Friday, August 28, 2009

Progress pics!

I thought I would share some in-progress pics of what I've been working on! This is a Backbeat Thunder owned by Sharon M. In these pics, he has just had his body color finished, but still needs all his details like face, wrinkles, hooves etc done. He will getting a bit of white on his face and one rear sock. I am very pleased with how he is turning out so far! Feel free to click on the pics to blow 'em and see him up close!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lilly webpage

Yea... I know there is a LOT of cross posting going on! I just want to make sure everyone who has expressed interest in her, knows where to find her!

Here is Lilly's webpage:

She'll be released Friday, around mid-morning. :-D I will get back to the regularly scheduled tangents and off topic rants now, LOL!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Lilly, sneak peak!

Just a few.... sneak peak! She still needs a bit more buffing and then I'll get some proper pics!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Horse feet, part 2: Shape & Structure

I bet you read through that last post and wondered "What the heck does this have to do with model horses?". Well... I'll tell you... I have seen more incorrectly shod or trimmed model horses than I ever thought possible. It was one of those things I chalked up to people adding shoes after the fact, and that the people who added the shoes didn't know anything about feet. However, I have also seen artists improperly shoe model horses as well, usually with metal shoes on sale pieces (I have also seen resins with incorrectly sculpted shoes, but this is less common). This is really a shame, and a big problem, considering how important the hooves are to any horse, halter or performance.

One other thing I have noticed on far MORE model horses (nearly all of them!) is that most artists-- even the highest caliber ones out there-- sculpt all 4 feet exactly the same. Same shape, width, length-- absolutely the same, all the way around. Go ahead-- go and pick up any of your resins on your shelf, and compare all four feet. There are only a handful of resins I have come across (I can count on one hand, most likely) that have the feet sculpted correctly-- that is, the front feet of a horse are quite different in size and shape than the hind feet. In my opinion, sculpting them all the same is as big of a problem as improperly shoeing a horse, since the shape of the hoof is directly related to how that foot functions. This is what I was starting to get at in Part 1; we must always remember that form follows function, whether in real life or in model horse sculpture.

If you don't have a horse in your backyard to go reference, here is a diagram from the amazing black book "Atlas of Animal Anatomy for the Artist". You can clearly see the difference in shape and width of a front foot vs. a hind foot. But why is this so?

A horse does not carry weight on all 4 feet evenly. In fact, they carry 60% or so of that weight in the front, and only 40% or so in the back. The front feet are therefore wider and rounder to better support the larger portion of the horse's weight, made up of the chest, neck, and head (all of which is very heavy!). The back feet, by comparison, are designed for propulsion. Its similar to a car... the front end if for steering, the back end is for power. When a horse launches off into a canter, the longer toes dig into the earth and give better traction than a wider, rounder hoof. With another car analogy... its why a thinner tire does better in the snow and mud than a wider tire: it digs in and cuts through the earth giving superior power and thrust.

How the shape of the foot effects performance

Why is hoof shape such a big deal? In my time spent learning about feet and how they function, I also learned that the shape of the hoof itself has a huge impact on how that horse will move. For example, a horse with proportionately very small feet or a club footed horse will move with a very short, choppy gait. This is definitely not ideal many disciplines, including pleasure, dressage, and in hunters, who compete based on the fluidity of their gaits and movement. Similarly, a horse whose rear feet are short and wide will have poor forward propulsion in any event that would require quick starts and stops. It also may effect the horse's movement in the back end, since those feet would also not have the traction that a narrow/longer foot would have... potentially leading to the horse slipping back there, leading to a fall.

Of course, some horses have 4 feet which are all very similar, with minor differences in shape. However, you can tell immediately by sight the difference between a front and rear hoof, even if you don't see anything else of the horse:
Front foot
Hind hoof

Its very easy in this age of hyper-detailed sculpting to loose little things like this. More often than not the simple shape of the feet are one of those things that are glazed over-- which is a shame since, after all, they are what holds up the rest of the horse! Not to mention that it could greatly impact how the horse you are trying to show in performance classes would move in real life.

It is always good to remember: Form follows function! :-)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Horse Feet, part 1

The hoof of the horse has always been an extreme curiosity to me ever since I was old enough to pick feet. We had an amazing farrier who would spend hours with me "talking shop"; he would allow me to trim one of the horses under his careful eye and taught me each part of the foot, its purpose, and how it should be treated. Years later, we have a new farrier who is the same way-- eager to teach and talk about what years of working on horses have taught him about the foundation that carries the animal. Without the feet, there is no horse.

There are a lot of things I've learned from our farrier, who is an artisan in his own right. One thing that sticks out in my mind is a discussion we had on the hype on barefoot trimming. I had been reading about it for 2 or 3 nights, looked up all the "specialists" and read all the articles about 'mustang rolls' and 'the natural way to trim, like how wild horses are'... and how (according the articles) the angles on a wild horse's hoof are different. Pretty fired up on all that I thought I'd learned, I called him and wanted to pick his brain about it. I started off telling him about all the reading I'd done, and all the terminology, etc etc, and started explaining about the angles.

"So this natural trimming focuses on that the hoof should be steeper, like a wild horse, at a 30 degree angle instead of the usual 45..."-- and that is as far as I got. I could hear him take a deep breath over the phone, and then told me something I will never forget.

"Do both you and and all your friends wear the same sized shoe? Or are you shaped exactly the same?" (to which I replied "no...") "Then why should your horse fit into a similarly man-made mold? And why would you trim your horse according to what they think wild horses look like? You don't have a wild horse... your horse doesn't do wild horse things, or have the same diet as a wild horse... how are they even comparable?"

