Can’t Stop Won’t Stop

My name is Leah, and I am a performance addict.

Through February and March I was busy working through my to-do list of things to get in time for Breyerwest. Barely a week after, and I find myself back in the studio.

pre-breyerwest desk

My studio, mid February

post breyerwest desk

My studio, today

I’m back, exhilarated by my success and excited to be working on tweaks and improvements for my next show.

The two major differences in the photos above are my shiny new ribbons, and a beautiful new horse.

If you read Jennifer Buxton’s blog (who doesn’t!) then you’ll know that I was very successful in the performance division on Breyerwest. It’s the best I’ve ever done at a show, and I’m honestly still kind of in shock. My sectional champ ribbons are hanging proudly above my studio, while the overall reserve and overall grand ribbons- which are too long for the studio- are in the utility room, making me happy every time I go in there for laundry or hobby supplies.

PHF Richard Squared, Overall Reserve Champion. Photo by Jennifer Buxton.

PHF Richard Squared, Overall Reserve Champion. Photo by Jennifer Buxton.

Showing performance is a blast. I’m proud to say that at least one of my new hobby friends has been convinced to try it. I’m excited for Anna Helt (nee Kirby) who posted on Facebook that she is prepping for her (first?) foray into performance showing, after years of making the hands down best stablemate tack in the hobby.

Showing performance is fun, challenging, rewarding. I love the prep work, the planning, the details, the research, the precision. Sometimes I think about my setups while I’m going to sleep or stretching or driving. I’m an addict… and very happily so!

Four and a half weeks to my new show!

It’s Finally Here! Breyerwest!

Hurrah hurrah, the long weeks of anticipation are over! In a few short hours I will pick up Jennifer at the airport and we will head down to Albany Oregon for Breyerwest 2016!

While Erin has been working tirelessly on event logistics and Jen has been creating hundreds of halters, I’ve been focused on finishing a new performance horse and the accessories she needs.

My Breyerwest to-do list

My Breyerwest to-do list

This weekend is jam packed with excitement. Today I get to meet one of my hobby heroes, Jennifer Buxton. Tomorrow is the Open Show which I’ve been working towards for months. And Saturday I get to judge the OF Halter division for the youth/novice show! So much to look forward to!

To those of you who are coming- please be sure to take a moment this weekend and thank the show planner, Erin, for all her hard work. Planning Breyerwest is a huge job, and she is poured countless hours and piles of energy into making this a fantastic event. This weekend would not be happening without her dedicated volunteer work.

See you soon!

‘West & ‘Fest

2016 is going to be a big year for me, hobby wise. Through luck, circumstance, and a bit of cajoling, I am planning to attend Breyerfest and NAN in July. And because that’s not scary enough, I’m also attending Breyerwest in March.

Breyerwest is something like a scaled down Breyerfest, which takes place on the west coast. It’s a way for hobbyists who can’t regularly travel to Kentucky to get a similarly awesome event. Breyerwest hasn’t been held in a few years, but I’m hoping that if this year goes well it will become a regular thing. I’m very lucky to have Breyerwest happening less than two hours away. Like ‘Fest, ‘West is going to have live shows, demonstrations, seminars, equine guests, and more!

Champion pony Smokin' Double Dutch will be there!

Champion pony Smokin’ Double Dutch will be there!

I’m excited and also apprehensive about these big plans. These will be the biggest three live shows I’ve ever been to, with some seriously tough competition. I’ve got a mighty to-do list organized by task and priority to guide me through the preparation and hopefully maintain some sanity.

One of the things I’m looking forward to most about these events is visiting with hobbyists. I’ll get to spend lots of time with some of my favorite people, and I’ll finally get to meet folks who’ve I’ve only talked to online. Give me a shout if you’re planning to attend!

Breakneck Steed

Changing the headset or head position of an OF horse is a great way to make something fun and new. But that means resculpting the neck, which I find very difficult. Inevitably I end up sculpting, destroying, and resculpting a neck at least once before I get something I’m happy with. My latest project was no different.

