Monday, January 1, 2018

2018 First blog and 2017 year in review

Western pleasure doll. January 2017
2017 was a very unusual year for me. I only managed one blog post so I'm sure not many people really know what was happening with me. First off, in March I got hired on full time as a paraprofessional at the high school in town. I had been subbing as a para, mostly in the same class, since October of 2016. Being a substitute was very stressful for me. Walking into a new situation several times a day was not my idea of a good time. It's also really hard to help the students if you don't know the classroom routines or any of the kids. Full time was great, though I was still new at the job and somewhat unsure of myself. I have teenagers, but dealing with other people's teenagers was a bit foreign to me. Plus I had to learn on the job, there is no training for paras.
    We had school battles throughout the summer to try to get a reasonable placement for our son. With that and taking it easy from the stress of the end of the school year, I was not really in a dolling mood. In general I was a bit tired and burnt out, and I did make some dolls over the summer, but at a much more relaxed pace. It was really nice actually.
Western pleasure doll. January 2017
   The start of this school year was wild. I knew my co-teacher was going to be out the first few months on maternity leave so we were going to have a long-term substitute. That ended up being a huge disaster which ended in her being let go and the school asking me if I would cover the classes for the next 7 weeks. It was somewhat terrifying but I said I would do it so there could be at least some normalcy for the kids. In the 7 weeks I was a teacher I learned some really important lessons; 1. planning periods are not remotely long enough. 2. Teachers really don't get paid enough for all the work they end up doing at home and all of the money they dish out of their own pockets to get things for their classes. 3. I am actually a pretty good teacher. At least when I don't have to do the extra stuff like go to staff meetings or talk to parents.
    So from the beginning of October to right before Thanksgiving I was teaching full time. I had almost no time or energy for making dolls, which came at sort of a bad time since I like to get as many dolls as I can made before the TRXC weekend. I didn't have tons of dolls this year, but I had a bit of a variety, some saddle pads, horse boots and other odds and ends. So, let's have the year end review!  This year I made:
Teeny tiny dolls made in August 2017
14 western pleasure dolls
11 hunt seat dolls
9 casual western/working western dolls
4 cowboys
4 specialty dolls
3 casual English/cross country dolls

3 showmanship dolls
3 non-hunt seat youth dolls
2 hunt seat youth dolls
2 dressage dolls 
2 driving dolls; 1 male and 1 female.
For a grand total of 57 finished dolls. 

Driving entry SNEWRU March 2017
Latte's SNEWRU winnings
Latte's winnings at QVPO
Not as prolific a year as in several past years. But I did manage to get a good amount of dolling time in considering how much else was vying for my time and attention. So, let's have some highlights from the year! There was the debut of my doctor's buggy in March, which I was challenged to show. The driver is the one male driving doll I made this year. I was going to retire Caramel Latte, but after I accepted the challenge to show the harness entry my showing focus changed for the year. Caramel Latte was now my main show horse for 2017. She did very well at the Southern New England Winter Round-up in March. This show is hosted by Brenda Bednar and is a wonderful show with both performance and halter classes. Though I don't bother with halter classes. 
In April I attended Quabbin Valley Performance Open, which is hosted by Joan Fauteux. Joan has been hosting this fantastic all performance show for years. I again showed Caramel Latte in as many classes as I could reasonably show her in. 

Mocha Latte at Baystate Live
 In August I attended Baystate Models Live. Baystate was originally my show about 100 years ago and it was an all halter show. Maria Firstenburg took the show over when I didn't have time to host anymore and gave the show a huge overhaul. It became a huge 2 day show with an extensive division list and now included performance! I have tried to make it every year to support the show. This time around I showed Caramel Latte and Mocha Latte. Mocha Latte ended up with overall reserve champion. You can still see Caramel Latte peaking into the photo. 
Doll #1100

In October I made my 1100th doll.  The occasion went unmarked since I didn't even notice until probably a month later when I was putting photos in my doll book. #1100 turned out to be an upper level dressage doll, so not even anything particularly fancy. This doll used a new pattern designed by my good friend Joan Yount. It has beautiful lapels that still look very realistic and lay flat with much less bulk than past dolls. Perhaps I will be paying more attention when doll #1200 gets made. Though at my current rate of dolling that won't happen until sometime in 2019. We'll see how things go.

