Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Palatlakaha in Florida

We were down in Florida over Thanksgiving.  The main horse with me was Palatlakaha, my Emerson.  I took pictures of him at a couple of places; one was near Fort Gadsden and the other was the High Bluff East tract of Tate's Hell.  These are both in the panhandle of the state, near the city of Apalachicola.  This city happens to be one of my family's favorite FL spots.  We have been there many times before, but a hurricane did great damage to the area and we wanted to wait until things healed up some.  I am pleased to report that very little sign of wreckage remains.  (Unless you count the way trash beer bottles floated inside bushes, but that's another story...!)

So here is Palatlakaha, wearing his beautiful Nichelle Jones blanket at first.  This is what we saw when we drove down the road to Fort Gadsden.  The place was closed.  We had to content ourselves with the forest on either side of the road.
Gate to Fort Gadsden
The weather was beautiful and there was nobody around.  We were mainly birding and looking for little flowers for my husband to shoot.  As I recall, we were successful, and got in a good hike.  

Next day, we took a hike at High Bluff East.  There is also a West, which we've done in the past.  This time I had more horses, more time and yes, more tack.  To start with, just out of the parking lot there was a fine sign which I could not resist getting into the shot.
High Bluff East, Tates Hell
It says "No Motorized Vehicles Allowed."

The foal is Pyr, son of Palatlakaha.  His full name is Pyr Panjshir  [peer  pan-juh-sheer].   I'm sure Pim was originally named after British cookies, but I wanted something similar yet different, and he passed through Pym rather quickly.  He landed on Pyr, probably because I was reading about Afghanistan and other central eastern countries at the time ("The Heart of War" by Kathleen McInnis) and that sounded Middle Eastern to me.  I was enchanted to discover that Afghan's Panjshir Valley was famous for its emeralds.  Great Scott!!  I was making an emerald set for one of my other Akhal Tekes.  Well that settled it.  Pyr has since had more than his share of Florida adventures, mainly because he is so small and light and easy to carry.  He is also down here on the Christmas trip.  It is unusual for a horse to qualify for back to back trips like that.
Pyr's mother is Palustris, my name for Celeste the pearl gray Lippizaner mare, aka Carina.
The foal is accompanying the ride as a dog would:  trusted to run loose, but not away.

The next view was down the trail.
High Bluff East trail, Tates Hell
This English saddle was built in the 1990s from a kit released by Kim and Lenore Jacobs, alas long discontinued.  (I still have the patterns and instruction booklet though.)  I'm always amazed at how easily these horses break to ride.  One tacking-up and they're ready to go. 

 Palat was really hesitating.  He was giving that trail a good long hard look.
Was that crazy foal going to behave himself, or would he have to be chased?

Time to switch gears a little.
This was taken on the picnic table near the parking lot.  This saddle was made by Lianne Bondurant in the 90s.  I customized it with braid-covered Rio Rondo stirrups and by doming all the conchos.  There is just something about this saddle I love -- it is one of my favorites of all my collection.  I think this is because it's so smooth.  It's truly an old working saddle in perfect scale; it just looks like it could be really good to ride.  Plus it's easy to fasten, which never hurts.
The blanket is by me.
Back to the trail. 
 The hackamore is Fancy's.  This particular bosal hack is probably the most famous and storied of my whole tack collection.  It has 4 blog posts all to itself, of which this is the first:  Fancy's Hackamore.  All we need say now is that it's gaining back its Florida vibes and experience, replacing what was lost.  It's also dandy for breaking in new horses.
Yeah, he can be trusted...  He has good gaits, even in sand...

Well look who's tagging along.  Pleased to see ya, son.  Now let's get some hiking in.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

How I Beat My FOMO

Beating Fear Of Missing Out is no small thing.  This might be one of the last posts about The Jennifer Show 2019, and THAT was a big thing -- very big.  How to bridge opposites is a pertinent question.  How did I bridge between generations, between haves and have-nots, between greenhorn newbies and old pros?  How did I manage to attend a show whilst I was over a thousand miles away?  With model horses and their gear -- and a big dose of trust on both sides, -- that's how, -- and of course, with the ever-more-personal and ever-lovin' Internet.

The story begins with my reasons for not attending TJS.  These were multiple.  I could have gone, I confess.  I was not physically restrained by injury; I could have afforded it, both in money and (in theory at least) in time.  I could see it coming, and ....  squirmed.

