Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fancy II: Mecate: Part I

The making of Fancy's Hackamore II 's mecate naturally divides itself into two parts, the CO part and the PA part.  This is the basement of my Colorado house.  (It is, in fact, the exact spot in all the Earth where I started making model horse tack, back in circa 1973.)(If you look at my 2014 Winter Photo Challenge opening shot you will glimpse the back wall.)  I had thought to make one post for one mecate, but things expanded (almost 40 pix!), and I've decided to take advantage of this division.  Of course, this is a sub-division of the divison of the hackamore itself.  Hackamores consist of three parts:  Mecate, Headstall and Bosal.  Bear with me:  it will eventually all come together!

I'm starting with the mecate because it's the easiest of the three.  (Whether I'll actually have time to complete this hackamore before BreyerFest, let alone have a second on hand to sell, remains to be seen!  But I'm having great fun.)  Things don't always go as planned, do they?  While in Colorado my tackshop reached this state of being:
It looks grand, but it was destined not to produce anything beyond parts for one mecate.  Other actors took center stage -- one of them was our car -- and my time, always limited by acting as hinge-pin for 3 people with vastly different goals, became more limited.  The computer stole further time by being so dern interesting and addictive, but I won't go into that... : )

... This post isn't about the perfected miniature of a real mecate, such as my skill can now encompass.  It's about replacing what was lost, reproducing Fancy's Hackamore's mecate, and that means going back 10 years and doing what I did then, in 2005.  I dug out the N.A. notebooks (my tack bench notebooks) that covered those 3 long-ago hackamores.
  See the date at the upper left:  0507.18 (July 18, 2005).  From internal evidence I know the second of the 3 was the one I kept; it was originally meant to be sold, hence the "2nd Sales Hackamore" title.  We have the mecate ingredient list on an earlier page:  "braided-thread strand (1 turq., 1 banana & 1 crochet yarn), 1 emb. floss + 1 thread (off white); and 1 emb. floss + 1 thread dk. brown."
At the time (2005), spinning as opposed to braiding was marvelous and fresh for me (I had learned it in 2000), but I was still incorporating braided-thread elements in my mecates.  Partly this was from a long history of braided model mecates (all the way back to the early 1980s), and partly it was because braided-thread just looks so good and works so well for so many model horse tack applications.  I'd had the idea to use it for the checkered (flecked) strand of the typical horsehair mecate, and this looked lovely.

The hook is a piece of wire fastened to my Orange Tackle Box front closure.  Lacking crochet thread (Aunt Lydia's at home), I borrowed some "Meltler" from Mom (the large white spool), and peeled it to 2/3rds.  This turned out to be very close in size to crochet.
 Somehow things always go funny.  The ends did not come out together at all:
 I thought I'd started with 4' of each, but that turquoise thread clearly had other ideas.  Finished length, 3'2".  O.K., Fancy's original mecate was a bit short...
I did want to make a second piece.  This time I indulged in a bit of improved tech.  The next braided-thread used 4 threads.  The bulk is very nearly the same.
It too came out at 3' 2" !! 

 Now for the quirts.  Full scale mecates do sometimes have a little leather lash at the non-tassel end (the tail end), but they do not have rings -- something I wouldn't learn for another few years.  Ah, well, Fancy's had a braided ring...
While it is not in the scope of this post to teach ring-braiding (that's for the next book), I want to share that soldering those rings took the most effort and was the biggest adventure of my tackmaking time in Colorado.  I ran through several ideas when I realized I'd goofed and not brought any pre-soldered rings: cutting the end off an Aluminum tube was one.  When I finally submitted to searching out Dad's soldering tools and setting up and doing it... the rings wouldn't solder.  Frustration extreme.  In the end (I wasn't timing but it felt like hours) I tumbled to the fact that one cannot solder stainless steel.  DUHH!!!!!  I didn't have brass or galvanized rings, only a small selection of emergency hardware, because normally I make my own rings from stainless.  So that is how these two mecates came to rings of Gold Filled Brass...  that's all I had of the right size that would solder.  : )