Casual western ladies

TRXC sales dolls

TRXC sales dolls
TRXC sales dolls
TRXC dolls and winnings
Throughout August, September and October I worked on dolls for my big TRXC weekend sale. The show was held at the UMass hotel in Amherst, which is only about 35 minutes from my house. I was thrilled to have the show so close to home. It also allowed that my good friend Crystal could come and see the madness that is me showing in performance. She and I have been friends since way before I found the hobby and she hasn't had a chance to see a show before TRXC. That was a treat for me! Also she stopped at Dunkin Donuts for a few of us (both days!) which is always welcome. 
Larry and I and Dunkin coffee
   2017 was sort of a wild ride from start to finish but it was a pretty good year all around. I made some dolls, got a full year in a new job that I love, did some horse showing and had a pretty good time. We did end up with a great placement for our son. I am now much more comfortable in my job and figured out if I just treat the teenagers I work with like my own kids (tease them when they need it, listen when they need to talk, be a bit crazy, etc). I had an excellent showing year and while I also probably had more stress than I have had in awhile, there were mostly good things. Here's to hoping 2018 is another excellent year!

Saturday, March 18, 2017


Last weekend was Southern New England Winter Round Up (SNEWRU). I planned on entering the show ever since I found out the hostess, Brenda Bednar, had added performance. I forgot to enter and forgot to enter and then remembered to get my entry in about 2 weeks before the show. Then for the last two weeks before show day I meant to work on show prep. 
It didn't happen.
Sunday was the day that AR.CM performance was held and I spent several hours on Saturday working on tack fitting in preparation for the show. Two horses, three tack sets each and somehow hours of tack fitting.
 Show day arrived and I showed up right when the hall officially opened. I had to get Caramel Latte's new harness fitted to her. Kate Dwyer made it for me and we didn't have a chance to get together before the show for the fitting. My cart has some unusual features so the set-up isn't perfect just yet. Still it's a good start for a work in progress.
 Caramel Latte's next class of the day was showmanship and I was super nervous. Showmanship is my thing and I try very hard not to screw it up. Once in awhile I screw it up though so I was concerned that I would mess it up again. Once the class was pinned I relaxed. This wasn't a bad start to the day at all!
 Caramel Latte next went into the Other Costume class with this parade entry. The costume was made by Wendy Ward and was actually made to fit on Matriarch. The fit is not perfect on Latte but it's not bad. This time I had some proper documentation for the entry, which was something I was missing the first couple of times I showed this set. I was very pleased with this placing, the class wasn't super huge but it was not super tiny either.
 Next was the other performance class. Since that means no English or Western I decided to do in-hand trail (which sort of is western but not necessarily). The doll decided she wanted to fall over and her drunk look dropped them down to third place. Silly doll.
 I fixed her to take a proper photo.
 At the end of the Other Performance division Caramel Latte managed to get Champion for the division. That was another excellent start to the day and another excellent start to my official goal of the day (more on that later).

Up next was the English division and the first class for Three Day Bender. Originally I was thinking that I would just show Caramel Latte because it sounded like a somewhat relaxing show day to just show one horse. But Tippy came to the show. She got second in Hunter over fences/Jumper and didn't fall over or even try.