     I had gone on a 2-month family trip (May, June), which included Canada(!), and later gone to BreyerFest for 10 days (July) which had packed quite an emotional wallop (the hotel refused my next year's reservations!).  August had seen the Model Meet-Up day (which also walloped me: A Driving Adventure).  In late September, five days (25th-29th) were the chosen time for our Three Rivers canoe trip to Virginia.  To put it frankly, I was tripped out.  Yes, I had parents in Boulder; Front Range room and board was mine free if I wanted it, plus a car.  But in late August -- the last possible time to commit -- came word that my folks were shutting up the Boulder house in preparation for their fall migration to Tucson.  Mom actually said, Don't come.  I teetered.  I sampled the psychic winds of my soul, and realized that while I'd love to go for social reasons, I just wasn't a competitive shower and hadn't been for years.  I'd had 3 visits with Colorado model people during May and June (instead of the usual 1 or 2).  A four-day car trip one-way, or a flight (expensive so late, never taken for only a show), was just too much to ask.  The moment of decision passed me by.
Neys Point Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada
Having chosen not to go, I was seized with the most terrible FOMO.  Possibly this was my slender stock of prescience, foretasting the future, guessing how fantastic that show would be.  It turned out truly legendary, by the way.  The show was a unique landmark, never to be forgotten;  it would be referred to as a historic milepost of greatness -- proving prescience does exist.  :)  Also, the habit of Internet following was expanding -- vicarious enjoyment was becoming more of an art.  I knew so many of those who would be there!  Whatever the cause, I writhed in helplessness much worse than usual.  I needed a brainwave.

Nothing less than ElfQuest helped me then: that scene where Cutter breaks off contact with Skywise so he can help Dewshine fight in the great battle.  The younger generation has a right to call on the elder.  I knew a girl who would be attending TJS, at considerable cost, as a newbie.  She had never shown performance at a big live show, yet had wanted to for a long time.  She had visited me, we had corresponded, and we were good friends across time and countries.  Why shouldn't I lend her some of my props and tack and horses??   Such a wealth I had accumulated over the years...!  At the very least, my tack itself could attend the show...
(I knew of at least one piece of my tack which would be there, in the hands of an experienced old performance pro.  So Bobbie's case was not my only; but it held the lion's share.)
The idea would not have worked had I been less communicative with or less interested in the individual... or had I thought she would not value it sufficiently.
But she said yes.
Photo by Bobbie Allen, used by permission

A long series of emails and pictures between us gradually narrowed down the choices.  It is quite challenging to cobble together a show string using somebody else's unseen horses!  That's where I started:  I asked what she had.  One Roxy in bay and one standing black Arab resin, plus a smaller size resin pony, became my starting point.  Pile on them my own strengths:  Parade, Western and Driving.  I wasn't quite so fired up about the abnormal classes, sad but true.  It was challenging enough researching the classlist almost as entries closed.  I tried to keep things reasonable.  How much experience, after all, did she have?
"Have you ever harnessed a horse?"  I asked.
"Once," came back the answer.
Oh, boy...
Being who I was, almost my first choice was a Parade entry.  I would let her decide whether to untack the horse it was on and transfer the saddle.  I followed that with a vehicle, about the only one I had that could be shipped without too much damage to wheels -- because it didn't have any!   It was one that was so distinctive that, if anybody stole it, it would be recognizable.  Did horses run in harness?  i.e. could Roxy be shown with my red sleigh?  Of course they did.  It was hilarious how I KNEW horses galloped while pulling sleighs but couldn't find anything like a decent photo online!  (Documentation has always been my weak point in showing.)  In the event, Bobbie somehow found a much better picture than I did, of galloping horses in harness pulling a sleigh.  That was a wonderful sign.
Photo by Bobbie Allen, used by permission
A minor note in this miraculous symphony was a 1983 drawing of harness instruction I'd recently had returned to me (thanks Gretchen H!), which turned out to be more useful than the trio of emails I'd hastily sent off...!  (Embryonic Guide, anybody?!)
A fourth horse was added to the list:  Rocket the Emerson.  I had one of those myself, which just strengthened our bond.
In the end I assembled a wide variety of stuff:  Two small, primitive English saddles; an ancient Race set made by a younger me; a unique purple-and-black Trad English saddle and matching bridle (and a full set of matchy matchy gear with it, boots, earnet and all); a TSII Silver Parade Saddle ON a horse; an Akhal Teke neck collar with real emeralds; a pole oxer jump; a Newberry Western roping saddle and a fancy TSII braided Western roping bridle from my own braid case; an O.F. Smoky because Bobbie had a thing about Smokys; and my famous Red Sleigh with half the Pair Russet Harness, some fleece snow, some trees, and Steve my driver doll with his equally famous white fur cloak, made from the skins of 3 ermines back in the 1980s.
My "purple" set:  Saddle by Fara Shimbo
 My husband said, You have to trust her.  He was so right.  I faced the possibility, remote but not zero, that I'd never see any of this again.... or that it might take years to return... or, almost as bad, that it would get broken, and we'd have to work forever to heal both spirits and stuff.  And then I hit a real pain:  insuring(!) and shipping such a large heavy box.
I had chosen a big strong box we had hanging around.  It was a Dell, with the Holstein black and white markings.  Somehow Bobbie started calling it the Cow Box.  I realized long afterwards that this same box had been to Denmark and back (for our sabbatical, 1994-1995).  Given Bobbie's Japan connection, that just made things more magically appropriate...!
With characteristic wild glee I packed up everything I could bear to lend.  I don't recall the weight but it was huge.  Arriving at the UPS Store I belatedly realized this was really going to cost me.  The final ticket was over eighty dollars.  Even though I wasn't responsible for the return trip, I hesitated; but the clerk, someone I trusted, and my own experience of 40 years of mail order, both told me to do this -- to not take the cheap way.  This is what the Splurge Fund is for.  Was not this the measure of how much I wanted to attend?  and how I trusted her?  I swallowed hard and off it went, bearing my dreams.
And my FOMO evaporated and was gone.
TSII #406, well wrapped up
     I will spare you the details of how difficult the delivery connection was.  Thanks to the magic of FaceBook I watched Bobbie waiting for it for hours in person (which I hadn't expected).  I Google-mapped their neighborhood.  This level of detail about delivery is so far from my childhood memories of waiting for weeks for a parcel of model horses to arrive...!  But anticipation, I believe, is universal, down through time.  Finally the Cow box was safely delivered, and later I learned that even her husband Jeff was impressed.  (One of the factors that made this work was the willingness of the victim to post so much personally.)  The torch was passed.

