Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Marwari and the Pintaloosa

The photographer of so important a show as NAN is not supposed to have any favorites.  Yet out of thousands of horses, I fell madly in love with one foal.  Out of dozens of fantastic costumes, I found myself taking way too many pictures of just two (the other was the Horse with the Golden Saddle).  I promised a blog on them at the time, and the two paragons have stuck in my mind ever since.

The Marwari first.  He initially appears in a table shot, his owner close by.
 He's the entry on the corner.  This horse is a customized Carol Williams Valor, made into a Marwari, the breed with the curved eartips.  Colette is amazingly good about documentation.
When I saw what she was wearing I laughed out loud.
Of course this splendid work is by Cary Nelson, a paragon herself when it comes to costumes.  I could not believe this outfit when I first saw it,... and I still can't.
 The reins alone would take me weeks.
I believe those are metal bells on the top of the rump.
Cary's good at embroidery, but, yeesh---!!!!!
The more you look, the more there is to see.
 It must have taken her months.
There is nothing I'm aware of in the model tack world to equal this kind of dedication and skill.  The density of detail, the materials, the color choices and textures all scream "rabbity" at me (her email).  I've seen a number of Cary Nelson costumes and I own one myself, but this takes the cake.

The horse's name turns out to be Boom Shakalaka, and yes, he did win the class.  : )

The next day I was covering Foal classes.  This is the CM Stock Foal table.
 The photographer moves left, trying to capture everybody.
Three shots for one class is a bit unusual, but they've caught my eye.  They're so cute!
Glory morning. Everything else fell away and I came in close.  I had no idea what mold this was, what resin, whether it was a custom.  I only knew I was falling rapidly.
He had that rough, old-fashioned look, something I'd seen so often in the early years of the hobby.  It's a coarser texture of fur, but for a foal it's appropriate.
Hand painted.  Everything worked well together:  color, shading, conformation, pose.  That nose!  those cute little ears!  that stunning, yet realistic, color choice!
I'm including this shot, despite its obvious flaw, out of sheer equally-obvious love-madness.
A Pintaloosa, or possibly a strange varnish roan appy. 
I found out later he was quite old for a model, several decades.  That would make him a custom on the Stock Horse Foal... if so, a rather drastic custom.
I just loved this little baby!!  Given I'd spent 3 days photographing the best of the best, every possible breed, pose, color, type and material, it says something that I could still find it in me to get so soft.   "Out of all of them..."
I was told, by his owner, who did him, but alas I'm not remembering; this was a year ago.  It was a name I recognized, however.

Other news:  Be sure and check out our website! and Tack Sales Information page.  Most of our news fit to print is there.  I have dreams of making Mechanical Hackamore(s) and a Western Saddle alongside others.  Further out, I'm looking at Parade set restos. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everybody!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Silver Acorn Opus Saddle

My green blanket is done, and this is the saddle it was for.  The Silver Acorn Opus was created by Heather Moreton (form. Abounader) of Desert Night Creations.  It took her 4 years: 2012 to 2016.   This post will largely be about the adventures of this saddle, although right now I can't resist throwing in a bit about the horse!  She is a Moody Minuet, cast in 1994 by DaBar (200 head) and painted two years later by two famous artists: Elizabeth Bouras did the body and details, and Susan Bensema Young did the mane and tail.  And we know who the photographer is.  : )

Amazingly, all 4 artists are still practicing!  To be sure, some things have changed in that 23-year span.  Still on the subject of the horse, the material used for resincasts is now much lighter in weight, and casts more smoothly.  The camera used is a digital not film.  The software used to process these pictures makes it possible for me to instantly clean up her various bumps, scratches, nicks and scars.  I've never shown her much, but she seemed so perfect for this saddle.  This the fun part:  putting together the pieces, making the vision come real.
The Silver Acorn's story is one of the most complex of those in my saddle collection.  It is my intent to try and round up the various pieces of the tale and put them in one place.  Its four-year creation was one saga; displaying it at museums, another; purchasing it, yet another.  No doubt it will go on to further adventures after it leaves my hands, but let's begin at the beginning.

