Paper Mache Horse, Last Post

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If you’ve been following this series of posts, you know I started this paper mache horse almost exactly two weeks ago. It stands two feet high, not including the ears.

There are a few things I would do differently if I started over, and I’m not entirely satisfied with how some areas of the horse came out. However, it was a very interesting project and I learned a lot, so I’m very happy that one of my visitors suggested this project.

Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me until this morning when I put the horse down on the ground for his photo that  he’s the perfect size for a toddler to sit on. I intended him as a gift for my two-year old grandson, but I’m sure the horsie isn’t sturdy enough to ride. I should have made it a different size or used my father’s suggestion of using rebar in the legs.

The colt may need to be boarded at my house until my grandson is older – I wouldn’t want the poor little guy to get his feelings hurt if his new horse breaks the first day he has it. I’ll talk it over with his mom and see what she thinks.

I hope this long series of posts has not discouraged anyone from trying to make their own paper mache horse. I admit I ran into some problems along the way, but the end result was worth it.

Here’s a view of the other side of the colt:

Paper Mache Colt, Left Side
Paper Mache Colt, Left Side

In the last post I showed you how I modeled the face with Super Sculpey, covered it with paper mache, and added the mane and tail using burlap scraps.

Since then I did a lot of sanding, added some eyelashes with my DIY instant paper mache recipe, and then painted the colt.

Paper Mache Horse, Last Post
Paper Mache Horse’s Head

I originally thought the burlap’s natural color would be OK, so I didn’t dye it before pasting it onto the sculpture. It is a good color for a horse, but it isn’t a good color for this horse, so I diluted some acrylic craft paint with a lot of water and carefully brushed it onto the burlap horsehair. I made sure to separate the hairs so they wouldn’t stick together when they dried.

I also used a cat brush on the mane to make the ends of the hairs fuzzy.

I borrowed the spots and appaloosa pattern of blanket and socks from “RHR Eagles Redwing,” a colt currently for sale from the Rocky Hollow Ranch in Alabama. Now that I’m looking at the photo of the real colt next to the photo of my fake horse, I realize I should have added a bit more burnt umber to the paint to match the color of his coat. Oh well…

  • [edit, 8/24/09. Michelle, from Rocky Hollow Ranch let us know the colt was sold so you can no longer find his photo on their site. However, Michelle was very nice and put his picture in one of the comments down below. Now you can just scroll down the page and see how close I came to getting those spots in the right place… Thank, Michelle!]

It is a little ironic that I made my paper mache appaloosa colt here in eastern Oregon, just a few miles from  the traditional territory of the Nez Perce Indians, who, along with the Palouse Indians, were credited with first breeding these beautiful spotted horses. Meanwhile, the model for my colt lives all the way down in Alabama.

Paper Mache Appaloosa Colt is Finished!
Paper Mache Appaloosa Colt is Finished!

Sadly, hundreds of these horses were slaughtered in the mid 1800’s by the US calvary in an effort to subdue the Palouse, Nez Perce, Coeur d”Alene and Spokane tribes during the Indian Wars.

The Nez Perce tribe is still actively breeding these fine horses, as well as creating a new breed created from the ancient appaloosa line crossed with a rare central Asian breed called the akhal-teke. If you have an interest in this breed be sure to follow that link. The article is well worth reading.

But enough history. If you would like to use my original sketch as a starting place for making your own paper mache colt you can download a printable PDF copy here. It’s a bit rough (it is a sketch, after all), but you’re welcome to use it if you want a fast start on your own project. Remember that the proportions would be different if you’re making an adult horse instead of a foal.

You can use the grid to copy the sketch the size you want by drawing a larger grid on another piece of paper with bigger squares, and then copying each square onto the new page. To see how I did this myself, see my first post for this project.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. If you make a paper mache horse yourself, or if you’ve already made one and want to show it off, please add a comment below along with an image of your sculpture. The images must be hosted on your own website or an image hosting service like photobucket.com, and they must be small enough to fit into the comment window. I know that’s a bit of trouble, but I’m sure we’d all love to see how your horse turned out.

If you have a blog where you’ve posted your own paper mache sculpture, be sure to include a link in your comment so we can come check it out.


47 thoughts on “Paper Mache Horse, Last Post”

  1. I have an Appaloosa that looks just like that. So cute! I’ve actually Been horse back riding and I now have taken an interest in sculpting recently. Perfect!