My first attempt at this neck sculpt was marred by several silly failures that I should have avoided from the get-go. I was so excited to have studio time (and inspiration!) that I didn’t take the time I should have to get organized for success.

You know how when you are first learning to canter and your school horse won’t canter, you keep kicking and get that crazy super-speed trot and then if you can finally get the canter, it’s bumpy and wacky and barely lasts a quarter of the arena? It’s kind of like that. How many times have I heard my trainer telling the kids at the barn to get an organized trot before asking for the canter? It’s sound advice, and I wish I’d applied it to this project.

Screen Shot 2016-01-01 at 4.56.04 PM

I don’t have a before picture of the first neck, but I did sort of document my corrections and the renaissance.

The first silly mistake was not taking the time to get just the right reference picture. Since my horse is a draft cross, it was important to find a reference horse with similar heavy-ish features. This mare is my next performance horse, so I wanted her to be on the bit, but not with the vertical profile you see in some dressage horses. Finally, my model is standing, so I should have a reference with a standing horse.

This was my first reference, a lazy find:

josie_1_large

After the initial failure, I took the time to find a better reference:

SIDE_HALT

Much better! This is a much better picture to work from for my project.

The second problem with my first try is that I had been lazy with my initial dremeling. Sure, I’d removed the head from the neck and the neck from the body, but I’d left residual plastic on both pieces that didn’t jive with my vision. Bits of the jaw, forelock, and chest remained which were both distracting and difficult to work around. With something as finicky as a neck, you want things as neat as possible so you can better judge the shapes.

Extra crud

Extra crud

As a note, I do like to leave the ears on an OF when I’m resculpting the neck, even if I plan to replace the ears (as I do here). They provide a good visual reference while you get the head where you want it. You can always hack the ears off later.

After finding my better reference photo, removing the extra plastic, and re-psyching myself up for the neck, I set about building the basic shape using wire and foil, secured with super glue and baking soda. As I worked, I continually compared my model to the reference picture.

2015-12-28 17.58.50

You can see above how much easier the neck shape is to visualize now that the excess plastic on the throatlatch, chest, etc. has been removed. I also made sure that the armature is only that, an armature- I want to leave plenty of space in which to add epoxy- I don’t want to be sculpting away and suddenly hit my solid armature.

When I was finally happy with the armature shape, I wrapped the horse in paper towel and blue tape (sometimes I use foil and blue tape, it just depends on what I have close at hand). I tend to get epoxy goo everywhere when I sculpt something, so I cover up the smooth bits of the horse to prevent a bunch of extra sanding and prepwork later.

2015-12-28 19.22.21

And finally, with the proper groundwork laid down, it was time to sculpt. I follow Laura Skillern’s recommend method of laying down blobs for each major muscle, and then blending. It’s a handy way to get a headstart on the shapes you want. From there it’s all blending and smooshing and blending and smoothing. I looooove my clay shapers for this step.

Happily, my preparation paid off. My horse has a neck, and she gets to keep it this time.

current state

 

Tea Time

I’m not really one for New Years resolutions, but I really would like to be blogging more. I’d love to get to a point where I’m posting a few times a month, instead of the current sorry state of a few times a year.

It’s not that I haven’t been active in the hobby- I’ve been showing, customizing, and following my favorite hobby blogs. I have things to share… I just need to share them.

Last night I snuck in a bit of customizing amidst the holiday busyness. Erin had just given me a stupendous unicorn mug and I was very pleased to be drinking my evening tea out of it while building a neck for my next performance horse.

2015-12-21 19.29.23

Isn’t the mug delightful? It’s a stunning example of equine anatomy.

Necks are always a pain to get right, and I was holding up my horse pieces and squinting at my reference… and the inevitable happened.

2015-12-21 19.33.06

I was so stunned that for a few moments I just sort of stared at my tea. I briefly considered fishing the head out with a sculpting tool (they were near at hand) but I figured that a spoon would be cleaner and easier.