The first mention of any part of this set occurs on Heather's blog of September 9, 2012: Drivel when she calls it 'a project bridle for me.'  Another picture of the cheekstraps occurs in a post on Oct 17.  It isn't until December 15th, 2012, that the saddle really starts: New Stuff.  A post on Dec 23rd,  Holidays  is also long and heartfelt.

The year 2013 started off very well for the saddle, -- but then bogged down in March.  A New Year's Day, 2013, post looks forward;  New & Improved (Jan 20) has a great deal of background, talking about saddle reference books.  January would see two more posts about it, on the 23rd and on the 26th: More in Progress is the first to show the green and black spots set along the border of a fender.  In March Heather's tackmaking interest went into some halters.  A brief look, Workbench (March 18) shows the saddle's current state (fenders and base plate done and bridle's headstall), but other interests would take over for the next 7 months.  Some of them would later turn into a career in photography! and  others, such as shooting pool, would grow to be major activities.  Much was going on:  a job change in July was only one major life evolution for her.  (If only I had known:  2013 was a terrible year for me.)  The next mention of the Silver Acorn is in October with Slow Progress.  For the rest of the year, only a Dec 15 post mentions Facebook pictures of work on the shoulders of a pleasure saddle.  My post is not going to reference many FB posts -- I'm still learning how to find them, let alone link to them!
Not until 2014 would a January 11 post mention "puzzling out the shoulders on the western saddle."   So far she was merely calling it "the western saddle."  A mid-March post complains forgetting everything, but confirms that this is the saddle.  A new studio was finished in April.  On April 28 Heather finished Anna Tackett's bridle, the first piece of tack to be completed after her surgery in January.  Things were looking up!  However, it is not until June 15 that a post mentions the saddle:  "I WANT to be ready by NAN but I have no clue if I will be."  July 23 mentions working on the plates for the saddle, but no pictures.
That BreyerFest, 2014, was one of the two I've had to miss.  Heather went but I did not.  In hindsight it was the right move for me.  How precious our time, our lives, our friends become...

On July 26 Heather did something new and artistic, uploading videos on YouTube of two of her saddles, the making of the California Mother Hubbard and current progress on the Silver Acorn. A link to the Acorn's is here.  I would later see this video and be completely convinced I was not worthy to own such an artistic piece!, so professionally presented. There's even appropriate music!!  Honestly this was the first time I'd seen such a thing...

In August of 2014, possibly inspired by BreyerFest, there was a huge blurt of progress.  August had by far the highest number of  posts (7) of any month of the year, and all but one are on the saddle.  A good glimpse is In Progress (August 10th); an excellent close up is Saddle Silver (August 31st).  All that was missing was the stirrups and some silver; it really seemed that finishing the Silver Acorn was within reach.  Yet in September the siren song of photography surfaced.  Through the rest of that year, it becomes clearer than ever that hers is a photographer's soul.  More and more the posts are of lots of horse pictures.  The saddle is mentioned briefly, but no pictures are shown.
No more work was done on it for the rest of 2014.

In 2015, in an April 8 post, the saddle receives a name: "Opus Saddle."  No pictures are put up, but there is mention of more silver put on.  On April 20 we get an Almost Done post.  There's a very good shot; it looks finished but for the stirrups.  Unfortunately the rest of 2015 was consumed in divorce.  I watched anxiously from afar and wondered if I should speak to both participants, but in the end I could only contact Heather and profess my support. The summer of 2015 was also the summer of the Triple Crown and American Pharoah.  From this time Heather's photographer career would flourish.

The following year, 2016, it's April 10th before the saddle is mentioned.  I am certain that FaceBook rose into prominence (my own saga there would start the year before, in April 2015), and that had an impact on blogging.  Heather went to BreyerFest in July and was tremendously inspired, as were we all; that was the year we were both photographers at NAN!  In a fit of generosity I tried to have my photographer's stipend assigned to her, but this did not work out.  I also did not realize she had entered horses and was showing as well as shooting...!
In a marvelous visit on July 18, I got to see her new house and studio.  Thirty-two of her photos were posted to her FaceBook and she treated me to lunch.  : )  In those 32 the Silver Acorn Opus is clearly depicted, and so was the rawhide braided bridle I wound up selling to Heather.  You can't keep good braiding tackmakers apart.  Heather Visit

On August 28, 2016, Heather posted the finale, Only Took Four Years.   It had indeed been almost exactly 4 years!  Like most big tack projects, that length of time included periods of intense progress and long periods of waiting and idleness.  It was rightly a masterful Opus.  For an artist whose output was limited (her website shows just 15 Western saddles between 2002 and 2013), it was an immense amount of work.

