I love watching my horses drink water from the large tank sitting alongside the fenced lane to the studio. Every day I run the hose to the tank then climb the plank fence in the west field and walk to the hydrant and pull the handle up to release the water. Pressure fizzes through the hose indicating it’s ready for me to turn the key at the end of the hose to let the water out and into the tank.

My gray mare hears the sound of the water filling the tank and comes over to drink. I’ve positioned the hose so it curls around the bottom of the tank keeping it from flipping out like a coiled snake and flopping out onto the ground.

She waits until the water is deep enough then lowers her head into the tank and touches the surface of the swirling water and swishes it back and forth with her muzzle as she blows air through her nostrils. She drinks deeply, and then swishes her muzzle again and again to clear the surface of whatever she thinks may be floating in the water and drinks again.

Raising her head between sips she lets the water drop from her lips. Finally she’s had her fill and stands for me to rub her ears as I reach through the wooden planks. She reaches over to me and touches me with her lips dripping with water. She’s one of my simple pleasures.

My grass is the tallest under my fence line. I try to wheedle every bit of grass from under the fence with my zero turn tractor. I attempt to do this by dipping in and out while the perfectly engineered wheel fits under the lowest rail of the board fence. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I have a nifty weed whipper to finish off the job but even though it starts up and is eager to knock down my tall grass it makes my hands buzzy. The tall grass under the fence rails needs cut at least twice in the season. I envy those hot rod weed whippers the pros use, they must be like using a bow on a Stradivarius.  I gaze at the fence lines I pass on my way into town, comparing the grass to weed ratio and the stripes of freshly mowed grass. And it’s perfection. I confess I’ve turned into a grass-o-holic since I’ve moved to Kentucky.

I spent a long time pondering the realism I’m trying to exhibit in my horse statue. Originally I intended to sculpt a harness and shafts for the cart it would be pulling. This was poached from a sculpture I did many years ago and it was thought it might work. I sculpted a small miniature clay sketch see if I could capture what is very difficult to show in a photo. And something I’ve wanted to do since I showed a horse at the Royal Winter Fair and experienced first had what it’s like to see a horse bound through the air in front of you.

An issue with the smaller version was the horse was moving forward but bowed up in his neck and bouncing along the ground but not the frame a horse in harness would be doing. So I thought the neck wouldn’t exactly work with a side check on the horse. After some more thought about the plausibility of a horse trotting at the stride he’s at in my design, the adornments on his neck, his docked tail and show shoes, he wouldn’t be carrying his neck like my statue exhibited without the side check keeping his neck artificially high.

So the problem could be solved by adhering to the reality of a horse in tack without a check and drawing himself up and moving forward in his stride without his head strapped in the air and no rider or driver in the design. I went on a Google search to find some information on the older type stallion harness, or stud tack which is a surcingle and bridle with side reins and used only on stallions.

I looked at some interesting illustrations of these harness pieces and found no side check. Excellent! This solved my problem. I can show the horse as it would be exhibited in a breed class showing a classic style hackney in stud tack. This also solved a very big issue with the  detail in the tack and the risk of damage to the sculpture. So I can tack him up, and let him loose and I may even put a loose rein attached to the bit to show the horse has gotten lose from his handler. Something intimated in the illustration in the George Ford Morris painting.

FEBRUARY 2012

I heated the clay in a hot water bath until it’s soft so I can easily apply it to the foam manikin. I started with his head and worked back to his tail. It’s always tricky to work on a horse’s head first and give the animal it’s character or expression. So, I need to be careful not to get stuck on the head and will cover it with a cloth if it starts to control the direction I’m going with the clay application. His ears were facing forward but I decided to twist the off side ear back so I have to fix it’s base attachment. I’m still cutting into areas of the sculpture that need removed and then I put clay on the raw foam. Not too much, it doesn’t like to stick but it will in small areas. The first seals it and fills the pits and areas that were worrisome to smooth out. This goes quickly as all I need is a skim coat of clay to cover the foam.

JANUARY 26, 2012

Right now my foam horse sits quiet in the studio.  A coat of glue sizing applied to the entire sculpture has dried and sealed the surface. This has allowed me to use a rasp on the surface to knock off the rough spots and carve into the detail areas with a very sharp knife without crumbing the foam material. I’ve put the weight into the front left leg foot by bending the pastern, shortening it and cutting the foam and re-gluing it in place. I’m resisting my desire to jump to the next part of the project before the detailing is finished. If I did the jumpy thing, I risk getting these two materials mixed together. I hate pushing some clay onto a piece and bits of foam come to the surface. This ruins the integrity of the surface I work so hard to achieve. And yes, I can heat up the clay until it’s liquid and strain out bits and pieces of foam or old molding material but this won’t fix the actual clay on the model after the fact.

