NAN 2016: Day 1

We arrived in Kentucky on Sunday evening, and Monday was a blur of errands and preparation. Suddenly it was Tuesday and I was on my way to my first NAN.

The first day of NAN is OF Breed Halter and CM/AR Performance. I was excited and nervous. The hall was enormous.

The show hall

The show hall, with the very first classes being called.

There were twelve show rings, with multiple classes loading at one time. Thanks to some wonderful volunteers, it wasn’t too hard to follow the classes- we had an announcer keeping us constantly updated on the status of each class, and a volunteer manning a huge white board that listed which classes were in what rings.

The oh-so-helpful white board

The oh-so-helpful white board

For me, day one was all about performance. The day started with harness and then several costume classes. I didn’t have anything until the fifth class, so I did as much prep as I could for my upcoming classes and then wandered around nervously looking at all the entries on various tables.

Erin's four Quarter Horses winning top tens in their breed class.

Erin’s four Quarter Horses winning top tens in their breed class.

Finally my first class was called! I had two entries in Scene/Other Performance: Troy Soldier doing horse agility (well, in this case, mule agility) and Puns N Roses doing a liberty demonstration.

One of the awesome things about NAN is that after every class, the top tens placings are announced (in random order) and then they announce the champion and reserve. I love these announcements because you get to hear all the fun names, it’s exciting listening for your horse, and you get to cheer for your friends.

Scene/Other Performance was a big class with some very impressive entries. The announcer listed off the top tens… and the final name she called was Troy Soldier! It was a wonderful moment.

Erin snapped this picture of me, gleeful at winning my first ever NAN Top Ten.

Erin snapped this picture of me, gleeful at winning my first ever NAN Top Ten.

The awesomeness just continued from there. In the next class, Jumper/Cross Country, my old standby performance horse Nightfox won a top ten with my new Star Wars themed jump.

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Meanwhile in the other ring, I was setting up my hunter over fences entry with PHF Richard Squared, my beautiful CM Seabiscuit that Tiffany gifted to me earlier this year. When the winners were announced, I was stunned to hear his name announced as Reserve Champion! One of Tiffany’s horses won Champion. Wahoo!

Thank you Tiffany!

Thank you Tiffany!

I love showing performance so much, and getting to do so at NAN, with so many of my friends, with the finest judges in the hobby and the stiffest competition… it was a blast. I was stunned and excited and proud as my entries continued to win top tens as the day went on.

Jaime - Top Ten Other English

Jaime – Top Ten Other English

Puns N Roses - Top Ten Stockwork with my new cows

Puns N Roses – Top Ten Stockwork with my new cows

Meanwhile Erin was garnering ribbons in both CM/AR performance and OF breed halter…

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And Tiffany was kickin’ butt in performance with her trademark flare.

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After a full day of showing we were down to the very last class- CM/AR Western Riding/Reining/Dressage. I had two entries in this class, both PHF Richard Squared and Puns N Roses. To my joy they were both announced as top tens. I was walking over to the table to disassemble my setups when they announced Puns N Roses as the Champion of the class!

I was so completely stunned, and then dizzy, and then I actually thought I was going to pass out. Folks were clapping and congratulating me and I had to sit on the floor until my head stopped spinning.

This is the face of someone who is trying to play it cool but actually cant stand up or speak coherently.

This is the face of someone who is trying to play it cool but actually can’t stand up or speak coherently.

Talk about a grand finale to an amazing day!

Packing up and heading back to the hotel is all a blur…I was so happy and hungry and excited. I have learned so much in the last few years- from my obsessive research on breeds and events, from countless blogs and tutorials, from my amazing mentors-turned-friends… and this day was in many ways a culmination of all of that.

And this was only Day One!

My performance horses with their winnings

My performance horses with their winnings

Home and Happy

What a trip! My NAN/Breyerfest Extravaganza, aka Kentucky Ahoy, aka 2500 Miles to Paradise, aka Sleep is for the Weak… is over. I’m home, rested, recovered, and even starting to organize my hundreds of photos.

I partially did this trip because I wanted to understand what all the fuss was about, and boy, do I! I’m going to do my best to share my experiences here in a series of posts- I could never fit it into one or two!

Our roadtrip started at 6am on a Friday. With three showstrings, road snacks, several duffles, and multiple totes of sales neatly tetrised into our beautiful van, we headed east. And kept going east, and kept going, and going.

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You know, when you have good friends and good conversations, 2500 miles just isn’t so bad.

Day one route

Day one route

We switched drivers regularly, marveled at the intriguing souvenirs sold at truck stops, looked for antelope, and complained (once we got to Nebraska) about the endless cornfields. We only got lost once, very briefly, in the wilds of south western Iowa.

And finally, one day three, we reached Kentucky.

A most welcome sight

A most welcome sight

From there, it was just a little bit longer to our final destination, the famed Clarion Hotel in Lexington. Roughly sixty hours after we left home, we had arrived. Let the festivities begin!

Unpacking at the CHIN

Unpacking at the CHIN

Breyerfest Bound

I’m writing this from a Dairy Queen in Nebraska, just about halfway through our epic road trip from Portland Oregon to Breyerfest in Lexington Kentucky.


This will be my first Breyerfest and my first NAN- I’m excited to say the least.

I miss blogging. I regret that the busyness of work, life, and hobbies has kept me from posting more regularly. The online community was so crucial to me finding, loving, and learning about this hobby. So it’s important to me that I continue to be a participant and share my experiences and newfound knowledge. Here’s to more blogging in the future!


To everyone else Kentucky bound… See you there! Travel safe and good luck!

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.

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My studio, mid February

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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 next 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.

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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:

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

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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.

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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.

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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