Sunday, February 7, 2021

TSII Akhal Teke set No. 3

Back in August of 2020 there was a contest on this blog.  The winner was randomly drawn from those who commented; she would have the opportunity to order one of my Akhal Teke Presentation sets, the third I'd ever made.  I hadn't anticipated the pleasantly positive response.  Somewhat surprisingly, I also didn't anticipate how long it would take to build the thing,... even after 40 years in this field!  and in a season when everything seems to be taking forever.  Thanks to my winner for her superlative patience.

This set uses real sapphires and real rubies, which I got at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show (back in the days when flying to Tucson was what I did during the first week of February).

The bridle was the last part to be finished.  I thought I'd completed it on Sunday the 31st.  When I sat down to photograph, I discovered I hadn't quite finished it; a few strap slits hadn't gotten in and the poll keeper was too tight. 
The photo session for a piece of TSII tack is a critical time.  It's the tack's last chance to have any errors or mistakes found and fixed.  It's my beta-test time.  No one is harder on this tack than me.

I had known all along that this style of bridle uses two buckles to take on and off:  both the throatlatch and the poll (crown) buckle must be opened completely.  What I hadn't known was how impossible that soft leather was to feed through a tight keeper!  I invented something new:  coating the underside of the tip of the crown strap with nail polish to stiffen it up.  It worked.
I also made a bigger keeper.
One of the pleasures of such a photo shoot is what I learn each time.  Every shoot has a lesson and sometimes there is more than one.  This time there was a lesson in trying to make the colors of the precious stones stand out.  Note that the above pinto (Breyer's Wapasha) shows the rubies at the throat exceptionally well.  I did retouch this photo (stone colors) but I didn't have to do anything to those rubies!

Another trick I learned this time was the difference between regular close-up (macro) and using macro while zooming in.  My camera has 2 settings for macro and the first one allows zooming, something I hadn't known.  I needed to get further back because the lights were in the way, yet zoom in close.  I was enchanted to find out I could get this:  No long ears!!

Lonesome Glory really does have two romance sides!  And, Look Ma no retouches:  the blue sapphire and red ruby colors are as they really are.

(This Wapasha has been customized.  The Indian warpaint markings were removed and semi-realistic pinto markings left in their place.  Technically it's an etch.)

The macro-while-zooming allowed me to solve another problem. Compare the following 2 shots (and try not to laugh).  When I finally put the bridle on Altynai/Talisman (he looked so regal and royal without it, it took courage to finally curb that holy beauty), I tried with zoom and without.  Take a wild guess which one I now prefer:

Until you see them side by side you would not believe how distorted the plain lens makes him!

The next two colors of Lonesome Glory looked, to my surprise, just as good as the others.

Black is certainly a classic color for the Akhal Teke.  Here is a close up of the neckpiece detail:  Again, no enhancing needed!
 I'm aware that the neckpiece could be worn with the fringed ends pointing downwards/forwards and the strap in front,...this would certainly be more realistic, and work well on a model with no mane.  But the customer asked for LG.  (And I wanted to show those rubies.)

I really like this portrait, another one gotten with the help of zooming in while using close-up.

I have 7 Lonesome Glories.  I didn't want to shoot this set on wild Appaloosas, so Quelle Surprise/Riverside Property was out.  Likewise the Goin For Gold/Dunrovin, the horse the set was built off of, had that awful white face and an uninteresting color.  You would think a golden buckskin would do the trick! but somehow the set did not look good on that one.  It was with trepidation I put it on a red Appaloosa, my earliest Lonesome Glory, good old Mardi Gras (appropriate!).  Yet somehow this looked the best of all.

Of course I know Akhal Tekes don't come in Appaloosa or Pinto.
The decision of how to show these tack pieces is up to the owners.  This is as close as I could come to a bay, any bay.  Blue and red have always looked splendid on bays.

Another really lovely portrait, courtesy zoom + macro.  Remember those bi-eyes -- year 2000!

Photographing model tack of this level of detail, with actual sapphires and rubies, depends, in the end, on getting close enough.  The last shots of this post show much better just what AT3 looks like.  Here is the cape and forehead ornament.  Those tiny red rubies came from jewelled watch bearings.  What better fate!

Here is a close up view of the breastcollar center and noseband drop.  The center medallion has one sapphire that is lighter than the others.  The sapphires really do come in a variety of colors.
Here is a close up of the neckpieces.  Authentic Akhal Teke tack does not usually use two colors, so I had to make up how I was going to get "accents of ruby" on a sapphire set.  I chose to balance the tiny tips of the cape and face with the larger rubies of the breastcollar and neckpiece centers.  I think it worked.

What's next?
Again acknowledging amazing patience on the part of my customers, NaMoPaiMo is what comes next.  It seems that I really am programmed to paint a horse in three-quarters of a month.  I've never done a roan and almost never done dapples, so it will be an adventure.  Oh and I still have to get my Christmas letters out!!

But two things at once is better than my usual five.


  1. OMG looks so amazing! I may have to get 7 more horses to wear it just so i can showcase its beauty! I can't wait to have it and am honored to own a gorgeous piece of tack by you! Im not worthy!! Thanks so much Sue!!! Love it! Carrie Sloan Meyer

  2. It is so lovely! Looking forward to seeing your NaMoPaiMo horse! Speaking of ... I should probably work on mine ...