Saturday, December 17, 2011

Racing Results

LRH Backfire wins the Vristina Stakes
This running of the Vristina Stakes was open only to race winners. There were two entrants, Long Road Home owned LRH Backfire, and White Pine Stables owned Liberty N Justice.

The night before the race there was a heavy rain that soaked into the track. On the morning of the race, the rain lightened to a slow drizzle. Though the rain stopped an hour before post time, the track only dried a little. The course was recorded as 'muddy', which didn't suit pre-race favorite Liberty N Justice.

Liberty N Justice broke first from the gate, followed by LRH Backfire. The younger mare fought back, making up some ground on the muddy course. The pace was slow due to the mud, but both horses battled hard for position.

LRH Backfire finally broke the neck and neck racing in the final furlong, stretching out to four lengths ahead, but quickly losing steam, to finish the race ahead by a neck.

Black Cauldron wins the Tarn Lake Maiden
This sprint ran on a fast track, thanks to the new artificial surface that was installed.

The pre-race favorite was Black Cauldron, a 9 year old black quarter horse mare by Sylver Champlain, out of Ruby Tuesday.

Shes All That was calm in the paddock, which Long Road Home considers to be a big improvement over the last outing, however, the mare still showed signs of her high-strung nature during the trip to the gate. Both mares loaded into the gate without difficulty.

The race was quick, with Black Cauldron taking a lead straight out of the gate, and holding it for the whole distance, to finish by two and a half lengths.

Majeed wins the Iskoola Stakes
As expected, Majeed, the seven year old Egyptian Arabian stallion owned by Cherox Park, won the Iskoola Stakes.

The race was beautiful to behold. It is rare to see two Egyptian Arabians in a race, so to see one that had only two horses, both Egyptians, an older stallion and a filly was very special indeed.

The black stallion romped home ahead of the bay rabicano filly, both with tails soaring like pennants. This race was simply beautiful, and Long Road Home is very happy to have had a horse in the race. We hope the spectators enjoyed this race as much as we did.

This rounds up the last of our All Breeds Racing Board races for the year. The All Breeds Racing Board believes in giving the horses and organizers a break over the foaling season, and we at Long Road Home know our horses will be glad of the rest.

Our horses will all return next year as four year olds, and will be joined by three new racers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Projects on my Work Bench

I don't like to post WIPs for anything I do. I like my work to look kind of magical, like it just somehow, amazingly, comes out of nowhere all finished and pretty, and hopefully amazing.

However, since I want to do a roaning and a dappling tutorial, I'm having to rethink that a little, so, to get myself used to sharing WIPs in their ugly phases, here's the projects I have immediately to hand on my workbench at a little after 5 in the morning:

LRH Wasabi Sensation

I'm still pastelling Wasabi Sensation's base coat before I can start on his roaning. I've adjusted the color a little to represent his real color a little better, but I think using the vivid/technicolor setting on my camera might have been the wrong choice for this stage of painting. Right now he is more vivid orange than I intend him to be. The next couple of layers are going to tone it down a bit and start darkening his head and legs. Right now, he's hanging out by my computer ready for the next step of pastel dust.

The wire is what I used to hold him for sealing, and to hang him by when he's drying. It's just some twisted wire around his neck, leaving a long enough tail for me to hold him and not spray myself. The wire's super thin, so I can still work around it as I pastel. When I'm done painting, I'll just have untwist it from around his neck. It's kind of creepy hanging a horse by the neck with a wire garrote though.

Antar Al-Ahmar
This is the CM that's been giving me so much hassle. Every time I think I'm done, there's something else that needs to be done. This was meant to be a simple head swap, neck move, and now it's a lot more than that. At this rate, I'll have resculpted everything by the time I'm done.

Pride of Nayef
Pride of Nayef is my new All Breeds Racing Board horse for next year. He's a TB stallion. He's going to be a greying out bay with a chaser clip. The red 'stuff' is Bondo Glazing Putty, and it's what I use instead of Apoxie Sculpt and modeling paste. This guy still has a lot of work to go. I've got both front legs almost done, but as you can probably tell, the upper long hair isn't fully edged yet. I still need to do his back legs, and the entirety of his other side. I want to rework his head a little too.

I think I'll be using Pride of Nayef as a quickie tutorial for a dark grey bay and how to paint a clipped horse, since he's handy.

I actually have two more CMs handy to photograph, but I really can't be bothered, because I literally woke up less than half an hour ago, and haven't had coffee yet.

Blogging without coffee first probably wasn't the best idea, but I just wanted to get this done.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Caballo Criollo Colombiano

The Stablemate from last Friday's post was going to be pedigreed as a Colombian Criollo, rather than being a plain old Iberian breed, such as an Andalusian or Lusitano. Of course, since I neither speak Spanish, nor have friends in Latin America, finding information about these horses has been tricky.

