Equine Sculpture by Mel Miller


The current trend is generally away from hair manes and tails, but done right, hair can still be attractive. It all depends on the individual horse, and one's tastes. Many people dislike mo-hair because it eventually needs replacement. Unless it's kept in an airtight container, dust and other environmental monsters will ruin the hair. Even gentle handling over a period of years can be damaging. The advantage to mo-hair is that you generally have more tack options. Unless the sculpted mane and tail are made to be "tack-friendly", you'll have to work around them.

If you do choose to hair, there are two methods for you to pick from. When you are customizing your horse, you can create a channel from withers to the poll with a dremel. Or you can leave the neck in tact, and plan to glue the mane hairs straight onto the top of the neck after painting. Each method is a little tricky to master in their own ways, but they both turn out equally well with enough practice.

If you choose to create a channel, it shouldn't cut all the way into the model (unless you want the mane to flow backwards or stand straight up on the neck). If the channel is too shallow, but you can't cut any further without creating a hole, you'll have to fill the inside of the crest with some epoxy and create a new trench. To cut the trench, use a round cutting tool with your Dremel. Please remember that using a Dremel is dangerous, with the round bits especially; they tend to skip out of the channel. Work slowly and do not force anything.

Put the tail on as if you were going to add a sculpted tail (explained in the first customizing article). But this time, make the wire only as long as the dock. After it is attached with the 5-minute epoxy, sculpt the dock around the wire. There is a shallow, smooth trench underneath the tail; you can see this in pictures with the horse's tail flipped up over its back. This underside is always left unhaired.

Hairing the mane and tail are both similar processes, but each have their own special procedures. For the tail, grab a piece of mo-hair and pull an end off from the big chunk it comes in. Hold the smaller hunk you just grabbed on one end and use the toothbrush to brush out all of the fuzzies. Then, hold the swatch about in the center and brush the fuzzies from the end you were originally holding. (You're holding it at the halfway point instead of the opposite end the second time so you don't pull all of the hairs out.) After you have all the fuzzies pulled out, separate the piece into several thin, but long portions. Glue a tiny bit of the thicker end together so the hairs don't move around when you put them on the tail. Do this for several pieces in advance, and wait for them to dry before proceeding.

When you're ready to start hairing the horse, wrap the first piece around the bottom tip of the dock. As you work your way up, overlap each piece a bit and don't go all the way around the dock. Find a real horse or some good pictures and look closely at where the hair comes out of the tail so you can keep it as realistic as possible. Keep the pieces of hair all pointed in the same direction (backwards); don't try to put side hairs on. When you brush out the tail, they'll form naturally and the tail won't get an obnoxious fluffy look.

For the mane, follow the same beginning steps as the tail, but use shorter sections of hair. Glue the dried ends into the channel, starting at the withers. Angle the pieces slightly so they go diagonally across the trench. You're going to be overlapping each piece about halfway, so the angle will leave room for the next piece, and keeps the mane looking continuous.

For example, you are hairing a horse and want the mane to lie on the right hand side of the neck. Face the horse with its head to your right side. The portion of the tab closest to the withers should be farther away from you, with the hairs further up the neck angling towards you. When you put the next piece in, overlap the previous piece, making another angle, and so on up the neck.

If you want a thick mane, overlap a little more of each piece; don't use bigger hunks of hair. And if you want a thinner mane, just hair like normal and pull it carefully afterwards.

For a neck without a trench, you will prepare the hair in the same way as you prepared the tail. But this time, do not divide the hair swatch up into smaller pieces with glued ends. Match the swatch up to the neck, holding it at proper height to give the length you want, and cut the hair following the crest. Add a thin line of glue to the crest, and carefully lay the cut side of the mo-hair down in the glue. Try to get the edges perfectly matched up so that it appears that the mane is growing out from the crest. Wipe up any excess glue before it dries.

For both methods, when you get to the poll, take a couple pieces of mohair and glue them between the ears for the forelock. If you want a bridlepath, you can cut up some scrap mo-hair into extremely fine bits, and glue them in between the mane hairs and forelock hairs. Just put a thin line of glue on the "clipped" portion, sprinkle the hairs on and smoosh them down. Put on extra hairs so that none of the glue shows. When the glue is dry, you can dust off the hairs that didn't stick. Always do the bridlepath last when doing the mane, so you don't have any glued tabs showing.

When you're ready to shape the mane and tail, start by brushing and wetting them with a little bit of water. If you can get by without using the mousse, then don't use it. It makes the hair even more prone to collecting dust later. If you want the mane and tail to be thinner, use tweezers to pull out a few strands at a time. The hairs need to be pulled out with a quick, single motion, so you don't weaken the glue. Don't overpull as you may rip out a whole tab of hair which is difficult to replace. The key here is patience. If you get tired of pulling, quit for a while. Pulling the mane and tail can take a couple of hours. If it's too long, but the right thickness, then use a pair of moustache trimmers and cut in an upwards and slightly diagonal motion to leave the hair looking natural. Try to only cut a few hairs at a time so it will still look natural. If you want the hair to be banged, don't pull it, and just cut it straight across at the appropriate length. This is usually about halfway down the cannons on dressage horses. Some jumpers do this, but they cut the tail farther down, usually to the fetlocks if the tail allows for that length.

If there are fly-aways after you've got the hairs all the right length and thickness, then you can take a bit of mousse and rub it gently in the hairs. Shape it the way you like, and then try not to move it anymore. Some people use hair spray for really obnoxious manes, but this can ruin the mo-hair quickly. Be very careful of the finish on the horse when you use hairspray. It can get under the Krylon if there is a weak spot and ruin the paint job underneath. To hold a short pulled mane down that wants to stick up all of the time, wrap some plastic wrap around the neck and the front of the barrel - kind of like a sleezy for a real horse. This will keep it down until show time.

Materials Checklist