Model Horse Tack Making

A guide to Model Horse Tack Making
Written  By Carmody Collins

In the following article I aim to give you a little bit of an insight into the world of model horse tack making, from the basics to the more detailed aspects of this area in the hobby. I will begin by listing a few of the suppliers that I feel will help you best on your way. ~ This website is full of everything you could possibly want for your first project from basic kits to materials and tools, not to mention hardware such as miniature to scale bits for bridles and stirrups for saddles. (Also available from Utterly Horses) ~ this website is a good source for reference pictures of amazing tack and it also sells great cast stirrups and filigree nosebands for Arab costumes. ~ stocks a wide range of hardware for tack making and is also a good source of pictures displaying model tack. ~ this website sells some really cool stuff that you may wish to experiment with. You may also like to visit a few of these groups that have proved very helpful to me, the members are all very helpful and will always offer help when asked. ~ you must be a yahoo member to access this – but it is well worth it, this group is great and full of amazingly talented people that are all very nice.
  Handmade Model Horse Bridle by Carmody
As far as getting your supply’s go though I often get leather from old clothes, gloves are especially good as they are thin and soft, you should aim for the finest grained leather you can get hold off, depending on your project. (The grain is the pattern of the leather, some pieces have an open grain whereas others have tight or fine grain, fine grains are best for English tack) For a western saddle project I would suggest that you get hold of a tooling leather, it’s probably best to get this from either Rio rondo or an actual leather dealer.  As a starting point I would also recommend that you have a pair of scissors, pliers (needle nosed and wide) glue (I usually use UHU glue as it is very strong and dries clear, excess can also be carefully removed with nail polish remover on a piece of cotton wool, another good glue that I often use on bridles is Pritt stick, as long as the area being glued is held firmly down with pliers or mini clamps until it had dries) The beginning – I warn you at this point that once you start tack making it can become very addictive.   The best starting point for any tack maker is probably a Rio rondo kit; they are fairly cheap for the quality of stuff you get with them, which often includes all your required materials as well as templates and detailed instructions. These kits provide a great opportunity for you to gather you bearings and experiment on different techniques which will help you as you progress. Even now I still use western kits as a basis for my saddles quite often, however, I develop them with the skills that I have learnt.  Books for ‘real’ leather projects are a very good way of learning new skills, for example tooling/ carving etc, I suggest the library as these type of books are very expensive, remember to take notes and make practice pieces as you go and learn new methods.  
English saddles are a whole different story there are no kits that I know of to help you make a good one which poses a very large problem for the beginner tack maker, I started out by looking very closely at real English saddles making many sketches and tacking photographs to use as references (at hickstead this year there was a great trade stand that actually showed a saddle in progress, I took sketches of the tree and panels) If you don’t have a saddle that you can look at I suggest a visit to a local saddlery.   With English saddles it’s kind of like a big trial and error thing I often make lots of practice saddles or sections of saddles just to try out new methods before incorporating them into a saddle that I wish to sell or use for showing. Don’t be afraid to try new things!
For those tack makers who wish to use a tree as a base for their saddles I suggest an air drying clay, or a pewter saddle tree (Avaliable from UH here) Place a piece of paper towel or plastic bag (something that will not scratch the model) over the horses back and build your tree to fit the model, make sure that the pommel (front of the tree) is wide enough, often people make this area to small which forces the saddle to sit to high on the horses back. The panels (pads under the saddle) are another area that often make saddles sit to high on the horses back, I suggest you pad the front portion out with a fleece fabric or cotton wool, the back can be sculpted from modelling clay or air drying clay and covered with the remaining leather, however all tack makers have there own way of doing the panels, you will work out the best way of doing so as you go along as each person is different.   his is ment to be a showing Saddle (above), notice the straight panels, it is very similar to a dressage saddle, I make bridles in much the same way as I do English saddles, through trial and error, the new ones that I am making now all have tongued buckles and keepers but I started out by using Rio rondo or sulsor etched or cast buckles. If you decide that you want to take the plunge and give your buckles tongues my best suggestion would be to get your self a magnifying glass and some very fine wire or staples, make a loop at one end and curve the other end to make a kind of hook, to go through the leather hole (make the hole my damping the leather and piercing it with a small needle, open it up larger using a bigger  needle once you have the original hole.
For more information don’t hesitate to contact me as I’m always willing to help or visit my website