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Making Breyer and Model Horse Tack: Meet Tack Maker Kim Ford Hoffman

An Interview with Mini Scale Model Horse and Breyer Tack Maker Kim Ford Hoffman

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Blue parade set of tack by Kim Ford Hoffman on model horse.

Kim's latest creation is this blue parade set.

Photo Courtesy Kim Ford Hoffman Copyright 2010 Used With Permission

Kim Ford-Hoffman's mini scale tack is legendary among Breyer and model horse collectors nationwide. Kim's tiny-scale tack making focuses on Breyer Stablemate (1:32) scale and smaller, with award-wining harnesses for draft horses, parade and costumes sets, Western and English tack. Kim has recently expanded her model horse tack making efforts into larger scales including Classic (1:12) and Traditional (1:9) scale. She's a busy mother of two who also enjoys hobbies such as leatherwork and photography, which certainly helps her model horse pursuits!

We asked Kim to share some advice for young model horse tack makers and Breyer model horse collectors just starting to make their own model horse tack and show in performance classes.

How long have you been collecting Breyers and model horses?

"I started collecting at 9 when my school friend and her mother introduced me to Breyers. Of course, before that I was repainting my cheap models with Testors model car paint and fingernail polish. My first model was the Breyer Stablemate scale Native Dancer. I collected Traditional scale Breyers more back then, but I really loved the Stablemate scale models.

"I began making Traditional scale tack when I was 12. I used my mom's leather shoes. Oh boy, she didn't like that very much! At 14, I switched to Stablemate scale tack and stuck to that.

"When you're young, you don't have access to supplies or have the money to buy them like you do when you're an adult, so I made tack with what I could find around the house. I was blessed with a dad who was a handy man. He had all sorts of tools around the house, which I ended up using to make model horse tack."

What did you use to make your tack?

"I started off using just stuff around the house. I made a lot of model horse costume tack: Arabian, Mediaeval, Spanish Riding School, Indian tack. You can make a lot from felt, beads, embroidery thread and old pie plates.

I bought supplies from "The Unicorn Woman" (Melody Snow, who makes tack and sells kits for tack making) after I began working after school and had some pocket money. I bought patent leather lace and jump rings, O-shaped rings used in jewelry making, and created my very first draft horse harness out of those simple supplies. I also bought supplies from Hobby Builder Supply, a doll house miniature supply company, and NASCCO Arts and Crafts. Hardware pieces for bits, buckles, stirrups and the like I bought or made.

"When I started making tack, I had to use what I had around the house, or what I could buy locally at the shops I mentioned. I found some supplies through mail order catalogs. I also bought a lot of books to use as reference. Remember that the Internet wasn't around back then, so we didn't have access to all the wonderful reference photos and supplies we have now!"

Tell us how you come up with your tack pieces.

"I get most of my ideas from reference photos in magazines and books. I pick up ideas everywhere. I look at stuff around the house and I just start imagining what I can make with it. Now with the Internet, anyone wanting to make scale model horse tack has access to all sorts of supplies, including full kits to make tack."

What do you consider the best piece you have ever made?

"My latest piece is usually my favorite. I'm always experimenting with new materials and techniques. This sometimes makes the piece I am working on take longer than the last. But it also makes the tack more valuable to those who commission pieces from me.

"For example, I just figured out how to make a Stablemate scale "Pistol" bit. It's so tiny! I made it out of solder. I just kept experimenting until I had a piece I liked, and I think it is one of the neatest little bits I have ever made. I recently made a blue parade set that's probably one of my best, too.

"The miniature scale tack that I consider my best effort, however, was actually lost in the mail while shipping to a customer. I made a brown-tooled Western parade set with a feather theme. I engraved each little feather with my Power Crafter tool.

"I have another set , a draft show harness I did when I was 18 that consistently gets NAN cards at live shows every time I use it. It's over 16 years old and still helps my Stablemate and Chips scale models win at live shows!"

Are there any secrets to making model horse tack?

"Practice a lot and never stop learning! It's really a learning process. Your first efforts might not be great, but if you learn something from each you will keep improving.

"I don't use many expensive tools at all. I still use old pie plates for metal work such as trim on parade saddles or armor for Medieval sets. I cut the pie plate, then engrave or punch it with a screwdriver tip to make designs on the metal."

Can you share any tips with people new to making tack?

"Never give up is the best tip. For our young tack makers out there (under 18), work with what you have around the house such as scraps of cloth or things your parents are throwing out. An old leather purse your mom is throwing out or giving away to charity may make good practice leather for a saddle (ask her before you start cutting it up though!). Leather men's wallets have leather that's in 1:32 and 1:24 scale for models. Even if worn they still have quiet a bit of leather useable. You can ask for your dad's when he gets a new one."

Learn More: Making Mini Scale Tack for Breyers and Model Horses

  • Kim Ford-Hoffman runs a free internet group for model horse tack makers, particularly those interested in making mini (Stablemate) scale and smaller tack. Participants share hints, tips and tricks for tack making. Visit Kim Ford's Mini Tack Group.
  • Kim recommends two hobby magazines to learn how to make tack:Model Horse Performance, a magazine published by hobbyist Shannon Granger and K Smith Tack Makers Journal (tack maker's journal appears to be no longer sold online) put out by Kimberley Smith.

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