Though the Colombian Criollo is named a Criollo, that doesn't mean it's the same as the Argentinian Criollo; here, Criollo is used to mean 'Latin American horse', as it is for many South American breeds. The Colombian Criollo has also been called the Colombian Paso Fino. From the gist of the google translations of Colombian Criollo forums, it isn't really considered fair to call them that either.

The reason it's not really fair to call the Colombian Criollo a Paso Fino is because thanks to the introduction of imported Canadian Pacers and Trotters to the breed during the heyday of sugar plantations, it's very different from other Paso Finos. The breed retains little of its Iberian ancestry compared to other Latin American breeds.

Though there is some cross breeding with the Paso Fino, Colombia has types of horse that appear to be unique to Colombia. Something about the land there makes the gaits of other Spanish-descended breeds less practical. Translations suggest that the rough terrain makes an ambling or gaited horse more practical for every day use.

Well, now I had a bit of a background on why the Colombian horses are different, that still left the question: different how?

As it turns out, Colombia has three types of gaited horse, all more or less considered the same breed: the fino, the trocha, and the trote y galope.

The paso fino does exactly what you'd expect it does: the fino. This variety appears to be crossed with Paso Finos more often than the other varieties.

The trocha is more or less what we'd call the foxtrot, a broken trot sequence where the diagonal pairs are picked up at the same time, but with the front foot landing before the hind foot.

The trote y galope trots, and performs an extremely collected canter. They actually do this naturally in the field as foals, which was very interesting to watch on You Tube. Watching the foals in videos, it does appear they can also perform a more stretched canter, but naturally tend to fall into the very collected form.

So where do the trocha, trote, and galope come from?

It appears the introduction of the mare La Danesa and her very popular and prolific son Don Danilo are behind the introduction of the new gaits to the Colombian horses. La Danesa's sire was a bullfighting Lusitano brought to Colombia in 1946 by the bullfighter Lady Conchita Cintron.

Don Danilo (Rey Cometa X La Danesa)

Don Danilo could perform the paso fino, the trocha, the trote and the galope, on command. Many of his famous offspring were trocha and trote y galope horses.

So, now I had to decide: is LRH Y B Rojas a fino, a trocha, or a trote ye galope? Since he's not performing any gait, he could be anything I liked. But, there appear to be differences in build between the types of horses.

The fino is longer in the back, shorter in the legs, and all around thickly built, and looks a bit like a classical painting of a horse. It looks like you expect a Paso Fino to look. That build is what makes him perform that gait. Pretty much any horse built that way, regardless of its breed, will try to move the way the Paso Fino does, because it's the best way for its body.

The trocha is similarly thick, but more proportional, at least to my eyes. He's not so short in the legs and long in the back as the fino.

The trote y galope looks more like what I think of when I think 'horse'. I'm from thoroughbred country, having grown up only an hour and a half trot (12 miles) from Newmarket in the UK. They're a little more fine than the trocha and fino, and look very much like a sporty Spanish bred horse, rather than a baroque Spanish horse.

It should be noted that they all still very much fit the breed description of the Colombian Criollo, despite their differences in build. The differences are slight, but I think quite noticeable. In any case, you'd know what you're looking at as soon as it moved, even if you couldn't really see the slight differences I'm seeing in how they're put together.

Y B Rojas isn't really thickly built enough for the trocha or the fino, and his legs are too long for a fino. That leaves me one option: he's a trote y galope. That suits me fine, I think they're prettier anyway.

I hope that post gives people a tiny bit of insight on Colombian Criollos, and I hope I've understood what I've read.

If you can type in English well enough to tell me more, I'd love to hear more about the breed, if you know more. I mean no offense when I ask that you write to me in English, I just really don't know any Spanish at all, I only learned French, German, and a smattering of Swedish and Japanese.

Links to more information about Colombian horses:
Staccato Beat! Gaits of the Paso Fino
American Trote and Trocha Association: Breed Information
American Trote and Trocha Association: Don Danilo
Pet MD: Colombian Criollo
Google Books: International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds by Bonnie L. Hendricks and Anthony A. Dent

Friday, December 2, 2011

Playing with my new camera

I got my new camera yesterday, and had a play with it. Here's some of the shots I took with it while I was learning how to use it:

LRH Y B Rojas
LRH Rum Runner wearing a deluxe red and black nylon halter made by Long Road Home
Socks (the pink spot is a corneal graft)
LRH White Lightning wearing a nylon safety halter made by Long Road Home

That's not all the pictures I took while I was playing around, I deleted a ton more. My camera battery needs recharging before I can play some more.