On the day of The Jennifer Show I stayed close to my computer, dashing in often to update my FB feed.  Pictures were slow in starting [ahem, time zone!].  I had a small tack project for the day, which went swimmingly. 
Gradually the feed improved and revealed a splendid show.  I haunted it, picking out my girl in the distance and commenting on whatever took my eye.  The Sue Rowe Hitch Wagon appeared, with a pair of OF Clydesdale Mares; I had built those very harnesses.  As the hours rolled by the fun grew.  Bobbie won big to start with, which surprised me but shouldn't've.  By evening I was seriously pleased.  It was hard to disconnect that night; I knew something special was going on.  The good news just kept on coming.  Usually a show peters out after a few group posts, but this one just kept exploding.  It was like the grandest fireworks display:  it just kept sending up rocket after rocket, climbing higher and higher.  I remember drawings by Cameron Clow, and commenting about dolls watching the show themselves, wine glasses in hand.
Bobbie Allen at TJS.  Photo by Jennifer Buxton, used by permission
The next day I did not watch but took off on a family trip, long planned, to test our 2 new digital cameras (my old one had died unexpectedly).  There is a post about this drive: Visiting Colonel Drake
But that evening, and for many evenings thereafter, I peered and voyeured and watched and stared.  Elaine Lindelef took my breath away by sheer volume and quality of coverage (although there were MANY other photographers, Jennifer amoung them!).  This was the NAN photographer job that I myself had held in the past.  Elaine deserves a medal  -- it seemed to me she went above and beyond.

I found out some of what Bobbie had done.  Each shot was a fresh pleasure and surprise.  Much later there would be a Braymere post on the newbies: Viva les Novices.   The length of time spent absorbing all the fantastic details of TJS by blog was about five weeks by my count,... not counting present company!  No show I've ever heard of, not even NAN, has lasted so long.
Anne Sofia.  Photo by Bobbie Allen, used by permission
For a brief span of time I, who have no daughter, had one then.  I had passed along the gift, as the charity organization Heifer says.  Incredibly, for one moment, I saw that the daughter had passed along the gift too.
For all the lovely surprises that my approach yielded, this is the one that brought me to tears.
My FOMO was gone.
And I just may have helped create another performance junkie.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

TSII #457: Silvering the Tree

As usual, a few snapshots of one part of the second Goehring saddle are ballooning into an entire blog post.  Brevity, despair!  However there is an element of celebration.  According to my notes, the last time I made this saddle, a year had elapsed before I got to the horn cap.  This time, it has been a mere 5 weeks.  Huzzahh!!