He went on to describe how most hoof problems that horses have are actually man-made... from people who want their horse to fit that 45 degree, 30 degree, or whatever angle based on some idealized # in a book. You can't trim a horse according to a book. Each horse is different, and sometimes, all 4 feet on the same horse is different. You can't force a round peg into a square hole, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it. If yours horse is sound with one front foot being 46 degrees and the other being 42 degrees, don't mess with it because that's how he was born, that's how he is comfortable, and unless something radically changes in that equation you shouldn't try to make him something he isn't.

The comment on how ridiculous it is to trim a domestic horse like a wild horse really hit home with me. He basically said that these "barefoot specialists" are making a fortune charging well-meaning people huge amounts to do what any good farrier does already. Any good, honest farrier will know how to balance a horse according to how that horse will move best.

Of course, there are those farriers out there who will try to charge you for every gadget and new thing that comes out. I've dealt with those farriers too... they are especially fond of those who do a lot of showing, praying on people who want to squeeze every last bit of potential out of their mount. They will happily put on the most expensive shoe (x4 feet) and any supplement or miracle cream they have to make a dollar. Emperor's new clothes come to mind... they are happy to sell you anything that makes YOU feel better about your horses feet. In reality, its all just hype and smoke/mirrors.

Why does this all come up? Well... the reason I started my education on feet is that I always believed in the "less is more" approach, and Lilly has been sound as can be with just a regular trim and I am jumping her 3x a week. Lacey (my sisters WPH), however... is a horse who, since she was broke to ride, we were told would NEVER go barefoot. Her feet were too fragile.. white feet... appaloosa feet... brittle, bad, never go without shoes. And she has a club foot... and we were told that a shoe is the only way to fix it. This of course was all told to us by farrier who specializes in every specialty shoe on the market, while Lacey was showing. After having such major success with Lilly being barefoot, I had a hard time believing that Lacey couldn't go barefoot too. I mean, with shoes on her front feet she had terrible bruising and cracking... and she just looked uncomfortable.

That was the reason I started looking into barefoot trimming in the first place. And then, after talking to Don (our new farrier), we decided to pull her shoes and see how it went. He said that the bruising was caused by the shoe preventing the natural growth differences around the hoof (kind of like how the end of your nail sometimes grows faster than the sides)... basically, the hoof couldn't grow and wear down naturally, and so in the places it grew faster it would not wear down...creating pressure in the coronet band... creating a bruise.

He mentioned the history of horseshoes... how metal shoes were put on horses who worked long hard hours on tough surfaces like pavement-- which would cause excess wear on the feet. The shoes were designed to keep the feet from wearing down at such an excellerated rate. Now adays, he grumbled, people seem to think that shoes will solve every foot problem a horse has... when, in reality, the hoof is just fine as nature created it. Hammering nails into an already perfect structure only weakens it, sometimes creating more problems than it solves. He agreed that some horses do need shoes for traction, and to reduce wear and tear... but that most horses don't need shoes... what they need is an experienced, honest farrier.

Long story short... Lacey has been barefoot nearly a year now. Her movement is cleaner and lighter than ever, her feet are perfect with no hint of cracking or bruising-- and there is not any sign of the 'club foot' she once had. Its amazing.

I suppose the moral of the story is... horses feet are best left as nature intended, unless there is a valid reason to add shoes to the equation. Each horse is unique in and of itself, and so each is a special case, and cannot be forced into particular angles or ideals. Imperfections or things "not according the book", whether it be conformation or hoof/pastern angles are part of being a natural, living creature... be wary of those who wish to "correct" what does not need to be corrected. To use the old mantra... Less is more.

Part 2 will come tomorrow, and be about the internal/external structure of the hoof and how it functions (re: why does it look like that?). There is so much we can learn from how a horse's foot is put together... its amazing.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Alright... so I know that at least a few of you looked at my sad little armature and thought to yourself "Yikes..! That is really ugly!" Oh common! I know you thought it. And she was, in a lumpy, charming sort of way, LOL.

I've been plugging away on her... and here she is currently! LOTS of work done. I have been working on her body/legs thus far, but will be working on her face shortly so its not so... scary. Tomorrow I need to get her rump and right front leg finished, and then from there I can start thinking about her mane/tail as well. So far so good!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Horse shaped Object!

I know... its been a LONG time since my last post! I have a good excuse though. This past week my good friend Jenn (Irwin) Scott came for a visit.

It was an awesome week and we had so much fun. Studio time, riding, and just hanging out... the week just flew by. On Saturday we had a show were we both were judging, and afterwards a group of us went to Friendly's for dinner. Jenn had never been to a Friendly's, since they don't have them in Colorado. She got really excited about the ice cream.

Yes, thats a 5-scoop Jim Dandy in front of her!! And she finished the whole thing. She's my hero.

Jenn also brought her new LB stock horse resin "Second Glance" for show and tell. Let me tell you... this little guy is SOOOO adorable in person. I had no idea how wonderful his details were until I actually got to hold him in my hands. I loved the scale of him; he fits so nicely in your hands, not too big or too small. We talked a lot about sculpting... and she really encouraged me to get something started myself. So, today I put together an armature and started fleshing out my portrait of Lilly, my draft-cross mare.

Of course, this is still just the beginning stages. I had to order more epoxy since I went through so much of it getting to this point; I should have enough left to fill out her legs a bit more tomorrow, and start really defining her muscling. Lilly will be large classic scale... larger than the Breyer classics, but smaller than regular traditionals. I haven't measured her yet since she is still so in-progress, but once she actually gets some detail on her (like feet) I can give dimensions.

I'm really excited about this project... I'll be sure to share the process along the way. :-D