This afternoon I was working on cleaning out my workshop. It isn't an easy task. I tend to collect things, well collect things may be an understatement, hoard things that might be more accurate. Well whatever the word used to define the state of things in the basement, there was a task at hand and today was the day to start.
One of the things I wanted deal with is the number of louvered doors I have collected over the years. Most of them I picked up while driving into Carleton Place to catch the bus into Ottawa. I'd see them on garbage day beside the garbage bins at the end of the lane. I assume most came from renovation jobs and were put out in the trash after replaced with more fashionable doors. Seeing perfectly good doors going to the landfill bothers me. I also have this odd condition, when I see wood I think horse jumps. When you put those two things together, I ended up with about 10 louvered doors in the workshop.
I also have over the years picked up a lot of hardwood trim that was also going into the trash from renovation jobs. Lots of trim and 2x4s, again it was free and as I said before I can't drive past free wood that's going to the dump.
Today I decided it was time to actually make a couple of panel jumps using the louvered doors and trim.
First step 1: Get your stuff together. I thought about what tools I'd need, a drill to make holes for screws and a screwdriver to push the screws into wood. A measuring tape and a number of clamps to hold the wood. A pen and a saw to cut the wood to length. Yes and for today's job, two louvered doors 6' tall and two pieces of trim at least 8' long.
I also collect tools, I have two drill. One I keep as a screwdriver the other I keep as a drill that way I don't have to change bits all the time. Before you think this is a luxury, I bought second hand and they aren't cordless, so I don't think I paid more than $25.00 per drill. I do have cordless drills but I find these a lot more powerful and I don't have to remember to recharge the batteries.
I then hung the panel jump between my standards to see how it looked. It looked great but it swung a bit between the standard so it needed something to stablize the panel from swinging.
Easiest thing to do was to use the leftover trim and put attach it to the other side of the panel. That solved the problem and the panel became stable int he jump cups.
It took me about an hour and a half to make two panels. As I was trying to figure it out how to do it while doing it, it really was a simple process. I might paint them or I might use them as is. Don't get me wrong these aren't "show" quality jumps. I bothered posting this blog to show that you don't have to spend a ton of money to make jumps to help you prep for a show. This jump cost me less than 2 bucks to make as the only thing I had to buy was the screws. I'm in no way saying that these panels will hold up to a lot of use, but if you want to get your horse used to different looking jumps, then why not give it a try. The bonus for me is I now have a little less clutter in the workshop, well that might be an exaggeration.
The fox jump decoration of filler continues to evolve. I like the shape there are a couple of adjustments I need to make. Today I added some black details which I think have improved the overall look and helped the filler pop. It is not quite the way I want it yet but it is getting closer to something I'm happy with. What will be great about this design is that it will be easy to ship out. As soon as I have it the way I want it I will test it out in the sand ring.
A number of people have expressed an interest in how I go about creating my jump fillers, or garden art creations. I thought I'd take a moment today to walk you through one of the sets in making a dog.
It starts with a drawing. I have an number of general dog shapes and designs already created. I'll share that process with you another day, today is all about the cutting out. I first transfer the drawing to a half inch piece of plywood. I like working with plywood with a fine finish. It saves a lot of time filling in knot holes etc.g
Once the drawing is on the board it's ready to cut out. The most important first step is safety equipment. If your are operating any kind of electric saw for any length of time you need ear protection. And if you are working with power tools, or frankly any kind of tool at all you need eye protection.
Now that safety equipment is on, you need to fix your plywood with the drawing onto a a workmate type work bench. If you want to cut with any detail the plywood must be firmly attached to the bench so it won't move in any way at all. I use a number of cast iron clamps that my mother and grandmother used on their quilting frames along with a larger clamp I got from Princess Auto. My Mom's clamps work the best.
