Tag Archives: customizing

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:


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


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.

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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


Too Many Legs

Remember that episode of Coupling where Jeff cries “I’ve got the keys to Paradise, but I’ve got too many legs!” ? Yeah, that was hilarious. My problem is mostly unrelated. Anyway…

I resculpted by Pebbles Saddlebred’s legs not once, not twice, but three times- with progressively more work but better results. There wasn’t much detail in them originally, which bugged me. And at this scale, it’s even more obvious when detail is missing.

Chrys 2.0 7-23-13

This third–and last–resculpt was partly inspired by Sarah Rose’s thread on Blab which follows her sculpting process for her new mini Marwari resin (my apologies to those of you without a Blab membership who won’t be able to view that thread). Her model had such gorgeous delineated detail on the legs, and I decided I would never be happy if I didn’t give it one more try on the Saddlebred.

Horse anatomy by Herman Dittrich – front legs

Horse’s lower legs are complicated and confusing. There are no muscles below the knee, but there are a bunch of tendons and ligaments going too and fro and creating all kinds of interesting lines under the skin. I found it extremely necessary to both photo references and consult my Herman Dittrich horse anatomy pictures. They’re posted on my Reference Photos page and also published in W. Ellenberger’s great Animal Anatomy.

My other invaluable resource was Kimberly Smith’s wonderful, big reference pictures. Every week Kimberly posts a bunch of big, high-res pictures on her site for model horse people to use. It’s great to have someone take photos with customizing in mind, because you get super useful stuff like this:

lower leg ref

Thank you Kimberly for letting me repost this picture

I’m really glad I took the time to redo the cannon bones, and do the research necessary, for two reasons. For one, of course, my Saddlebred looks much better and is much more correct for her refined, thin skinned breed. Also, it was great to practice and learn sculpting lower legs at this (relatively) large size. Because I’ve got a number of horses in line who need help in that department!

My poor Akhal Teke has no leg detailing, Alpo has a club foot, and my trotting TB has been sorely neglected...

My poor Akhal Teke has no leg detailing, Alpo has a club foot, and my trotting TB has been sorely neglected…

Yowza! I’ve got my work cut out for me on those guys. But I do feel a little more confident about legs now, so that’s something. Now back to sanding…

A Short Tale of a Long Tail

With the MEPSA donation horses done and shipped, I’ve turned my attention to preparations for a live show in early September. Of course, by “preparations” I mean all the new stuff I want to have done, not actually preparing for the show…

One of my main goals is to have my Saddlebred mare done. When I last posted about her she was getting close to done but still lacked a tail. Since then I’ve done hours of sanding and refining, resculpted her lower legs for the 3rd time (sigh) and added a tail.

The first thing I did was cover the rest of her in plastic. I have a bad habit of getting epoxy all over my fingers and then all over the otherwise-smooth model, which means more sanding later. I’m trying to avoid that here, using plenty of blue tape and a cut up plastic bag.

Chrys 2.0 tail 01

Next I built up the wire tail with tin foil, secured and stiffened with super glue & baking soda. Once I had the basic shape built, I started to block in the shape with chunks of epoxy.

Chrys 2.0 tail 02

The tail took quite a bit of epoxy. I could maybe have done more with the foil to avoid this, but oh well. It’s funny working in this larger scale- normally I wouldn’t go through that much epoxy in an entire drastic custom!

Chrys 2.0 tail 03

Once the tail was blocked in with the epoxy, and it had dried a bit, I started to add the hair detail. I’m not great at this, but with a lot of shaping and brushing and shaping I got something I was sort of happy with. I use denatured alcohol to smooth all my epoxy including manes and tails. I think I learned that from Jen Buxton who learned it from Tiffany Purdy.

Chrys 2.0 tail 04

After more sanding, primer, and little changes, Chryselephantine 2.0 has a tail!

Chrys 2.0 7-23-13

I’m still working on smoothing and sanding, but she’s getting so close! I’m excited to start adding color.

Oscar Update

Oscar continues to be his delightful adorable self.

Oscar 1 - 7-3-13

The urge to photograph him is pretty irresistible, considering his epic cuteness. But it’s also hard, because he’s so friendly! As soon as you come into his paddock, he heads right over to say hi. So I get a lot of pictures like this:

Oscar 2 - 7-3-13

This one through the fence came out pretty darn cute-

Oscar 3 - 7-3-13

He’s got his baby teeth in now and is very interested in using them, although he generally drops his finds after a bit of chewing. He’s already messing around with mom’s grain even!

I rode early in the morning this week to beat the heat. Remembering the issues some of the horses at Inavale had with umbrellas, I set up this excellent obstacle for Cochise:

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He only refused it once, which honestly is fair, considering. But then we went over it many many times without issue, so I was very proud. He was really more afraid of the noise the tape made when I attached the pool noodles to the standard.

I’ve actually been working on my model horse projects quite a bit, although I’ve been very bad about posting, clearly :P Among other things, my Saddlebred is really coming along- I would say she’s nearly ready to get a tail, but I just decided she needs her cannon bones redone again so back to the lab. But still… I’m very pleased with how far she’s come.

chrys 2.0 7-7-13

In addition to the obvious- new mane, removed tail, turned head, and shortened hooves- she has new muscles on her right shoulder and hind quarters, new hocks, new cannon bones, refined fetlocks, new ears, added face and jaw detail, and correct mare parts. She’ll also be getting veining and wrinkles :) With any luck, she’ll be in clothes in time for a live show in September.

Rewind: Lengthening Legs

I knew I’d taken some photos while working on my Pebbles Saddlebred’s legs, but I didn’t find them til now. So this is a bit of a rewind to before this post.

The photo I did fail to take were the ones showing the original issue. This borrowed picture of another OF shows the issue a little- notice how the fetlocks on the near side end lower down then those on the off side? The cannons and hooves are significantly longer too.

pebbles asb of feet

To adjust the legs, I more or less followed the same steps I would to fix a broken leg. Although I did have to “break” the leg first- or , to be more precise, I sawed it off with my dremel.

saddlebred legs 1

After paring down the amputated legs a bit to match the others (as well as the hooves on both sides), I reattached them using a metal pin and super glue.

saddlebred legs 2

The next step was filling in and resculpting with epoxy. And a whole bunch of filing and filling to get the hooves even and flat. But now I’ve got a much more balanced and correct horse.

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