The next chapter in the life of this saddle was the Juried Exhibit at the Morlan Gallery, at Transylvania University in Lexington.  The Exhibit started October 28 and ran til December 2, 2016, and was named Enough to Swear By.  It featured exquisite miniatures from artists around the world.  Talk about exposure!  I had never dreamed some of those things existed, and though I could not attend in person I enjoyed web-browsing the various artists' sites.  You gotta hand it to the Internet: it makes such things possible!
Heather showed her Hummingbird Silver Parade saddle, her Opus and a braided bridle she'd made for Anna Tackett.  She said the two saddles were for sale.  When I heard the price asked for the Opus (it broke four figures) my hopes took a nosedive.  I had made up my mind to make an offer, but as so often happens, what was immensely expensive for me (more than I'd paid for any other saddle) was considerably lower than her price.  Nonetheless I made the offer.

There would be very few more blog posts from Heather up to the present.
That fall (2016) I hung on to the promise that if the saddle did not sell, I would have a chance at it.  Unfortunately Heather was hard to contact, and I didn't find out the answer to my question until many months later.  My finances felt strained with other model pieces I wanted, the NAN stipend landed in my mailbox, and I had just found the YouTube video.  What with one thing and another, I was the closest I'd ever been to long term annoyed with someone who was normally a dear friend.

There was an exchange of calls in February 2017, and we must have worked our way back into contact and understanding, because my questions were answered and I had a path forward by then.  I was greatly looking forward to BreyerFest this year.  As readers of this blog will know, Heather was kind enough to let me purchase the Silver Acorn at last, in July.  Here's my BreyerFest Loot picture:
And a close up  of the Moreton saddle:
This photo shows that there was no saddle blanket.  It also shows there were no breastcollar dees.  This wasn't even the first time I'd spent a great deal of money to get a saddle that had no blanket (Corbett wins that one).  I guess the hobby is becoming more specialized.

Towards the end of my snowshoes-making, on October 4th,  I started a green cross-stitch saddle blanket just for the Silver Acorn.  I used Chris Armstrong's "Pinky Lee" pattern (which really IS pink) but cast in several shades of green.  I tried to match and/or enhance the greens of Opus.  Some of them were surprisingly dark; my choices were perhaps excessively bright, in compensation. 
Like most of my personally-made saddle blankets, it is not cross-stitch per se, but needlepoint, as each 'cross' is actually two straight stitches side by side.  In this case the stitches slanted, alternating each row, in a herringbone pattern.  I find lined blankets much too thick and for some unfathomable reason I detest withers-notches.... probably because I think the blanket ought to be realistic enough to rise off the withers under the gullet, just like the real ones.
My next task on the Silver Acorn was to attach breastcollar dees.  First I had to decide what to use for them... and fortunately the saddle itself told me, with its use of engraved photo-etch Rio Rondo buckles on martingale, curb and stirrups.  Then I had to attach them with minimal damage.  There was only one place for the operation.  For reasons of pride I wanted something of the construction to show, but it had to be minimal and tasteful.
I peeled off part of the lining, made slits in the only space available, and strung the uncut buckles on black lace.  It was a relief when it worked, and, best of all, with the breastcollar actually on, nothing of these "dees" even showed.
The happy task of finding the right horse to "photo-op" this splendid example of the miniature saddler's art landed on Minyalucca the Minuet, wife of Xanadu the Bouras Arabian.
I am sure there is much more to the story of this fabulous saddle!!
Thank you, Heather.  I will try to take care of it.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Buffalo and a Black Colt

Research reveals I have promised several blog posts in the past.  It also reveals I could very well combine a few.  This will be my first attempt in that direction.  (It would be so wonderful to be caught up... on anything!)  First I'd like to look at my new Buffalo from Black Horse Ranch; then let's take a look at a teeny black China Foal who is one of my two greatest model horse stories ever!

(Grammatically that should be "which is" but we're model horse people, so the horse is a who!)