  2. Hi Jonni, I have lurked and admired your artwork for years and intend to buy your book whenever I get some extra cash! I am VERY interested in making a ride on rocking horse or just anything a child could ride. It would be ideal if it could even support an adult and take a beating, as I know children can be a bit rough! So I love your suggestion for re-bar in the legs, perfect. Do you think the body would be strong enough to hold weight like that while being ridden with the way you made it(cardboard base with crumpled and taped paper balls, strip mache’d over and mache clay details)? Or do you think you would have to start with a wooden base like Linda’s big elephant plus re-bar attached to the wooden legs? Then balls of paper on top of all that, etc etc? Or should I completely build up with strip mache after the wooden/re-bar base? Dose building with the crumpled paper balls and tape leave some give in the finished form? Like is it rock hard, or at least wooden hard? If it was kicked, or knocked over would it bust a hole in it similar to if a wall was punched/kicked? Also do you recommend your paper mache mud recipe or the newest paper clay recipe for final details, which do you think is strongest? A LOT of questions, I am sorry, I want to build a strong beastie for my baby and maybe some for sale if I enjoy making them enough 😀 Thank you so much in advance for answers, it has taken me a long time to work up the gumption to ask lol

    • Hi Kayleen. Paper mache isn’t normally thought of as indestructible, but I think you might be able to make a rocking horse that will be strong enough. I would use a plywood pattern for the body and legs, like I did with the baby elephant, and use strong bolts that are long enough to go from one side to the other, all the way through the upper legs, the wood spacers, and the body pattern. When the plywood armature is balanced the way you want it to be, you can attach it to the rockers with some strong metal brackets. If you reinforce the plywood legs with rebar, curve the rods into a “U” shape so the will go from the hoof of one leg, up the leg and under the chest or tummy, and down the other leg to the hoof. This will keep the points of the rods pointing downward, and will strengthen the armature.

      Once the armature is strong enough to hold a person, you can add the crumpled paper or foil. I would use foil on the legs, and squish it really tight. It will add even more strength to the legs. Crumple the paper on the body very tight as well, so there is very little “give.” This will help support the skin. I would probably use the paper mache clay recipe for the skin instead of paper strips and paste, because it dries rock-hard. (Don’t use the linseed oil, though, for a toy intended for kids. Use mineral oil or tung oil instead.)

      If someone really works at it, it may still be possible to damage the rocking horse. If you get cracks, they can be repaired with more paper mache clay and another coat of paint. The recipe on this page is much stronger than the air dry clay recipe, but the air dry clay can be used for fine details like the eyes and nostrils, after the first layer of paper mache clay is dry.

      Good luck with it. Be sure to show us your rocking horse when it’s finished!

      • Thank you so much for your thoughts on this! Good idea to bend the re-bar in half to go from leg to leg beneath the tummy/chest, I would not have thought of that. Baby oil is mineral oil right? Or is there some other brand/type I should use and if so, where to get it? You wouldn’t recommend linseed oil even if the final product will be covered in paint and varnish/sealer, or even fur? Is it toxic if it is touched a lot, or only if ingested? I was thinking of creating a fur skin to go over the animal. I will definitely post it on here if I make it, cuz I will be very excited to show such a big, accomplished project off lol.

        • Yes, baby oil is mineral oil. And it makes your clay smell good. 🙂

          As for the linseed oil, I just tend to be over-cautious. Furniture makers don’t recommend using it on children’s furniture, but they don’t cover their oiled wood with fur. So, read the label, and then decide if it’s OK. If you have artist’s linseed oil instead of the boiled kind from the hardware store, it should be just fine in any case. It’s the chemicals that you want to avoid around kids.

          I can’t wait to see how it comes out!

  3. I am telling you this so you will understand the rest of my email.My passion is animal rescue and through me it has become my daughters. My daughter is 7yrs old and horses are one of her favorite animals..We came across the paper mache colt you made. My daughter got very excited! Jumping up and down.Wanting to know if your pony still needed rescue and what is the adoption fee? .I explained that the pony may already have a 4-ever home. With that said.Is your pony for adoption? If so what is the adoption fee? She knows this is the closest thing to real pony she can ever have unless of course we ever move to a place with land where a real pony would be happiest!

    • Hi Tayler. Are you asking if you can buy my paper mache colt? If so, he has already moved to my grandson’s house, and I haven’t made any more sculptures like this one. However, you can make one, using the instructions on this site. I would use cardboard for the pattern, though, instead of the plasterboard that I used on this one – I had some laying around, so I used it, but it wasn’t a good choice. Besides, your daughter would much prefer having one you made specially for her.

  4. LOVE It! I plan on making a few with one addition, ballons of red-dyed liquid so when we shoot them, they will splatter all over, will make a great video. look for it on YouTube!

  5. Wow this is awesome! I think I will try it myself when I get the time to do it 🙂
    But I have a question, is it water-resistant? Because it would be really cool to put it in the garden between the flowers 🙂


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