Monday, September 22, 2014

Highland Ponies

I've been a Celtophile for most of my life, and not surprisingly, that has translated into an interest in the native ponies of Scotland and Ireland. Unfortunately, I've had only limited exposure to these breeds in person. As a kid, I took lessons on an aged Connemara gelding named Bullet (who, despite his 30+ years, could really move when he deemed it necessary). And while in college, I had the pleasure of visiting the first breeding pair of Highland Ponies imported to the United States, Quartz of Croila and Nora of Croila. I don't have any pictures of Bullet on hand, but I do have these of Quartz of Nora.

Quartz of Croila, aged 2 or 3, with owner Bill Begg-Lorimer
Nora of Croila and Bill

Sadly, Bill passed away not long after my visit, and his pony herd was dispersed. Quartz proved to be a well-regarded stallion here for over a decade before being exported back to Europe last year. I'm still trying to track down Nora.

Though I only spent an afternoon with Quartz and Nora, it solidified my already growing interest in Highland Ponies. I couldn't have the real thing, but I was interested in at least procuring some model  versions. Frustratingly, the hobby was decidedly lacking in HP models, so I was pretty thrilled to find the Beswick Mountain and Moorland series Highland at BreyerFest that July. He's not the most detailed piece, but beggars can't be choosers, and the M&M Beswicks are some of their nicest molds.

Since then, a handful of resin Highland Ponies have hit the market, but for the most part, they are sadly lacking in correct anatomy, conformation, and type (or all three). However, Donna Chaney's curio scale Highland Pony, like most of her native breed resins, stands head-and-shoulders above the competition, and I was quite delighted when my friend Carra M. asked me to paint two of these resins for her.

The first pony had been painted by Sheri Rhodes but had suffered some damage to the legs. He also had white markings which are not acceptable for purebred Highland Ponies, so fixing his cracks provided a good reason to add some shading to his points. The lovely dappling is all Sheri's work.

Glenfinnan Chibera champed at his first show!

Carra's second AA Highland had likewise suffered from cracked legs. Because these resins are solid cast, they're quite heavy, so they're prone to cracking if you look at them wrong. Once repaired, the second pony received a flaxen chestnut coat. It's a very rare color in Highlands.

Lassair of Lonmay

Working on Carra's AA resins inspired me to pull my own AA Haflinger off the shelf. It's the same mold as the Highland, but with slightly different hair. I decided it was high time I painted him---he's been kicking around my studio for years---and besides that, I hadn't painted anything for myself in ages. I thought he'd make a nice portrait of Quartz.

Dunharrow Quartz of Croila
Moving on to plastic models, Brigitte Eberl's new classic pony mare for Breyer makes a very passable Highland though she was not sculpted as such. Carra sent two of these to me as well for new paint jobs. Talk about HP heaven!

Several years ago, Carra visited the Brownbread Highland Pony Centre, a farm that is home to a couple of very rare silver dapple Highlands. The color traces back to ponies from the Scottish island of Rhum, and Brownbread is working hard to preserve the beautiful color. Naturally, one of the Eberl ponies had to be silver.

Brownbread Bell Heather

And the other is a classic grulla.

Coventry Skye Blue
My painting mojo continues to flow, and with models like these to work on, it's no wonder! Carra's ponies will be shipping out this week, and other commissions will be following soon. Stay tuned!