When last seen, my buffalo collection numbered nine.  There is a blog post about them:  Buffalo Conga
This picture from it shows them in roughly the order in which Breyer released them.  It's not quite correct because the White should be 4th from left, but otherwise it's correct:
Imagine my pleased delight when, last year (2016), I went through the BHR line and spotted an unusual buffalo.  The moment I saw him I knew he was for me.  Collecting non-horses is for the fringe, yet I have always loved this mold; I had one when I was a kid.  This buffalo was a rare light brown with fantastic shading.  When I emerged back into the hall at BreyerFest waving my prize, I actually got a cheer from the crowd.

I now have 4 of the #76, Breyer's Buffalo, sculpted by Chris Hess.  This huge old mold was released from 1965 to 1991, one of the longest runs of any Breyer.  Clearly my new buff, on the right, is a lighter version of the "early shaded" (second from right), just as the red-chestnut buffalo is a lighter version of the "later red," on the left.
Look at the variation!  The earlier ones had what amounts to dorsal stripes.  They also had what I'm choosing not to show, shading on the genitalia (which is not that realistic.  Hess only knew horses, I suspect).  As noted in my previous post, all #76s had white horns.  Except for Choc the glossy 2002, no other buffalo (who is not white) has had white horns.

My darkest and oldest (darkest head) has the equivalent of "eye whites," an outlining of the mouth and nostril:
I swear I did not put those there!  Just another oddball feature of early Breyers...
Here's a side view of my oldest and darkest, showing the shading.  Forgive the slight out-of-focus.  Note the white stifle area:

A side view of my new light-brown from-BHR.  Note the shading stripes on the shoulder, neck and head, and particularly the black nose and muzzle.
Side view of the lighter of the chestnuts.  Andrea Gurdon of Breyer History Diva has commented on this color phase in her blog,  Chestnut Buffalo.  I think of it as analogous to the cinnamon phase of the black bear.
Side view of my darkest red.  Almost a liver chestnut, with reddish highlights.

I have since come across pictures of Karen Grimm's grey buffalo.  I know these exist, and ID Your Breyer claims they are from the 1970s.  Maybe some day I will have an opportunity.  I'd rather come across a Woodgrain, but I know those are even rarer.  Probably the future of my conga rests with repaints, and whatever weird decorator-inspired ideas Breyer can come up with...
Here's all ten:
It's kind of hard to get a good photo that shows all of them.

And now for the Black Colt story!
We first heard of this guy in my Econlockhatchee post:
To quote:
"I'm not normally a chinahead, but I collected these little Bone Chinas when I was a kid.  I have about two dozen stashed away or standing on the curio shelves in the downstairs bathroom."
"... I already had 2 of the black foal."
There you go.
This next photo shows both of those black foals, plus a number of my Bone Chinas.  Tucked away for decades, these few enjoy a precarious exposure hanging on a downstairs wall.  (My apologies for the dirt.)  The yellowish glue on the standing black foal is 'shoe glue,' hot gun glue, a family standard for broken toys.  The black mare to the left is their mother; there are 2 grey/whites, 3 bays and 1 pinto visible in addition to the 3 black Bone Chinas.  They came in families of Stallion, Mare and Foal.  If you want scale, the appaloosa in the right foreground is a Mini Whinny.
Bet you didn't know pizza-box center-discs were such useful platforms...!

The story of this black foal does begin in childhood.  I played heartily with my little chinas in the back yard.  We're talking roughly 1969 through 1975 here.

In 2005 or thereabouts, my father decided to replace a dying tree in the center of the back yard.  As it happened, his son-in-law, my husband George, was there at the time.  These two men were digging out the stump near where the old sand box used to be.  George was cutting roots with his shovel, piercing down into the sandy earth.  He had cut through them all, he says, when, finally pulling over the main trunk, he came upon the tiny body of a black colt.

"It was right underneath, and I'd just cut all its legs off and never realized it.  It must have been placed there on purpose.  I felt so sorry.  It was as though I'd desecrated a shrine."