 Next was English games. Three Day Bender did the Housewife Scurry game. She does well at this because she is moving at a good pace and fairly straight. The judge liked that in the bucket I had the correct fruits and vegetables that were supposed to already be in there. Sometimes I am good at remembering the details.
 Caramel Latte did a Musical Stalls entry which just wasn't as interesting so she only got fifth place.
 Next was western trail. Three Day Bender struggled with a pattern that she just isn't shaped right for. Plus in my effort to make the poles fit on the footing it looked to the judges like I had an X shape instead of the plus sign shape it is supposed to be. Tippy was not likely to do well with this entry no matter what. The pattern isn't a good fit for her.
 Caramel Latte had better luck in Arena English trail. She didn't fight the pattern at all.
Next was Other English. Three Day Bender sat out this class and Caramel Latte brought back my therapeutic riding entry. It's been awhile but my little Travis doll still works really well for this. I quickly shortened the stirrups with sticky wax and hid the evidence under the doll's legs. It worked out really well. And all the dolls stayed standing the way they were supposed to.
 Next was Dressage and Tippy isn't really a great dressage horse. But I figured I would try it anyway since Caramel Latte is also not really a good dressage prospect. Not bad for a horse that really shouldn't be in the class.
 After that was Huntseat/English pleasure. Caramel Latte managed third and Tippy being not actually appropriate for pleasure didn't place at all.
 Caramel Latte ended up being reserve champion in the English performance division.
 Next up was cutting/roping. I have always done roping with a standing horse so I wasn't sure how Caramel Latte would do with it. But the end of a roping run the horse needs to walk forward and loosen the slack on the rope and wait a few seconds to see if the calf will stay tied. I put a card next to my documentation saying that was what was going on and had all the other roping details correct so it all worked out.
 In other stock work I had Caramel Latte's team penning entry and
 Three day Bender's working cowhorse entry. It was just my entry against my entry in the class or Tippy night not have done as well. The way Tippy is and the way the cow is the cow would likely get run over when he took his next stride. It happens...
 Latte didn't have an entry in other western but Tippy went in with this Extreme Cowboy entry. I can't remember now if the judge said I could have improved it in some way. I am sure she said something. Karen Pajak judged western and she is a very tough judge. She has a fantastic eye for detail and when I mess up she lets me know. She is wonderful to show under because she makes you look at details you may never have thought of or even noticed.
 up next was western games. Caramel Latte did the two barrels and a pole game. She managed third with it.
 Tippy went in with the Housewife Scurry again. Something was wrong with the entry. I think one side of the bridle was sort of loose and floppy looking. Karen is a tough judge but she makes you look at the details.
 Up next was Arena western trail. Three Day Bender had a better time with this pattern though isn't still not perfect.
 Caramel Latte did her gate entry that she has done many times. Karen pointed out that the obstacle is huge and super simple to do. I have been showing this entry for years and it's done very well under several judges. However Karen is absolutely right so I came home and shortened the gate rope. Now I want to show Caramel Latte again.
 Three day Bender really isn't a pleasure horse.
 But Caramel Latte is. I fiddled with this entry so much to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. It paid off.
 In the end all the fiddling and focusing earned Caramel Latte Western champion.
 And then with other performance champion, reserve English champion and western champion under her saddle Caramel Latte earner overall performance grand champion! That is easily the largest rosette I have ever won. Latte also has a model horse sized neck sash and the cool trophy. What a great day Latte had!
 In the end Caramel Latte won champ or reserve in 3 out of the 4 sections she showed in, overall performance grand champion and 9 NAN cards. I had a friend take this photo so I can keep up with making it a thing. Jennifer Buxton said she hopes this will become a thing and I agree with her. I will likely end up recycling the 3 divisional rosettes (where can I put them after all?) and just keeping the overall awards. But it's nice to have a photo of me with the winner. Tippy could have been in this photo with her ribbons as well but I decided that just Latte would be in this one. She had a very excellent day. And with all of the new NAN cards Caramel Latte qualifies for the NAMHSA performance Legacy award. I am still thinking about whether or not to let her just get that or retire or if she should keep showing this season and go for the Performance Hall of Champions Award. She needs 50 NAN cards for that one. I think she currently has 39 or 40.
I got a new job recently as a paraprofessional at the high school in my town. It's an amazing job and I get to work with some really great kids. Some of them are challenging and at times make me crazy but in general the job is fantastic. I cut back on dolling a bit and my hands thank me for it. I am loving the new job but it was great to be submerged in hobby fun for the day last Sunday. It's always a good time when I see my hobby people.

