2002 for Ivy Olensky.  The Olensky Canadian 8-Hitch


"2307.17   5 in the morning    There are more reasons than fear of Covid, which kept me from entering the contest.  Behind No.2, pride,[*]  lies No. 3, Time.  The last fantastically detailed piece of tack I made (one that would be worthy of such attention -- ahah ANOTHER reason, the Artist would choose the MOST incredibly challenging & difficult piece) -- took me eleven (11) months:  Eleanor's copy of the Clyde Goehring saddle [next 2 pix].  And I just don't have that kind of time anymore.  George [my husband], Mom, Dad [age 89] and our very lifestyle has evolved to where large chunks of free time don't exist.  

[Ed. where large chunks of free time are expensive and hard to get.]

[*Pride here meaning I didn't need the recognition or fame or advertising.  I've already made my mark,... proven my case.]

"Not anymore, not like they did when the 8 was made.  Remember the record hours-per-day (12) was set on the 8-Hitch itself, back in 1991,...??!

"...The Pandemic was so stressful for us, so crushing and restraining and hard -- so emphasizing of isolation -- that we're still figuring out its legacy.  George & I have always been slow-burning private people, and that just made it worse.  To draw attention to myself in such a public way, after so long (3 1/3 years!) of wholesale ducking & dodging --!!   My 2 reasons of fear & pride are blending here -- becoming one.  How strong a braid they make.

"The more I think about the question the more it appears that ABAFT [my next book] was/is my entry.  Here's the 4th reason:  I chose braidwork over harness.  I saw the choice coming.  How I squirmed --!!  What rotten timing you had, o Breyer!!  But the hobby always does this, always forces you to ruthlessly choose only your uttermost favorite.  Years of surviving BreyerFest itself has taught me this.  I chose what truly was worthy of me.  Braidwork is just as lifelong as harness for me, and more important, it still has mysteries and challenges for me.  Harness does not.  Harness I'd already done, back in the Guide (1998).  In a large way, harness was a closed book.

[Ed.  harness was dormant,... yeah, like a volcano.]

"But the greatest of these was pride.      //      Or was it?  I look at both Dani Boiko's and Sarah's entries and I see the boundless promise of youth:  the future generations.  ...[...]... These brightly shining stars are the best cure & vaccine & protection we could have.  I am coming late to such motherhood as I can manage but I am coming.  The next book represents my sacrifice, the child who takes all my gifts and secrets,... as it should be. 

Dani Boiko's Costume entry.  photo used by permission

Dani Boiko's Costume entry.  photo used by permission

Sarah Hartman's Parade entry.  photo used by permission
Close up of Sarah's.  photo used by permission

"My answer to pandemic, and indeed life, was to do my utmost.  It ill becomes you, Breyer, to ask for what I cannot give, because I'm already giving it.   ... [...] ...  Y'didn't realize what you were asking.  You've made it harder, not easier, to finish this book.  But it will be a masterpiece."


Nothing like painting oneself into a corner!  Surely such statements will jinx the book!!   Not to praise until it's finished, --- and it's taking forever!!  But there y'go, lots of late-night ponderings and confessions.  Here's hoping that some day, somewhere and some way, there will be tack classes again.

I would have liked for Dani's fabulous costume to've taken second place, at least.

I have the dimmest memory of meeting with somebody named Sarah Hartman at NAN some years ago, talking with her and being impressed by her braidwork...  ... Er-muh-gard, I actually found it:  July 22, 2016 (seven years ago!!) when I was photographer for North American Nationals.  What a memory --!!

Going back through those thousands of NAN pictures (2016, 2018) is discovering an ore-vein of vast riches.