Now I've got a decent camera, maybe I can focus on making some tack for sale. I've got plans for some nylon and leather halters, and possibly some rugs. They won't necessarily be rugs that match with halters, since I only have three colors of ribbon, one satin red, one satin black, and one grosgrain black, and one larger satin yellow, but maybe they'll catch someone's eye anyway :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thinking About The Art of Horses

I've been hit with ideas as soon as I settled down for my "morning" coffee and catch up with what happened on the web while I slept.

I clicked through a few links, and found myself at Phaze Studios again. As often happens when I read someone else's blog, I stumbled across another gem: What do I want to do? In it, Liesl discusses some different approaches to art, and it's well worth reading for a quick grounding in different art styles.

While I was reading it, I started thinking about my artistic taste. My preference has always been toward the impressionistic end of the 'accuracy of depiction' scale.

That accuracy of depiction scale goes something like this:
Impressionism doesn't seek to accurately capture a form, rather to capture a feeling, often a feeling of movement as well as emotion. A child's drawing of a horse will often be clearly identifiable as a horse, but to an adult's eyes it might look coarse and lacking in definition.

Realism seeks to capture a subject as it is, with no bells or whistles. To me, this style often looks dull and lifeless. The energy is gone, and a sculpture looks like what it is: a lifeless accurate representation of a form. When I look at realism, I can't connect to the subject at all. In striving to capture the reality, an artist often loses that je ne sais quois found in other models. It looks like a real flesh and blood subject, one you could walk up to in real life and recognize immediately, but the artist has often sacrificed spirit and personality to depict something realistically.

Hyper-realism is itself somewhat impressionistic, but in the opposite direction: it shows details that might not be visible on the real thing. On a model horse, you might see hints of underlying skeletal structure, or veins that in reality are not nearly so close to the surface. These models tend to look very dry. It works well for half-starved Akhal-Tekes and skinny two-year old racing TBs, but it looks dreadful on a draft horse or a fat little British native pony.

My personal taste is somewhere in the mid point between impressionism and realism. I want to capture the spirit and feel that's in an impressionistic form, but to pay some mind to the realism of the subject. I want my work to look like it could be an individual you could really walk up to and meet, and one that you can guess how he'd behave as you approached.

I think that's why Antar has been working me so hard. I started off with a vague idea: I want an Arabian in the hard stand, but not perfectly so. I want him to have personality: I want him proud, but alert, strong, but gentle.

So, I altered the pose to turn his head, and he has an ear twitched back on the same side his head is turned to. He's in that moment just before we completely lose the hard stand and he cranes his neck to look behind him at the horse causing a ruckus somewhere behind him; the moment where he needs a tug on his lead to get his attention again.

This is actually something I have no reference pictures for: this pose worked solely from the picture I have in my head, and a little knowledge about biomechanics in movement and sensing.

When I was an Army Cadet, I was given a piece of advice on standing to attention and at ease: don't follow movement with your eyes. You might not notice it, but you will move your head and body to follow the movement. If you stare blankly ahead, and tune everything out, you'll stay mostly still, except for the slow weaving that comes with reacting to balance yourself as your chest moves while you're breathing and subtly shifts your center of balance.

When you hear an unexpected sound, if you're like me, you'll feel your ears twitch, and then you'll turn in the most biomechanically efficient method to look where the sound came from. This is an instinctual thing, and actually takes a lot of training and familiarity with a sound to not do. What you'll do naturally, is you'll turn the ear nearest to where the sound came from toward the source of the sound.

I watched a few documentaries about ergonomics and biomechanics during my GNVQ Engineering courses, which showed that if you ask someone to touch an object behind them without turning around, they'll naturally do it in the most efficient and fluid motion they can. As an example, let's imagine the target you want them to touch is at waist height, about two and a half feet behind their center line. They'll bend their dominant arm at the elbow and swivel the shoulder and wrist, in the same motion twisting their head, neck and torso to afford them a peripheral view of the target. They'll bend at the waist, dropping their dominant shoulder toward the target, and they'll slowly extend their dominant arm toward the target. Their fingers will make contact with the target with the palm up, and the wrist twisted toward the target, with the high point being the outside of their wrist.

So what does this mean for Antar?

Antar detects a sound behind him, and one ear immediately flicks toward it. The other twitches back out of its high forward pricked position, but returns forward when he starts turning his head in the direction of the sound. His ear will stay lined up with the source of the sound as his head comes around. The sound source comes into his peripheral vision first as his blindspot at the back of his head moves right over his haunches and shoulders. As he turns his head, he'll also twist it down, because it's the smoothest and most efficient motion. If he's unimpeded, he'll probably step his back right leg forward and right out of his hard stand to begin a pivot around his shoulders to put his left side to the source of the sound, and bring the thing causing the noise into the clearest part of his vision. The interesting thing is that as he steps around, he'll likely drop his tail a bit, both to free himself to move more easily, and as a reaction to mild fear or apprehension. The high position his tail is in during the hard stand is one of a proud, fearless horse, as it doesn't cover some of his most vulnerable areas. As a prey animal, he'll feel more apprehensive following a sudden noise, and will likely lower his tail a little to protect those delicate areas around his rear.