Well I am home from my first trip south delivering jumps to my customers in the USA. I am now spending my morning contemplating the adventure and reflecting on all that took place in the last 6 days. It is odd this second career I've taken on in this stage of my life. I have picked up a passion of my youth, painting and combined it with another life time passion horses. It some how finally seems like I have it right, that I've finally found a way to live that works for me. These last few month I've been working on sketches, cutting wood endlessly, priming and painting then do a spot of framing as well. My home has been a mass of chaos. There have been weeks and weeks where there wasn't a seat to sit on or a space that didn't have a pot of paint or a piece of wood covering it. Through it all John supported my unique living arrangement, he seems to understand that my priorities in life are very different than most "normal" people. He is a dear. Anyway I feel he has been patient enough and so my next priority is getting the workshop studio downstairs functional and leave the upstairs to the humans and the cats. Now back to the trip. The work was done the items finished, but all commissions were going to people who'd never seen my work in person. While some days I find painting and drawing stressful, actually taking the work to the people who have bought it can be rather intimidating. The only way I can handle that stress is with the caveat that if the customer doesn't like it or if it's not what they expected they don't have to take it. They keep their money and I keep the work. I only want happy customers. So with that stress lifted we loaded the horse trailer with 4 panels, the back of the truck with 4 large foxes and numerous cut out hounds, foxes and chickens and headed south. Our first stop was north of Kingston, Lenora Tuppenney Scriver has bought a number of items from me. This delivery was one of my favourite panels, I call it the Foxwood High Panel as made it the first time as a fundraiser for Selena O'Hanlon and Foxwood High. I was thrilled to get an opportunity to recreate the jump which was to be a surprise gift for Lenora's friend Barbara Down.
Then off to the USA and New York State. Our next delivery was to Renee' Eddy who wasn't going to see her 2 panels for 5 days as she was away. I'd sent photos....but you worry until you get the ok that the panels are what she wanted. The hound panel and the hunt scene panel both had the Limestone Creek Hunt emblem on the back. I just started doing this stylized fox design this winter, I call it my Hermes look as the orange very much their colour.
Then down the road to Maryann Weidman to drop off her Mr.&Mrs. Fox. This is also a new design for me and I love making these sassy foxes. Maryann wasn't there and gave the responsibility of receiving the creatures to her husband. The foxes looked right at home at Fox Meadow Farm.
Day 2 found us in Littletown Pennsylvania at Kitty Hofmann's lovely farm. We dropped off 4 hounds, 2 Ramblers and 2 Chanters along with 2 running foxes. Kitty was kind enough to give us a tour of her incredible farmhouse and property. I really have to up my game with my garden this year. It really was a joy to meet Kitty and talk horses, gardening and hunting adventures.
Day 3 was Virginia, first to Rachel Howell beautiful Quiet Haven Farm. Rachel had been waiting for her panel and her chickens since last fall. She happens to have one of the most beautiful indoor arenas I've ever seen in my life. I was so busy staring at the arena I forgot to take a photo of it. Next time I'm back, Rachel got a peak at my Buckingham Foxes that were for our next stop and has requesting a set of those fancy boys for my next trip south. Rachel and her husband are in the midst of building their new home set on a hill just outside of Washington. Quiet Haven Farm is the perfect name for this beautiful farm.
Our final delivery was a set of Buckingham Foxes to Greta Siemen in Orange VA. Another lovely farm with thousands of acres of riding in all directions. I am so jealous of the land that people in this state have access to ride their horses, to be able to hack out for hours right out of your barn would be incredible. The Buckingham Foxes were at home the second they arrived and before we'd left the state, Greta had sent us a photo of the boys looking lovely on either side of her front door.