Even in so simple an act as slit braiding, there are lessons to be learned.
If you cut the slits like this, the ends wind up uneven.
Why?  Because you didn't stagger the slits and allow for their slight difference in distance from the ring.  A better way is to cut each slit after the passing-through.
Also, I'd forgotten to bevel the edges, something I almost certainly would've done.  It's something I've been doing for thirty years.  (Note bevelling is done with two hands, but I had to hold the camera.)
Fancy's had two sets of slit-braid on the quirt.  Some call this a bleed knot.
 Even here, the ends don't match!
We are well and truly on the way to two separate and distinguishable mecates.
This is all I was able to manage over a number of weeks, from that incredible and so-beautifully packed-up tack shop.  I hadn't even brought heavy brown thread, so I made my own out of lighter-gauge thread.  (I very much enjoy spinning thread by hand, useful for miniature mecate-making.) 
All I can say is it really looks like I'm not meant to make tack on trips, no matter how I want to.  Attending to car matters was the excuse this time; every weekend we went out of state (WY or NM), and nearly every evening was a chauffered picnic, catered by you-know-who.  Talks with parents, birdwatching (we got Golden Eagles!), a LOT of piano playing with Mom, strolls before bed: all these were more important.  So be it.  I enjoyed them all very much (except maybe the car).

Next chapter will be the spinning of the mecate.  As of this writing it is finished.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pantanal at Capulin

This post explores what happens when you go to strange places trying to avoid mud, plunk down your horse and shoot him, and then learn about various photo angles.

During the last week of May we were based out of La Junta, in southern Colorado.  Boy did it rain!!  It rained so much that the roads turned to gloop, and we were afraid for our car, that great traveling machine which had brought us so far, and upon whom so much depended.  Highways she can do, but mud-jeeping requires special skills not in her book.  Our hopes for previously-planned destinations all drowned in fear and slurry, and so we made up new ones.  I say we, but it was really my husband, who is very good at this sort of thing.  On the first day he proposed Capulin National Monument, and I, nothing loath, agreed.
Capulin is an extinct volcano just over the central southern border of the state.  I had never been there.  Sunny New Mexico!!  The mountain is visible from many miles away, standing alone like Amazing Blondel's The Altar of the Plains.  Typical of the travelling Youngs, once we were there we did not ascend the slope  (everybody else did).  We birded and hiked the lower slopes instead.  And out came Pantanal (Travis), who had never exited his box until now.
I am aware he is not shod.  But rocks make a good stand, a starting point of reference.  This sort of shooting is not aiming for the calibre of, say, Luckenbach Ranch.  For the moment I am inexplicably in favor of untacked horses.  The questions are rather whether to cut off part of the horse in the shot... how high or low to aim...
... pardon the horizon tilt (I thought I'd learnt  this lesson canoeing!!) ... or whether to include just the head.
Here he is in grass, sort of:
So just what angle do you go for?  More horizon...?
More horse?
Do you try for the ultimate close-up?  This picture has a weird charm of its own.  My skill, alas, was not up to having him in focus.  I guess that proves it wasn't PhotoShopped.
Here's a nice shot that could be telling a story:  Pan goes down the trail. 
It's always a challenge to scale the trail to the horse.  This case isn't so bad.  It's also the closest we come to seeing his near side, something I swear I wasn't aware of until much later.
Here I try to get everything: trail, horizon, horse.
Not bad.  Try for vertical format:
This shows the depth of the landscape.  Draw back a bit for even more horizontal spread:
 There is definitely a tendency to crop off part of him.  I think it's caused by the desire to show the landscape.  I'm not sure whether this is a flaw or not.
However, I am reasonably sure this is the best shot:
If you're ever in northern New Mexico, be sure to check out Capulin Mountain.  It is quite worth the trip.

Soon:  working on Fancy's Hackamore's mecate.