One of the best things about horses is riding them. There is nothing like it in the world, and millions of people enjoy being on the back of a horse. And if you haven’t ridden, and dream of it, one way to imagine is to play. Model horses can be the next best thing!
As well all know, the arena is a big part of riding for most people. There are some consistent props found in an arena that we can easily make from home using things found around the house, or easily acquired. We will be exploring how to make arena footing, cavalleti poles, cones and barrels.
Footing is fun to figure out! There are so many different options for footing. The least messy is a nice piece of brown fabric. I have found that faux suede, easily found at fabric stores, is perfectly appropriate for footing. It comes in a variety of shades that can match your mood or compliment your model. A lighter shade is better for a darker horse, and a darker shade shows a lighter horse better. Cork boards are readily found as well, and can add a variation to the color.
Sand is perfectly appropriate as well, and can be added over fabric or cork to give depth. I use a large framed cork board covered lightly with sand. This way, I can use less sand and have it contained, but still have the illusion of dirt footing with depth. Next time you go to a beach, take a baggie with you and bring some home! Sandbox sand works as well. Outdoors, a bare patch of earth cleared from debris is perfectly acceptable for a makeshift arena. And now for the props!
Think about the things you might find in a working arena. There are a couple things that I almost always see in every area I visit. Ground poles, also called cavaletti poles, are one of those things. Cavalettis are often used in training both people and horses, and they are super easy to make!
Dowels in various sizes are found in many craft or general stores and can be easily scaled to your horse. I decided to do the math for scaling down a pole for 1:9 (Traditional) scale. The standard cavaletti pole translates to a dowel of 7/16, so a larger dowel of 3/8 or 5/16 (which are the most commonly found) are entirely appropriate. The math indicates that a 13.3-inch length is correct, and my dowels were 12 inches, so just about an inch short of perfectly scaled down. Close enough for me!!! I ended up purchasing a package for about $1, with various sizes so I can make them for my Stablemates and Classics as well!
Wooden dowels make
|I spray painted my wooden dowels white, but I easily could
have used regular paint.
|Painting them like this, so they don't stick to the newspaper.
If you can’t get to the store, you can even use pencils, chop sticks, or anything similar to create the illusion of poles.
When they were dry, I carefully measured out where I wanted to put my strips of color, which I based off of pictures found on the internet.
I love the color blue, so I used that one. The color strips are made of electrical tape, which makes nice even lines.Generally speaking, the colors help the rider determine the middle of the pole. When you place you marks, you should keep that in mind. I put the tape directly on the dowel, putting slight pressure on it, then carefully lined it up.
Bonus! The tape helps keep the poles from slipping out of place.
|Wrapping the tape around the poles.
|If you mess up, like I did here, you can pull the tape off and try again.Take your time!
If I had wanted to, I could have painted them by hand as well, and invite you to try it! There are all sorts of colors on poles, but mostly they are based on a white background. Ta-da!
Some cavaletti poles are just wood, too, so if you don't want to paint them you can use them as is, or just painted white is perfectly acceptable! With a just a little work, you can have your horse and rider happily doing poles in different ways.
My horse and rider demonstrating cavaletti work! The poles add some realism to this picture of a young rider hard at work training.
Barrels, although predominantly thought of as a western prop, can be used in just about any discipline for training. I have always found barrels around, even in English riding arenas.
These are very easy to make. Soup cans work perfectly well! So do medium sized tuna cans, although those will need to be glued and stacked. Since tuna cans only open from one side, you need a top for them. I found a wide mouth jar lid to fit perfectly. I glued my cans together with the lid before spray painting them. Just make sure that you are careful, since opened cans can be verysharp. Kids should ask for adult help when cleaning and assembling cans.
Before I start, I make sure the cans are clean and dry, and label removed. Pro tip: Soak in hot soapy water and use a goo remover to get the labels off and the can clean.
Soup cans ready to go.
For my second type, I used three tuna cans, which I glued together to make one barrel. Give the glue plenty of time to dry.
Tuna cans and jar lid
|I found regular Crazy Glue to be perfect. Just be careful.
|All together! Make sure to keep the cans straight so they won't lean.
Now my cans are ready to paint. I decided to spray paint my cans white at the same time I did my poles. It made clean up a little easier to do everything at once.
Cans painted white.
Next, I looked online to check out the most commonly found barrels. When doing model horse props, I find that keeping something as recognizable and standard as possible gives you the best impression of realism. The most common color I associate with barrels is a blue, red, or red, white, and blue! But barrels can be any color you want.
For my barrels, I used paint over white primer.
|A couple coats of paint later, and I have barrels!
This one is definitely larger, but works just fine.
I love how this one turned out, too! Either works perfectly, I think.
Cones are often found in the area and used to mark boundaries, corners, and obstacles for the rider. I used orange oven bake clay, and made a cone shape using my hands. I made several cone shapes and tried to make them the same size.
I used orange oven bake clay and roughed out the general shape.
|I found rolling the clay on the edge of the table to be extremely helpful to make the shape right.
Once I had the shape, I poked a hole in the middle.
|Last, I tidied up the edges using a butter knife and made the base as square as possible.
After they’re shaped, I then put my cones on the square and bake them to the clay manufacturer’s instructions. If you clay was not orange, you can paint it to be once it’s cooked and cooled. I now have cones for my arena!
When you put all three of these arena accessories together, you get the feel of a real working arena. Now your horse can horse can do patterns or obstacle courses with cones, ground poles and barrels! Or, combine barrels with your new cavalettis and make a jump! The sky is the limit with your imagination and new props you made yourself.
Now you have a place to practice and some essential obstacles for your horse and rider. If your horse does a good job, you can feed them a carrot or apple you made from my last article. Happy riding!
The accessories combine to make a jump.
Poles and cones are perfect for patterns.