I’ll be hauling a 55 gallon metal trash can full of brown wax based clay from the storage building to the studio in preparation for the next step. I’ll plop pieces of clay into a warm water bath. When the clay is warm and soft it will make it easier for me to push it onto the foam model. I have a definitive date that it needs to be finished and I’m on schedule. There will be two castings made in resin, one for a client and the other for exhibition purposes. The molds that are going to be made will be usable for casting waxes for bronze, the ultimate goal is an outdoor installation of the bronze Hackney sculpture.

When showing a Hackney Horse they’re required to be braided. The old timers told me they should wear the gold standard of twenty-one braids down their neck. They told me it’s to show the length of their neck and refinement of their appointments. I think there may be more to the number 21 but then again I’m just guessing. I’ll research this a bit and see if my curiosity gets satisfied. Meanwhile I’m going to start whistling now as I make snakes which will shortly turn into 21 braids.

The high-class mare who graces my fields is a welcome sight every morning when I walk down the lane to feed. She leads the thundering herd of three if they’re in the east field, cantering into the dry lots with a vision of beauty I never get tired of witnessing. High necked and curvy she reinforces my belief that the beauty of a horse has touched our collective memory for many millennia.

Recently I came home from a trip into town and drove down the lane to check the horses in the awful heat of the late afternoon. I found her lying down and sweating profusely. Jumping out of the car I was through the fence and to her in an instance. I got her up, and lead her to the barnyard. Checking all her vitals she was still, not looking at me, very dull and within herself. I knew we were dealing with stress from the heat and a possible colic in the works. The vet was summoned and while waiting for him to arrive I walked the high-class mare around the barn after rinsing her off three separate times. She began to brighten up finally. By the time the vet arrived she was grazing and aware of her surroundings. We went ahead and treated her for colic. I turned her out in the paddock and went back and checked her again that night. Her coat was cool and sleek; she was high-necked and gazing at me with her bright slightly white ringed eyes wondering why I made an appearance in the dark of the night. Back to a normal for a horse who has never been sick that I can remember. I checked her papers the next day while working on some registry paperwork and discovered she’s 18 years old rather than the 16 I have been reporting for several years. I guess that qualifies her for an old horse tag. I can’t imagine not seeing her everyday in my life.

I will never for the life of me figure out how people get rid of their old horses.

After scrounging around my studio for a couple hours I couldn’t locate my horse anatomy book. I wanted to spot check my sculpture and it’s been nothing but  an exercise in I can’t find it. It’s gone, the unsoiled, un-clayed and fresh to look at pages of the newer copy was loaned out to a foundry to help the staff understand my horse legs ears, etc. They didn’t return it so I’ve been foraging around trying to find my torn up and very dirty copy; haven’t found that one either. So, I’ve gone to the internet and I’ve found images people have been pinching and uploading to the internet. Here is an example of my one of my cheat sheets.

My horses cooperate to a point on letting me look at them in a bone and meaty way, but it’s very hard to take photos of their legs and not settle for the flat images they want to be to the viewer. Besides a living horse is much better to look at than a photograph but then again a horse doesn’t hold a trotting position frozen for posterity and ready at any time for me to check my interpretation.

This past week I needed to attend to the many other commissions I have to create and it was perfect timing right now for the big horse to let it cure a bit and give my eye a rest. Cooling it down and let me be a little detached so I can fix the mistakes and look for a new perspective in its lines and surfaces. It’s lumpy in all the wrong places right now, but that’s because it has many layers applied at different temperatures hence, lumpy and bumpy. I’m letting it settle a bit. Sanding it in some areas about a week ago those spots are holding their shape, so this week I’ll be sanding it for the final time and then I’m onto the next step, applying clay; glorious clay.

But before the pristine clay I’ll apply a sealer to fill and hold all the foam bits and pieces. I admit I hate getting foam all over me so I’m anxious to get on with it. But I also know, I can’t rush the process because it will mean adjusting and adding and subtracting and adding a lot of weight to the model when I’d rather it wouldn’t weigh so much (harder to move around). I have huge trash cans full of Classic Clay which will be wheeled out and let the sun warm it up before I bring in hunks for the big horse. I’ll be adding the energy and verve the piece require to work. I can’t wait to see what it will look like when “expression” is an integral part of the sculpture.

Another group of Barbaro’s are being readied for shipment as early as this Friday.