Hairing the Model Horse

Hairing is the application of various hair-like materials to the model horse to enhance the realism of the figure. From the very first days of customizing model horses, this technique has been used to great advantage.

Materials used vary depending on the scale of the figure, and what is available. A standard favorite is Mohair which can dyed an endless variety of shades and colors. Other fibers have been successfully used, including dog hair, goat hair, llama hair, and synthetics. Real horse hair and human hair are not used because of the coarseness is not to scale with models. Many synthetic fibers can be found at craft stores, as well as yarn/weaving shops. Good model quality mohair is readily available through mail order.

Basic Hairing Techniques: The Mane

Assuming your model has been repainted and is ready for hairing, prepare your hairing material by cutting it into manageable lengths, from 2" to 1/2", depending on the style of mane you're after. I like to use white glue or Tacky Glue for hairing, and begin by running an inch long bead of glue along the crest of the neck starting down at the top of the withers. Then selecting small swatches of hair, I place it tip-first into the glue (see figure C.). Repeat the process one small swatch at a time until you run out of glue. Then apply another inch of glue along the crest and continue hairing. If you put glue along the entire crest, chances are the glue near the top will begin to dry before you get to it, that is why I like to glue just a little bit at a time.

When you reach the top of the mane where you want the bridlepath to be, stop hairing! I'll also put a dab of glue between the ears and attach the forelock in the same manner. At this stage your horse will look like he put his hoof in a light socket with his mane sticking straight up, but don't worry. Just let it dry at least an hour before fussing with it.

Basic Hairing Techniques: The Tail

Before you even painted your horse, you should have made some sort of tailbone for the hair to be anchored to. There are about as many methods for this as there are model horse artists! I've included a few of my own:

Carved Method: Carve down the existing molded tail with a Dremel or heated X-acto knife (careful!!)  You can then glue the hair to the thinned-down plastic.

 Leather Method: Remove the tail entirely, and make a new tailbone from scratch! Wrap heavy gauge wire in thin leather, and glue to the dock of the model, once dry, glue hair to the leather tailbone...this has a bonus of being poseable!

Wrapped Wire Method:  Based entirely on Carol Williams' method, this is my personal favorite! A more detailed description can be found in Carol's painting techniques book. Basically, cut a length of heavy gauge wire a little longer than your finished tail length. Coat with white glue, and wrap tightly in string or embroidery floss. With the molded tail removed, glue the end of the wire to the body (Carol makes a little Bondo lump at the end and glues that into the hole usually left from molded tail removal). When dry, use Epoxy putty to resculpt a dock at the top of the tail, when that's dried and painted, glue hair to the string-covered wire as described below.

Assuming you are working with a prepared tailbone, begin pretty much the same way as the mane...with manageable lengths of hair. Put glue all the way around the tip of the tailbone, say 1/2" up from the tip. Again using the small hanks of hair, apply them a swatch at a time to the glue, (Figure D) only this time horizontal to the bone instead of perpendicular. Again apply glue as needed, however, after the first 1/2", DO NOT HAIR THE UNDERSIDE OF THE TAIL! This part is hairless on a living horse and models should follow suit. When you finally reach the dock, or top of the tail, put one final bead of glue at the dock, take one good-sized hank of hair, and sort of fan it the end of this into the glue and press firmly, pressing it down into the glue. Let dry.

Once the glue has dried, use a soft toothbrush or your fingers to smooth down the hair. Some hair will come out, this is normal, just don't brush too hard or too much will come out. Take a very small pair of scissors (manicure scissors, embroidery scissors) and trim away loose hairs at the dock of the tail and along the crest of the mane. To trim up the mane, take the scissors and snip upwards into the mane...DO NOT CUT ACROSS MANE...that would look unnatural. Snipping upwards into the mane creates a more natural look. Snip until you have the length and shape you want. Sometimes I'll dampen the toothbrush and smooth down the hair with a little water, and "set" it by wrapping the neck/mane in paper towels or plastic wrap and let sit for a few hours/overnight. This helps the mane to lay flat and train it. The tail too may need some smoothing down with water.

Care and Feeding of the Haired Model Horse

Before a show or photo session, you may have to dampen the hair again to get it to lay flat. It's important to remember to not brush the mane or tail too often, as this will result in the hairs pulling out, and you may end up with something matted and ratty. Eventually you may have to remove the hair and reapply new hair. It's also a good idea to keep your haired models in a dust-free environment, which can be as simple as putting a plastic bag over them. Once the dust gets into the hair it's nearly impossible to remove, so it's better to avoid it in the first place.

Happy Hairing!