Heartwood Rocking Horses are designed with the child in mind. I don’t always use decorative leather tack or stirrups, because I see children struggle to use these items when riding the horse. I would rather the child have sturdy hand and foot holds and an immovable seat that they can climb on, and be able to explore using their balance and muscles to ride. The foot peg is adjustable and can be moved as a child grows. Horses can always be custom ordered with or without special features or additions.
That being said, you may have noticed I have recently offered the option of leather tack. The saddles are always permanently attached to the horse for safety. Stirrups are adjustable and usable. Bridles are usually removable and fun for children. But it can also be fun to have a horse without tack, as kids love to create their own bridles and “clothing” for the horses. Let imaginations run free!
Almost all the lumber for the horses comes from reclaimed or re-purposed stock. This is often from old barns, or cut-offs from a construction project or lumber yard. I like to use poplar since it is easy to carve, but also use walnut, oak, cherry and sometimes other types depending on what is available. The wood is all kiln dried to remove insects and reduce the moisture to about 10%. Some wood contains small holes and is known as worm wood, and creates a beautiful one of a kind carving that tells the story of the wood.
I also work with locally sourced, ethically harvested lumber from Bee Tree Hardwoods and Gennett Lumber Most often I use new walnut for the rockers. Reclaimed lumber can be difficult to locate, and when demand is high I may need to purchase this milled lumber to meet the demand. I wrote a bit more about this decision in the latest events blog section, which you can read here. I will still attempt to use reclaimed materials whenever possible!
I use milk paint as a finish for horses that need to be painted. This is an all-natural, biodegradable, non toxic paint that is safe for toys. I currently use the product from The Old Fashioned Milk Paint company. It is made with food-grade ingredients and is completely free of lead, VOC’s, and anything else you wouldn’t want on your child’s toys. The colors are deep, smooth and rustic looking. They produce a matte finish that seals wonderfully under the oil top coat. It is a very long lasting paint that should not flake or peel over the years. Many other wood workers use chemical or petroleum based sprays that need to be applied wearing gloves and a respirator in a special sealed and ventilated room. I’m glad I can paint my horses in the living room and blend the colors with my fingers! I have asked the company about milk related allergies, and they do not have any information about allergies. They recommend talking with your allergy professional. I will update this information if I ever hear any feedback about milk allergies and milk paint.
I use a natural, non-toxic linseed oil to seal and finish all the horses and toys called Tried and True Danish Oil. This oil is naturally polymerized using heat to help it dry faster and create a durable protective layer. It contains no heavy metals or synthetic materials. It is also food-surface safe and completely safe for toys. I top coat this with an oil and wax finish to improve protection.
You can make all kinds of customized additions to your horses. You can choose from yarn or natural horse hair for the manes and tails. Eyes can be hand carved or substituted with glass eyes. The glass eyes are fixed with a synthetic wood epoxy. I often use metal stands custom made for each horse by Tina at Iron Maiden Studios, Inc. in Asheville. Leather tack can be a fun addition. Contact me with your thoughts!