    Last time (2013-14), by the time I got to the horn cap, the entire bridle and breastcollar were finished, with their intense array of engraved and soldered conchos (16 pieces for the bridle, 26 for the breastcollar.)  That is not the case today.  Today's bridle and breastcollar "are cut out," even tooled and dyed, but their silver is not started.  For much of the set, the silver isn't even present; it needs to be mail-ordered (brevity, despair).  I'm choosing to use Argentium for the entire saddle instead of the Sterling of the first Goehring, and my Argentium supply is quite limited.  But we will not complain.  Progress is being made.

There are accumulating small differences from my first Goehring saddle.  One is the size and shape of the seat pattern.
The original pattern is on left.  You can see the date, 1312.11 (Dec 11, 2013),  just 5 years and 11 months ago.  You can see that the current pattern is differently shaped, and it is actually longer front to back, since the cantle turned out higher.  That's what happens with individually-carved trees.  I have to make new patterns every time.
     Basketweaves have been the subject of conversation between myself and 2 other tackmakers lately.  Here is my contribution.
The whole basketweave section was done with a single Needle Chisel, by hand and by eye, with the help of a small drafting triangle.

 An interim step is the dyeing of the tree.  (Not 'dieing' --  don't irritate the sleeping proofreader, as one wouldn't disturb a sleeping bear --!)   This noxious substance, Oil Dye, gives a perfect wood-look, much better than any other dye.  I painted the tree outdoors on the deck, with a Q-tip, which I then wrapped up and threw away.  No clean-up, no smell, so yay!

Another difference from my first Goehring was in choosing to puff up or pad the leather part of the seat, in order to differentiate it from the 'wood.' This was complex and involved gluing thin layers underneath, shaving and then bevelling.  No pix were taken, alas.  Gluing the seat down required several passes in order to wrap the edges.

At this point one of the major design discoveries from the first Goehring is invoked,  an old friend from 30 years of making model silver saddles: Silver Tape!
The reasoning behind the choice of this material is better explained, and shown, in my earlier post on the subject: Silver Progress on the Goehring.  For now we will just say that without leather underneath, and without bending, Aluminum mending tape is perfect for this particular part of a model saddle.  Nothing will shift or fall off in the years to come, (as would be risked on almost any other part).  I was smart to save the backing pieces of paper from my earlier tries -- you can see them scattered about.  As I worked I found myself hoping 3 layers would do.

 The Goehring's pommel silver is in halves, right and left; so is mine.  A lot of fiddling and awl-stroking is in the cutting and darting, to fit the tape as closely as possible over a very complex shape.  In the end, 3 layers it was.  (Layer 2 shown below.)

Still another difference is that this horn cap turned out larger than last time.  However I am using the same engraving pattern approach.  Wheee---  after only 1 month (October to November) I'm engraving silver!!  For this tack shop, that is fast work indeed.
Last step:  engraving the pommel, technically embossing as nothing is cut.  Well, the pinpoints are cut.  This step must be completely by eye -- no pattern exists.  I make it up as I go along.  Silver tape is truly a one-time-use material.

What's next for this saddle?  Cantle silver, stirrups, signing the tree, and making conchos and strings, preparatory to fastening on the skirts.  If all that was done, the saddle itself would be finished (except for the cinch).  Oh I can feel myself resenting that cinch.  I hated it last time too.  H'mmph  h'mm...
Although I may have to let this rest over Thanksgiving holidays, I am pleased with how it's going.

There are, as I said, at least 8 other blog subjects lined up in my head, shuffling their feet and rattling the gate.  They range from my horse collection to TJS to a barn I saw on the Wyoming prairie, to BreyerFest, to stable blankets and my logo and ...   ....  brevity, despair!  Still, progress is being made.  I appreciate your patience.

Friday, October 25, 2019

TSII #457: Tree Skirts

By a not-so-out-of-season pun, a post on both a saddle tree and its skirts could conceivably be called Tree Skirts.  Both saddle tree customization and tooled leather skirts are featured in this first post on the second Clyde Goehring saddle, numbered Timaru Star II #457.   (If you see "CG2" written here, that's what it stands for.)  The first Clyde Goehring set was TSII #451 and was finished in March of 2014.  Its thirteen posts can be found listed here:  TSII #451.

How's that again?  Six years and only 6 saddles finished?!?  Gone are the days when I made 30, 40 and even 50 saddles in a year!  But that was LONG ago, in the 1980s.  The number of saddles made per year has been shrinking, yes;  but we are still making saddles --- and this is our 40th year as a professional model tackmaker.  And four hundred fifty-six saddles is something to be proud of.

