With all your emails encouraging us to make this page, it’s finally here! We are here to teach you how to Remake the Model Horse.
Almost every model horse you see has something that could be improved. Before starting out, look at a some horse anatomy pictures and notice the conformation and biomechanics (the way the body functions). This way, you will have a better idea of what really is wrong and how you can fix it. We’re not saying Breyer doesn’t know what they’re doing, we’re just letting you know how you can become one of the best artists in Breyer Horse Customizing. Most Breyer Horses have odd facial features, short backs, inaccurate muscling, and multiple problems with the legs. Even with those being off, they’re pretty dang close!
Also known as paint strippers, these produce a strong blast of hot air, sort of like a super blow dryer. They can be found in the Hardware Department of your favorite store, and prices are around $40-ish. Just about any brand name will work.
Martin Carbone Epoxy Putty is the favorite of remakers. Soft, pliable, sculptable, sandable, permanent. Prices depend on from where you buy it, so check with the various sources. Also available is plumbers epoxy found in the plumbing department of your favorite store. Not as soft and sculptable as Carbone, it is sandable and works great for initial filling. This will cost you approximately $20 a pound.
Stock a variety from coarse to super-fine, essential for that smooth finish!
Needed for filing down seams and rough filler spots. I like a variety of rattails plus a couple of flat files
Newspaper or Foil
Newspaper or foil will be used to fill the horse when being re-modeled.
Use whatever works! I use pencils with dull or sharp points, butter knives, dental tools, toothpicks, straight pins, paint brushes, brushes you would normally apply make-up with, and the best tool of all, the fingers!
Almost a necessity, although the hefty price tag can be daunting. I’d recommend doing some remaking first to see if you really enjoy it before investing nearly $100 or more in the tool, its various bits, flexible shaft, and other accessories. Available at most hobby/craft stores, and in the power tool department of some department stores.
This allows you to create chestnuts and veins. This will run you around $6 to $10. You can find this at any art store or craft store.
Okay, first things first! Make sure you know exactly what you want your model horse to look like before you start customizing. You can look at other people’s work or even at real horse pictures. Don’t worry about the color you want your model horse to have just yet. This will come later.
The best advice we can give you is be patient about everything… from learning about confirmation and sculpting to customizing and painting. Just do your best when you work. The more practice you get, the better your horses will look. You will see a big difference in the first horse you customized compared to the 5th horse you customized. It will be interesting to everybody including you, so don’t get frustrated. If you get frustrated with a horse, leave it alone for a couple days. If you need a couple weeks, then leave it alone for a couple weeks. The time you take leaving it along and coming back to it, you’ll probably realize what was giving you so many problems. Learn one part of the horse at a time, and don’t try to take on too much! Make a mental note that many resin artists have policies that prohibit modifications to their resins. If you plan to remake a resin, ask the artist what is permitted.
Once you figure out the position and what you want to fix, it’s time to get started. If you’re not concerned about the structure underneath, then the best way to get the mane off is to either heat the area and cut the mane off with an x-acto knife or, when you move the neck, squash the mane in. Poke a hole in the plastic first so your sculpture doesn’t crack (all Breyer Horses have one in the nostril). To get rid of the horse’s tail, heat up the tail head, and just rip it off (doesn’t it feel good to break things once in a while?). If there is too much tail attached, you’ll probably have to heat it up and cut around it, sanding the area afterwards. You can also use a round saw with your Dremel. (You should always exercise caution when using a Dremel! Wear a dust mask, protective glasses, and tie your hair back.) A lot of Breyer Horses have tails stuck on the leg. We wouldn’t recommend using a Breyer Horse like that in the very beginning, when you’re first starting out.
If you decided you wanted to change the position of your model horse, then start heating a chosen area with the heat fun. If it’s the leg you’re going to be moving to a different position, then know that the leg moves from the top; the shoulders and hips. These areas need to be moved first if you want the model to look correct. Moving large areas such as the haunch and shoulders is a bit harder. You will need to heat up the whole area with a heat gun, and CAREFULLY cut around the parts that need to be moved, leaving a plastic attachment at the joint area. For the hind leg, cut through the flank, thigh and up towards the horse’s tail. For the shoulder, cut behind the elbow, inside the forearm, and up in front of the scapula. When all of the cuts are made, heat up the attached area, and move the leg to where you want it to stay. You can move the rest of the joints on down the leg from there. Not only is this a more accurate method than just moving the lower leg, but it makes it easier to see the movement while you’re working. Be careful while cutting into the plastic as it’s very easy to cut yourself while forcing the knife to cut.
Details on how to move a leg
Using the same technique as for head, hold the joint to be bent over the heat source, moving it back and forth slowly until softened. Carefully bend the leg a bit at a time, repeating the heating as often as necessary. Again, once the pose is reached, run under cold water to set it. If the bend is extreme, you may want to use a coping saw/craft saw to saw out a little wedge of plastic on the inside of the potential bend to help it bend easier (Fig. A & B)…otherwise that excess plastic can buckle and have to be filed out later.
This technique will work for bending hocks and fetlocks, but when you get up into knees and elbows, you may have to play it by ear. The plastic is thicker at the knee & elbow, so it will take more heating, and there is a greater possibility of plastic collapsing. To tuck the forearm up to the chest at the elbow you may have to remove some of the plastic first (using the wedge method described above).