The head was rescued and is now securely attached. And I learned an important lesson about holding small plastic bits over vats of heated liquid.

Repairin’ for Erin: reattaching broken parts

I wrote this post this summer and forgot about it… oops!

Another victim from Erin’s shelf is a cute, floppy earred BHR slider who was destined to be a performance horse. Unfortunately, he suffered a couple breaks and has been wrapped up for several years. Handily I am pretty confident fixing basic breaks like this, so I snagged him and brought him home to fix.

BHR slider - before

Thank goodness the broken pieces were still with him!

To repair the broken leg and tail, I went with my usual technique– just adjusted a bit for the specifics of a BHR resin. Black Horse Ranch horses are traditional sized and made of solid resin- they are heavy. The tail and foot repairs needed to be strong enough to support his body.

The first thing I did is mark where I want to drill holes to thread my connecting wire. I mostly eyeballed it on the foot, but I did measure a bit on the tail to make sure the bottom would be level.

BHR slider - marking to drillNext I got out my handy dremel drill bits and selected a good size. I wanted to make large holes to accommodate a large wire- and at this scale that wasn’t difficult. I also made a point to go nice and deep into the pieces so that the wire would have a lot of length on either side to hold things securely.

BHR slider - drilling foot

BHR slider - drilling tail

Once the holes were drilled, I twisted wire together to make an extra strong, extra thick strand. Using the magic of baking soda and super glue, I fixed the wire strand into each of the loose broken pieces.

BHR slider - attaching wire

Then I carefully filled the corresponding hole with super glue, pushed the wire in, and held the piece in until the glue fixed it in place.

BHR slider - pieces reattached

At this point I checked and the fixes were holding well under the full weight of the body. So far so good!

Since the pieces didn’t go together perfectly (something to improve on next time- I think bigger holes to fit the wire into might help…) I needed to fill some gaps with epoxy.

I tend to get epoxy everywhere, so first I covered most of the horse so I’d have a safe place to hold. With stablemates I usually use plastic wrap, but for this big guy I just used a plastic bag.

BHR slider - protection for epoxy

Carefully I pushed epoxy into the gaps in the break, doing my best to smooth it down nicely. On the tail, I followed the lines of the hair texture so the fix wouldn’t be obvious.

BHR slider - foot with epoxy

After the epoxy dried, I did some careful sanding to make sure it was perfectly smooth.

Finally, I painted the epoxy to match the white around it. Like most white areas, this took a lot of layers to get smooth and solid, but it was worth it.

BHR slider - paint layers

Slowly but surely, the repaired areas started to disappear. And voila!

BHR slider - after

Mr. BHR Reiner is back on his feet, literally, and ready to pursue his destiny in the performance ring.

 

 

 

Breyerfest Custom Contest

I’ve never been more invested in Breyerfest than this year. Not only have I been helping Erin ready her performance entries for the live show (and making some last minute props!), but I also have a model of my own attending and competing! My horse Nightfox was chosen as a finalist in Breyer’s Custom Contest!

Breyer announced this contest in mid May, and (with a little encouragement) I set to work finalizing some details so I could enter Nightfox in the Performance Excellence division.

Rose City Live 2013

Rose City Live 2013

As someone who makes all my own customs, tack, props, etc., it’s wonderful to have Breyer host a contest where individuals enter horses of their own creation. I take a lot of pride in my DIY approach to the hobby, and it’s very rewarding to have it recognized.

All of the contest finalists in each division will be on display at Breyerfest from Thursday afternoon through Saturday night in the Artisan’s Gallery. Since I’m not attending, Erin will be setting up my scene (and thus making her first foray into mini performance!)

Sweet Onion Live 2014

Sweet Onion Live 2014

Thank you to Breyer for holding this contest and the judges for donating their time. I’m so honored to have been chosen and excited to have my work on display at the model horse event of the year. It’s my own little Armchair Breyerfest!

Are you going to Breyerfest this year? Send me a picture of yourself with my entry! It would totally make my day :D