, About 5 years ago I made my first set of Buckingham Fox Standards. But what a lot of people might not know is the spark of those foxes was ignited about 40 years before, at Tic Toc Stables in Alymer. I was a young teenager who had been showing small and large ponies for several years. I'd outgrown the pony divisions, but I didn't have a horse of my own to show. That's where Audrey Buckingham came in. She saw me at the barn, she knew I loved the horses, she watched me share my mother's ginger snap cookies to the ponies and horses I rode at the barn. Audrey was an avid member of the Ottawa Valley Hunt. She and her husband Col. Buckingham , Bucky rode to the hounds every week. When they weren't hunting they were hacking out over miles and miles of roads and trails in West Quebec. I honestly can't remember ever seeing Mrs. Buckingham enter a sand ring on a horse.
She told me she couldn't imagine anything more boring. She was always happy to tell me about where she'd been and what she'd had seen from horseback. She would ask me about the shows, fairs and various pony club events I'd competed in, I felt very grown up talking to her. She didn't seem to mind that I was a rather rolypoly ordinary kid. When she realised I had outgrown ponies and without a horse to ride at shows she kindly offered up her hunt mare Rum. Rum was a 15h bay quarterhorse who was honest as the day is long and would jump in form anything you pointed her at. This 3' plywood wall was on the grass outside the show ring, at 14 years old I didn't think twice about jumping it as my warmup fence. I wasn't a brave rider by any means. Rum was just that good and that honest.
The same summer I got to take Rum to a few local shows, Mrs. Buckingham felt she needed another horse to take over from Rum in the Hunt field. She bought a young unraced Thoroughbred from John Allan. He was an un-named bay just over 16 hh. She came home and annouced to her family at the dinner table, that she'd make a hunt horse out of him Come What May....and Kumquat had his name. Again the next year I was given the privilege of showing Kumquat in junior Equitation Classes, at the Ormstown, the Ottawa Exhibition and the Ottawa Winter Fair. I was just a kid in the lesson school and not a very talented rider but Mrs. Buckingham thought I deserved to have an opportunity to go to these events and offered me her very precious new horse to ride.
At the end of that year I turned 16 years old and my parents gave me a horse for my birthday. Col. and Mrs. Buckingham moved their three horses Rum and Kumquat and Bucky's Gideon to a stable closer to the Ottawa Valley Hunt. I got busy with my own horse but I never forgot Mrs. Buckingham's kindness. I was in high school and not a very good student. I would day dream and doodle and if it was a Wednesday and I was in class I would think of the Buckinghams Hunting and I started drawing funny little foxes in Hunt attire. I thought of them as the Buckinghams. I often thought it would be a fun to have a set of jump standards featuring these Foxes dressed in top hat and tails.
Then like many people I walked away from horses in my 20's. I focused on my career, buying a house etc. Well at least that was until my 47th birthday when I decided to get a retired Thoroughbred off the track. That lead to another Thoroughbred off the track, and that lead to the purchase of a small hobby farm outside of Carleton Place.
A very good friend and neighbour came over one day to help us put air into the bladder of our water pump. Jack Hinton knows how do do things. John and I do not know how to do anything. I started thinking about the Buckingham Fox idea from decades ago. As the guys were busy I got several large sheets of news print and started drawing. By the time the bladder for the pump was filled with air I had a 5 foot tall fox drawn on newsprint. So Jack Hinton who as mentioned knows how to do everything was having a root beer with John and admiring my work. I told him what had been my dream for a set of jump standards, and I wanted a fox like this one cut out of wood. Jack of course said he could do it if I traced the foxes out onto wood.
So now the daydream was going to become a reality. Jack Hinton was in for cutting out the foxes. I was going to paint them and build the standard form to put them on. I was still working for CBC Radio at the time and taking the commuter bus into Ottawa. Carolyn Cairns was my travel partner on the way home those days. She and her husband Pete lived in the Millfall condos in Almonte. She had told me that they had met Audrey Buckingham at the condo meetings and parties. So on the bus home from work the idea to make the Buckingham Standards and have a party to reveal them to Audrey was born. It took an entire communty to make it happen. Jack cut the foxes out of plywood, I painted like mad and Carolyn and Pete were in charge of bringing Audrey from The Perch to Morning Breeze farm.