My own memory is he told me he heard the 'clink' of a sound that should not have sounded.  Unfortunately no legs (or tail) could be recovered.  Further research reveals the planting date of the old tree in the very early 60s.  Although I have no memory of having placed a colt under a tree, it was entirely in character for me to dig and build horse houses in various landscapes.  I would have been doing it in many places in the back yard and later did it in the fields out back, and also further-out fields.  (Today one of those fields is the Dry Creek Trailhead of Boulder County.)  For the record, I never knowingly left a horse outside; but then, stranger things have happened!

What have those little eyes seen, over the long years sleeping in the earth?
The fuzziness of this photo is unintentional yet appropriate.  He is from another world.

Far from catching up on my blogs, this just opens more of them.  "One of my two greatest model horse stories ever" -- ??  The other is the story of GoldenEar.  Stay tuned, and thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Intermediaire/INTERSPORT: Performance

Once again, choosing the pix has been the hardest part!  Truly this is the job of a judge and quite different from that of the photographer.  Since my  personal interest is in Performance, it's been doubly hard to pick out a mere 40 shots from Didi Hornberger's excellent show, Intermediaire/INTERSPORT, which took place October 15 in Harrisburg, PA.  In the end I wound up with 53, my largest post yet.  That tells you something. 

Almost the first thing I saw upon entering the show hall was one of Kim Jacobs' entries.  They have a certain flair all their own; the scale is unmistakable.  I had never before seen a horse dressed up as an elephant...  I wouldn't've thought it possible!
Performance divisions traditionally start with harness entries.  I love harness and driving!   My eye was caught by this unusual sleigh.  Attention vehicle-makers: don't let sleigh runners stand in your way of building something sleigh-like.
Here's a close up.  The bronze-y head is either a bear carving or (probably) a dog.
This one was impressive.
 Beautiful, correct, realistic!  although I worry about that gold bit (brass is considered too soft for bits).
Slatted side panels often indicate a dog cart, but this vehicle has 4 wheels and thus cannot be a cart.  It could serve very well as a marathon vehicle.
Remember this appaloosa horse.  You'll be seeing her later!
 A superb Hansom Cab entry, owned and largely built by Kris Gallagher.

As a break between harness and my next subject to focus on, here are a couple of horses that should have been in the Halter post.  An uncustomized Stone Arabian Foal, showing the new mold (those ears! that tail!),
and a winning Stone Custom Decorative paint job that had everybody ooohing and aaahing.  It was very seasonally appropriate.  The name is "Moon Kitty."
On to Parade!  This entry proves yet again that the Bogucki Saddlebred is the go-to mold for O.F. parade.
Told you she'd be around!  We will see this Matriarch yet again later on... I'm sorry I don't know the tackmaker.
With this photo I seamlessly transition from Parade entries to the subject of jewels.  The tablecloths at Intermediaire cleverly indicate divisions by arena, but they do make for some powerful color influences.
 I was struck by the silver-green reflections in this green-costumed Parade rider's picture.  It's evidence of my interest that I was so focussed on the tack I cut the rider's head off.
I said jewels.  During Western Pleasure I spotted this entry.  I took more pix but am only showing two here.
 This is one of my favorite shots for the whole day, even though I'm barely into dolls.  Joan Yount is the doll artist behind this amazing outfit.  She just blazes!
Still on the theme of jewels, I spotted a saddle liberally decked with diamonds.  I have seen these in real life and they are spectacular.  This model one is by Carrie Sloan Meyer; she has done several in the theme.  To my disappointment the set didn't photograph all that well.  I tried:
Closer.  There is another shot but it's too blurry.  As a side note, the number of blurry and out-of-focus shots I took is quite embarrassing.  I'm still learning the difference between macro and super macro.

The next photo transitions to a focus on dolls.  This was an interesting entry.  I'm not quite sure which class this is or what she's doing: perhaps pouring tea?  Checking the water level?
 You'll have to take my word for it:  it's difficult to show many of these entries with only two pictures.  But I love her expression.  This has got to be captionable.
English-discipline dolls are some of the most lovely examples of miniature fabric control in the hobby.  Take a look at this coat (again, it really works when someone's already green!), created by Kris Gallagher:
Here's a fantastic sidesaddle rider.
 Who says you can't jump with a sidesaddle?!
Niki Hertzog came up with this surprising Hawaiian-parade themed entry.
Just one of the many outstanding Native American Costume entries.