In order to move an entire shoulder or hip, a bit more is involved. This is necessary to attain a realistic look to your custom. The extra work will be worth it! I like to heat the entire shoulder area, and when it is soft, use an X-Acto knife (or sharp knife) to cutbehind the shoulder and along the top of the shoulder, careful to leave some plastic at the withers for an anchor. Then the shoulder can be moved forward or backwards as needed. Once this cools, it’s a simple matter to stuff the resulting cavity with crumpled newspaper or aluminum foil, and begin filling the gaps. This is where Bondo excels! Occasionally a leg/shoulder (or head!) will have to be re-attached by being wired on. I do this by burning a few small holes along the edge of the shoulder and corresponding holes on the body, and “sew” the parts together with fine wire, then apply Bondo or other filler.
If you want to be even more drastic, you can chop off body parts and make a new structure. This can also be used on a Stallion to make him a Mare. Just heat up the area, and rip or cut it off like the tail. Fill the horse with foil so you have something to attach to, and insert heavy wire. This is a great use for all those extra wire dry cleaner hangers! Armature wire is available at art stores, but you can purchase aluminum or steel wire from the hardware store which is just as good, and much cheaper. Before attaching the wire, wrap it with DMC floss, gluing it down with super glue. This will ensure the wire has some “tooth” for the epoxy to stick to. To attach, use 5-minute epoxy. Just use one end of the “appendage” to mix the two liquid parts, and then glop it in a pre-drilled hole in the model. Insert the wire in the hole, and hold it there until the epoxy hardens. Try to scoop any dripping epoxy back onto the wire or into the hole before it completely sets as it is not easy to sand.
After everything is properly adjusted, stuff any open holes with foil and start sculpting. Make sure all areas that you will be putting epoxy on are cleaned with rubbing alcohol; this gets rid of the oils that make it hard for the epoxy to stick. If you put layers of epoxy on, rough up each layer so the fresh epoxy has something to stick to. Experiment with your sculpting tools to find out what works best for you. I like to use the ends of paint brushes to make large muscle depressions, and then smooth them out a bit with my fingers. For finer details, like eyes and tendons, I use my smaller metal sculpting tools. Toothpicks and other odd things can work for this as well. If you use metal tools, make sure to wipe the epoxy off before it hardens! Otherwise, you’ll have to scrape it off, and that’s more work that isn’t necessary.
When you’ve finished sculpting a detailed area, use a soft brush dipped in water or rubbing alcohol to smooth it. This minimizes anything you’ll have to deal with when prepping. Some people prefer rubbing alcohol because it keeps the epoxy from “pilling up” as much. You can just use water, and that works just fine for other artists. I found that the smaller makeup brushes work very well for smoothing. They are quite soft, so they don’t leave any brush strokes. We know you know this, but as a reminder, always clean your brushes immediately with soap and water!
When doing ears, you can make two matching ear shapes in advance. Attach these to the horse, and sculpt the area around the ear. Alternatively, you can build the ear right on the model. You can later carve and refine the ear with carbide scrapers.
Nostrils are easy; just stick a cone shaped piece of epoxy on the end of the nose and smooth it on. Then, carve two comma shapes, with the outside one extending back a bit, making the front tip of the nostril visible in profile. Look at pictures to really get a feel for how the nose is shaped. Videos, if you can’t see the real thing, are good to see how the nostrils move when horses inhale and exhale.
When you do the mouth, be sure not to make it slope down or up too much. Mouths run just about parallel to the “teardrop” bone (under the eye). From the profile, the upper lip should extend past the lower lip just a teensy bit and when the lips come together they should make an angle greater than 90 degrees. The lower lip will protrude a bit on each side when viewed from the front. Again, view horses or pictures to get a good feel for how to do this.
The teardrop bone below the eye (facial crest) often looks like it will run off the face of many sculptures. People tend to create a more artistic look to the face by destroying this bone. It should run horizontally on the face, and start a little below the eye. Eyes should be at a 45 degree angle to the teardrop bone. When viewed from the front, the widest point on the horse’s head should be the “orbital arch” (eyebrow area). This extends out just a little farther than the eye to provide protection. From the widest point, the eye slopes inwards, with the corner closest to the nose being the furthest in.
For chestnuts, you can make a mixture Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig concocted, called “messo”. You can also use it to fill in divots when you’re prepping the model. Mix equal parts modeling paste, titanium white acrylic, and gesso. This should be a little thicker than toothpaste. I like to add a tiny bit of colored acrylic paint so I can see where I put it on the model. For the watery messo mix used on veins and other small details, just mix a little water in with the messo mix. This should be an Elmer’s glue consistency, or a little more watery. The best way to make these mixes is to make a bunch of messo, divide into separate containers, and add water to one. Save these, and you’ll have the messo whenever you need it. Don’t leave the containers open for too long; this stuff dries quickly!
More Detail on filling the holes
By this stage your model is a worthless mess! Only YOU can save it and make it something of beauty! If there are large gaps/chunks missing, I will fill them with Bondo. Once that sets, a rough file-down job, and then bring in the Epoxy Putty to further refine the fill and resculpt any missing muscles/details. When that has dried to my satisfaction, I will go over it with the latex wood filler to apply a bit more fine sculpting and to smooth over rough spots/holes/dents. When that has dried, I will sand it, then apply more filler to take care of the rough spots that have appeared. This process is repeated until I think I’ve got it smooth, then I will paint the entire model with white gesso (or give it a coat of matte white spray enamel). This helps all the imperfections to appear, and more touch-ups are done with the wood filler. When the thing is finally smooth, I give it one final coat of gesso/primer, and he’s ready to paint!
Don’t get too frustrated… this is supposed to be fun!