I called Audrey with the date for an afternoon party at the farm. I said that the Cairns would bring her and take her home. There would be a few people from the neighbourhood and we'd have an afternoon of fun. She later told me she thought the invitation was very odd. It was for 2pm in the afternoon which was too late for lunch and too early really for cocktails. I laugh thinking about this because I of course have no idea about how to do things properly.
So the day arrives. I have the Buckingham Foxes painted and covered with two very large table cloths. We make sure everyone has their drinks and then I give my little speech about how this idea for a jump was inspired by Audrey and Bucky some 40 years before.
I am telling this very long story for one reason. Audrey Buckingham lived her life large. She inspired me the way she lived and the way she had fun and loved horses. Audrey Buckingham left a lasting impression on me. Our time together over my 60 years was not long but her brief brush into my life inspired me. She inspired me by the way she lived, laughed and loved horses. That impression stayed with me. From that meeting, I made my first set of Buckingham Foxes. The following Hunt Ball Audrey invited John and I to be her guest, as she wouldn't let us pay for our tickets I thought a donation in her name to the Silent Auction would be appropriate. So I created a panel of running foxhounds on one side and stylised greyhounds on the other, again inspired by Audrey. Foxhounds because of Audrey's love of the dogs and the Ottawa Valley Hunt and the greyhounds because during WWII when she was living in England she would hack out on her horse with her retired racing greyhound. That panel was bought by Wendy Doyle and her husband as a gift for Tim McMullen. The OVH then later bought a set of Buckingham Foxes to go with the hound panel. Audrey told me she would be very cross if I ever sold the original Buckingham Foxes. To this day they stand on either side of our front door. They have been to jumping competitions at the Popiels, the Pakenham Fair and countless other family events. They will never be sold. I wish when my time has come and gone I could say that my kindness towards another young person could inspire them to be creative and brave. I am part of a group of privileged group of people who got to know Audrey Buckingham even for a brief period.
I am now making all sorts of horse jump decorations and garden art. All of these projects came out of the idea of a set of Buckingham Fox Standards. Thank you Audrey. I'll miss you.
Yesterday was a busy day. I had been hoping to visit my trainer and good friend Morag O'Hanlon at Balsam Hall for weeks. Unfortunately that visit was put off until after the New Year.
That brings us to the Balsam Hall inspired Jump Fillers. A number of people who saw my hounds and foxes asked if I also did Jack Russells. I then started thinking about Bizzy, Rupert and Maisey and let their inspiration be my muse. I also wanted to do something special for Morag O'Hanlon. She has been my trainer for about 10 years now. She has helped me with all three of my horses as well as pushed me to be the best rider I can be. She has kept me healthy and safe in a sport I love so needless to say making three little Jack Russell jump fillers based on three of the wee dogs of Balsam Hall was the least I could do. So welcome my version of Bizzy, Maisey and Rupert. Can't wait to see the horses of Balsam Hall flying over these wee doggies.
Then John and I set off to pick up a painting on Princess Street. I have become addicted to the webpage Maxsold.com, it is a site that handles estate sales, inventory downsizing and fundraisers. I follow it looking for art and other items. I had been watching a particular painting for a couple of weeks. An Oil by a local artist John Benn. I was lucky enough to be the highest bidder and needed to pick it up yesterday in Kingston. It needs a frame but I do love this little work of art.
Then it was a quick stop at Bridle Path Tack Shop on Princess Street. There were great sales I was able to get a new pair of winter jumps, new breeches and barn boots. All for incredible prices. Then on to Le Chien Bistro for a very late lunch before dropping off a set of running hounds and fox jump filler for Adrienne Schmitke at Encore Equestrian. Adrienne had purchased one of my Buckingham Foxes a few years ago and wanted the hounds and fox to go with the standards. They are like the photos at the top of this blog post. It is an honour to have repeat customers.
After a day like to day I have to remember how very lucky I am to have such good friends, and hobbies that introduce me to so many more people.