This part of my blog could be called 'unusual Performances.'  I'll spare you the horse jumping the dragon and other cute stuff, but this double Jumper entry was intriguing to me.  They are in fact two different resin sculptures.
Morphing into unusual tack, this is a Portuguese saddle outfit on a resincast horse.  The mane and tail ribbons are part of the mold.
This is Joanna B. tacking up with her Indian Marwari costume.  I could hardly believe what I was seeing. 
 The tackmaker tied on every pompom by hand.

And now for a tack story.  Oh, I do love a successful Who-Dun-It!!  Niki Hertzog had purchased this lovely Draft Stallion Surcingle a long time ago and lost the information on who had made it.  I was drawn to its beautiful design and smooth execution.
 The spotting is intense, and the scrolls are all handcut.
Who could have made such a distinctive piece?  We were all scratching our heads.
Then Niki happened to mention that it had been accompanied by the initials S.C.S.  And the bell went off in my head.  "Shadow Cat Studios!"  I exclaimed.  "It's Donna Huchinson!"
A years-long mystery was solved.

Moving on to Arabian costume, here are just two examples of the riches in this class. 
Green again.  This must be an unconscious theme of mine...
With this photograph I began to learn the attractions of a multiple-horse shot.  Which is more interesting to look at for a month, one horse or three or more?  Which gives more information?  The answer probably is a mix of both, depending on the horse and tack.  I was pleased that the judge gave the blue to one of my favorites, even though in hindsight I think his saddle is set too far forward.
And now on to something more Western.  With this photo (and for the only time in this entire post) I'm giving in to the urge to show off some Timaru Star II tack.  Owned by Margaret Suchow.
I told you we'd see this horse again...!  pretty versatile she is...
Here is a table shot, the only one I am including in this post.  It's cows, mostly.
If you're still with me, we have another round of unusual Performance entries.  This one is of crowd-control training for a Police horse.  What a clever use of those foam things!
This is a fishing scene, believe it or not, from earlier in the day.  I was struck by the garlic strings hanging on the near horse's pack... now that's cooking in the bush with style!
This was an interesting idea:  How to dress while riding during deer season.  Hunting is part of life here in Central Pennsylvania.
And this one really caught my eye.  Not only is my husband a wargamer and miliary historian, the paddle also grabbed my attention (since I am a canoeist).  I think it is a Kim Jacobs entry.
Here's the paragraph:  Beach patrol during the war!

With Niki in the room of course there had to be something from Doctor Who.  I was enchanted with the lanterns on the tops of the standards:  they are actually lit up, as are the windows.  She is using doll house technology.
Here is a very strange Jumping entry.  I'm sorry I don't know how it placed.  It's a creative way to use a non-jumping model in a jumping class.  Two photos will have to do.
The caption.
Remember the white Hansom Cab horse, back with the harness entries?  She's a Brigitte Eberl resin owned by Kris G, who tells me she's a good and steady winner.  Here she is in a Showmanship entry.
 It was in trying to see the dolls' faces that I got this photo.  I am so pleased with it -- my best shot of the show.

If you're exhausted, remember this day was TWO shows, run simultaneously.  Each one had many divisions.  At any one point in time there were 8 or 10 classes going on.  It's amazing I was finished by dark.
Intermediaire, the less competitive of the two shows, always has some fun classes towards the end.  One of these is my perpetual favorite, the only known Stable Wear class.  I swear I'm gonna enter it next year...
Another fun class is Wildlife.  I didn't get a shot of the whole class but it included a Buffalo, two bears, a Rocky Mountain Goat, Holi the Elephant and this!!  Not only is it shocking to have one of these at a horse show, it's probably the smallest model in the room!
I want to end with this, a sample of Didi's famous Flavours class.  If your horse was a flavour what would he be?  Because I own a Let's Celebrate myself I was drawn to this entry.  Cheers!
Thank you Didi.  May there be many more shows like this one.

I'm aware that many blog post subjects have been promised in the past on this site.  An actual count gives me something like ten.  It is my hope to combine some of them eventually.  New ones are continually arising, alas:  I must spend time making tack and drawing (drafting) plates for my next book.  All I can ask for is your patience.  Know that it is appreciated!