Both Clyde Goehring Mexican Parade saddles can now claim the same thing:  Their trees are proving immensely difficult.  Here is what I started with.  It's an RDLC cast white resin tree (right), available from Alison Benuish's The World of Model Horse Collecting:
On the left is the customized tree.  Thanks are due Yet Again to Ann Bilon who gave me the Apoxie.  Once again I got to mix up the grey stuff, wait til it dried and then carve and file 'til there were white chips  and dust all over everywhere, several times over.  It was fun,...  Sculpting like this is a nice taste of what so many other model horsers do in this hobby.  I can see how it might be addicting.
Various files and the X-Acto are used.  The 'buttons' on the shoulders are the beginnings of the domings on the full-size saddle.
It is difficult to show a model saddle tree.  The shape is so complex one picture does not tell all.
Multiple passes of filing are needed with this difficult part of the saddle.  I am not naturally a tree-user.   However, a Mexican saddle must have one; the tree is an integral part of it, and my references are clear. 
Bit by bit, the swells (shoulders) are reduced down to what the real saddle looks like.   Pencil marks show the next phase of filing down.
Also, the gullet is squared, to eventually take the cinch ring straps.  In these types of saddles, the cinch ring straps go around the swells.  Here's a glimpse of the real Goehring:
This shape is known as a slick fork.  See how flattened the shoulders look in this raking shot?  [Raking shot=canon fired straight up the stern of a ship.  Blame my wargaming husband for this naval warfare term!]

Filing down such a complex curved shape has to be done entirely by hand.  I'm using the paper towel to clean off dust and the toothbrush to clean the files, which get instantly packed with whitegrey.  The buttons or domings (I don't have a word for this aspect of this saddle.  No other Mexican set I've seen has such a thing!) are naturally the hardest to do.
Progress.  The shoulders are smaller and more sloping.  I'm hoping I get those domings even and symmetrical.
Probably the most sobering part is knowing all this work is not going to be repeatable.  I'm making no casts, patterns or templates of this tree; I don't know how (and have no time to find out).  It is destined to be a true one-of-a-kind, as was the tree to #451.  I'm aware this is frightfully expensive.  Is not tack the last best place for true one-of-a-kind works?
View from the front:

Switching to the cantle end of things, at about this point I realize I need to add more Apoxie.  My old paper seat pattern shows that the current cantle is much too short; and as seen above, there are gouges and divots to be covered.
The cantle silver pattern also shows the rim is too short.  It's a little out of focus here, but you can just see the scoring lines I've put in the edge of the cantle, designed to hold more Apoxie.  I don't remember having to do this the first time around.
Second round of Apoxie result.  As usual, there's a whole lot more work to be done.  I get to use that marvelous word again:  midmetamorphosis.

And here's the skirts part.  On my FaceBook I showed the first pictures of the tooled parts for #457, CG2.  Unfortunately I had failed to allow space for both rows, upper and lower, of white buckstitching on the second skirts.  The real Goehring has them:
It's hard to justify where my sense went.  On a big piece like this, sometimes you just smash against walls.  I felt the only thing to do was start over, and make two new 2nd skirts.   Below is a glimpse of the creative process.  I used a paper towel to get the basic shape of something that would fit around the tree's rear corners.  (The first set of 2nd skirts had been made without the tree).  The first set's pattern is on the left.  The improved pattern is on the right; it's shorter.
 Here we see the older, wrong 2nd skirt.  Notice no room for the upper rank of buckstitching, and no curve to fit into (actually, over) the tree.  The paper pattern beneath it is of the newer, improved skirt, showing how different they are.
  Here they are, tooled and coated, ready for slitting and buckstitiching.  The longer one on the right (below) is the older, wrong one.  No, I have no idea what will become of the rejected ones.

Just like #451, CG2 is being extremely difficult.  I think there are various causes, but one is surely my own lack of discipline.  The saddle has no real deadline -- even Christmas vacation is only a soft deadline.  There seem to be a thousand other things I'd like to do, or that I have to do.  For instance I have counted 8 other blog post subjects!!!  However, those 40 years have set up their own pattern of behaviour.  I am a tackmaker, first and last.  I am so happy on the bench, creating yet another piece that takes great engineering.  We can do this.  There are saddles beyond this one that I'd love to get to.  Even with such distractions as FB and blogging, canoeing season is over (until Thanksgiving, Hah!) and there just might be more time for tack.
Wish me luck.