In my sculpt, Antar hasn't yet started stepping around, and hasn't lowered his tail yet. His legs should be tensing ready to begin moving. (Uh-oh, a new thing to work on! Oh dear!)

If Antar weren't a fearless bay Arabian and had heard something that truly scared the bejeezus out of him, he wouldn't do any of that, he'd spring forward, flattening his poor handler and bolt for safety. As it is, he's a bay horse, and as the Arab proverb says:
“If someone tells you that a horse leapt to the bottom of an abyss without injuring himself, ask what color he was, and if you are told bay, then believe it. The bay says to an argument, ‘Come no closer!’”
Arabians are also quite well known for being a breed that tends to spook in place, so Antar's mostly standing his ground, he just wants to know if maybe that's not such a good idea, so he wants to take a look behind him.

Now it's time for me to get back to work. I love this horse, but boy is he making me work hard to finish him before December's finished!

Show Results

The November MHFC results are in! Here's how I did.

LRH Rum Runner
Novice OF: Other Pure Breed: 2nd place
Points this month: 9
Points this year: 46

LRH Heza Custom Blend
Novice OF: Paint: 5th place
Novice OF: Minimal White Pinto Pattern (Less than 50% white): 9th place
Points this month: 8
Points this year: 24

LRH Nighthawke
Novice CM/Resin/China: Young Mare: 5th place
Novice CM/Resin/China: Warmblood (open registry): 1st place
Novice CM/Resin/China: Carriage/Sport Breed Champion
Novice CM/Resin/China: Bay/Brown: 2nd place
Points this month: 55
Points this year: 223

LRH Xiwang
Novice CM/Resin/China: Senior Stallion: 1st place
Novice CM/Resin/China: Senior Horse Champion
Novice CM/Resin/China: Fantasy Breed: 1st place
Novice CM/Resin/China: Fantasy/Decorator Color: 1st place
Points this month: 60
Points this year: 470

More of Antar's Aggravating Antics!

Later today, I'm finally going to go get the camera I wanted for my birthday. Sadly, Antar is still having a lot of customizing done. Every time I think I'm done, something else starts bothering me. At this rate he's going to be so different from the original that I'd probably be able to show him off and no-one would know which models he started as.

Yesterday/last night/this morning (all the same day for me, because I'm a Martian who lives on Mars time), I was working on his boy parts some more. I'm glad to say that's nearly done. Curse Antar's insistence on better boy parts, because that's what started this mess!

I also worked on his right eye a little today. He now has a brow ridge and eyeball that look like the one I've already finished on his left side. I still need to do the lower eyelid on the right. I worked on his right cheekbone a bit too, since it didn't match his left. His face is looking really nice and even (but not too even). He's not absolutely symmetrical, but it's close enough to look like a real living horse.

I set him down for a bit, and started browsing the web. It's when I'm taking a break that I start noticing problems with my artwork, no matter what kind. While I was staring at Antar, he said "mom, why don't I have chestnuts?" Well, he does now.

And then he said "I look like a fuzzy British native pony with this excessive hair on my tail, do something about it mom!" That was a quick problem to fix, I just peeled off some of the hair closer to his dock. It's looking a lot better now.

And back to browsing I went. I got to these wonderful blog posts by Phaze Studios: Horse Feet: Part 1 and Horse Feet: Part 2: Structure. Well, as you've probably guessed, that made me take a look at Antar's hooves.

Well, the model I started from has atrocious hooves, so now I need to figure out what I have to do to make them look better. I'm not too worried about all four feet being very different from each other, it makes him look more like a real horse anyway, but I can't stand that his hooves aren't quite correct. For starters, he needs his heel bulbs at the very least, as well as one of his front hooves rounded a bit more. I'm wondering how I'd go about carving his feet, since I did already carve his ears, but I don't have a clue how I'd do it at Stablemate scale with the tools I have. I think I need to work on his coronet bands too, they look puffy and unhealthy to me.

I think he needs some work on his knees and hocks, but I'm really not sure what I'm doing with them yet, I need to track down a few more references.

I think Antar won't be the first model I'll be taking pictures of with my new camera after all. He's not ready for his close up! He still needs his makeup and wardrobe. He told me today he wants a sidesaddle and racing saddle. I drew up a quick pattern for the side saddle while I waited for glazing putty to dry, and yes, I will share that when I finish making the saddle. I'll share the racing saddle pattern too.