Monday, June 27, 2016

My 1000th doll

I am a bad blogger. I forget to post often for months at a time. Currently this is only my third post this year. I am a slacker.
    In January, as I was updating my brag book (photos of all of the finished dolls I have made) I realized that I was fairly close to 1000 dolls. As in I would get there sometime this year. Friday I made doll #1000. I wanted it to be an unusual doll because #1000 is a pretty special spot in the doll lineup. I have been trying to come up with what I could make that would be different and fun and I asked for opinions on my doll page on Facebook. I did get a variety of ideas but none of them seemed quite right. But I did get an order for a very cool doll from Laura Skillern. She wanted a Pony Express rider.
Now the thing about Pony Express riders is they were wiry and very light because their horses needed to have as little weight as possible so they could get the mail delivered as quickly as possible. Being the rider needed to be slight all of the available male dolls on the market were out for this type of rider.
With that in mind we decided turning an Yvonne into a pony express rider was the way to go. Yvonne can move in ways that almost no other doll can. She really is the perfect choice.
So between starting off giving a doll a sex change and the unusual costume a Pony Express rider really turned out to be an outstanding choice for my 1000th doll. I have never made one before but I certainly enjoyed the challenge.
    This weekend was one of the busiest non-horse-show weekends I have ever had. Thursday my sister (who flew in from North Carolina) helped us with all of the shopping for Elecktra's graduation party. Friday she came over along with my friend Crystal to cook for the party. That was an all day event. Saturday was running all morning and the party all afternoon. A combined graduation/18th birthday party is a big event but I had a lot of help (and I forgot my camera! Dad let me borrow his but I don't have the photos yet) and it turned out well. Yesterday we had an impromptu cookout with my best friend from high school and were gone most of the day with that. So busy. So tired.
    But this morning the first thing I did was type up all of the names of the people entered in the free doll contest, print them out and cut them into a bowl. Elecktra consented to be my name puller for fairness.
Here she can be seen making sure the names are thoroughly mixed (they are also folded so she can't see them).
and it's more fair if you don't look while you pull the name so she looked away and pulled...
Heather Downing! Heather wins a free doll of her choice. Once she decides what she wants I will put it in my work rotation and she will get a free doll in the mail fairly soon after that.
    In the nine years I have been making dolls I have had an incredible amount of support from the hobby. I have a large variety of repeat customers for dolls and now for my horse boots and other horse accessories in my etsy store and the miniature food as well. It has made it possible for me to stay home and raise my kids (and still be my son's caregiver) and contribute financially to the family. I am more appreciative of that than I can ever put into words. This drawing was to say thank you in a small way for all of this support. Hopefully I will still be making dolls for many many years to come.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Another Superior Event horse

I've done it. Finally. It only took two and a half years from this post, but I did it. Lady Liberty Finally earned her superior event horse award in showmanship! It arrived Friday but I haven't had a chance to share until now.
After Therapeutic riding, Showmanship was the class that always meant the most to me. It was the class that I "knew" from real life. The very first time I showed in the Showmanship class My friend Corrie McDermott talked me into it and basically set it up for me. She said Liesl Dalpe had originally taught her how to do it correctly. Here's my very first showmanship entry. (and as an aside, this is the first photo I have ever scanned in my life!)
This was from the Northeast Model Horse Expo held April 5, 2008. Pretty much right away I was hooked on showmanship. The first time I needed to judge Showmanship was at the very first Quabbin Valley Performance Open on May 16, 2009. I told Joan I didn't know enough about showmanship to judge it correctly. When I mentioned my concerns about judging the class to Liesl she showed me a live demonstration with her real showmanship horse. All of a sudden a class that I only knew how to do one way I really understood. What looks like a deceptively simple class is in reality very precise and easy to mess up.Like this entry.
This was from TRXC in 2013. After doing this class for 5 and a half years you'd think I would think when setting it up. But I put the judge and the handler in the same quarter which is a huge no-no. Sadly this photo lives in Brenda Bendnar's album on Facebook with a very lengthy discussion attached to it. And so much shame (mine).
I did well in showmanship for a long time and then I started to slip. Or Lady Liberty got old and maybe a bit beat up. A performance horse sometimes has a hard life.
I started getting third in showmanship and I couldn't seem to get that last NAN card I needed. It was a frustrating and familiar pattern. The same thing happened with my therapeutic riding entry. So I revamped everything. New, super detailed documentation, new perfectly fitted custom halter and a brand new showmanship doll. And it worked.
Lady Liberty received the last NAN card she needed for her Superior Event Horse Award at NEPC on October 17, 2015. I nearly cried when I saw that blue ribbon. Not gonna lie about that. I also filled out the paperwork for her award the very next day.
    Lady Liberty earned her quiet retirement but I wanted to give her one more shot at showing. So I put her in the open OF showmanship class at TRXC 2015.
Good times. THAT is a good way to retire! She also got a top 5 to round out her show day and her showmanship career.
Lady Liberty did show in other things besides showmanship but the last few years she has done showmanship almost exclusively. But it was fun working towards the award. I guess my next goal will have to be big as well. I was thinking Caramel Latte would work towards her Performance Versatility award but she managed that two shows ago and it seemed far too easy. So her new goal is a Performance Legacy award. She only needs like 9 more cards for that one. When she gets it there can be a nice variety of classes in the photos!