When I started the new year one of my goals was to improve my tack as much as possible. One of the ways I planned to do that was to use cast or photo etched parts where those would be more realistic. I use various gauges of wire for nearly everything. 32, 28, and 26 gauge wire meet most of my needs. There are times when making my own hardware falls short, though. Some bits are just too darn hard to make out of wire. Driving bits and western curb bits often fall under this category, and stirrups are not easy to do! So far I've used stirrups from Sulser Saddlery and Horsing Around (based in the UK). I'll be comparing the two brands based on scale, price, and material.
Stirrups will be shown on Breyer's G1 Seabiscuit, G2 Warmblood, G3 Thoroughbred, G4/WEG Dressage Horse, Stone's Chip Stock Horse, and the Working Girl artist resin sculpted by Sarah Rose for scale comparison.
Material: white bronze. Sculptor: D'Arry Jone Frank. Price: $6.99 (
Sulser Saddlery is an immediately recognized name in the model horse world. In stablemate scale they offer stirrups and a few cast bits sold through The World of Model Horse Collecting's Ebay shop. The stirrups were sculpted by D'Arry Jone Frank who does a lot of wonderful work in smaller scales. I have never purchased directly from TWMHC. In the past, I have received hardware in trades or from my customers who would like it to be used on their tack. In a couple of instances, it was shipped directly to me from TWMHC, though paid for by my customers. Shipping seemed prompt, from what I can remember, but it's been a while.
According to the Ebay listing, the "silver" stirrups are cast in white bronze. The pair I have in my studio has been with me for several years (probably since 2007), attached to a saddle and stored away most of the time. They arrived bright and shiny but have taken on a darker, dull color with age. A little bit of polishing with the hem of my t-shirt did a lot to bring back the shine, but a silver polishing cloth would be more effective. The need to clean them up periodically could be awkward if they're attached to a saddle or, worse yet- the saddle were permanently attached to a model. They don't come with sculpted stirrup pads, but it would be entirely possible to paint them on or glue a thin piece of white or painted leather down instead. I would recommend Eileen's Jewel-It or Super Glue Gel if you were interested in trying that.
I was not thrilled with the shape of these stirrups. They seemed rather triangular compared with the soft curve found on
. To my eye, they are also on the small side. I have often heard that Breyer's G2 run of models were not true 1:32 scale, being larger, and they've increased in size since. It's very possible that the stirrups are actually sculpted in 1:32 scale, which would make them a little too small for most models. In my comparison, I found that they looked best on G2 molds, passable on G1s, and weren't very well suited to any of the other molds I tried.
Horsing Around (UK)
Material: "White metal". Sculptor: Horsing Around Tack Shop. Price:
I found these stirrups when I was researching my options at the beginning of the year. The price was appealing, but I wasn't sure how the scale matched up. I shot an email off to Horsing Around, requesting photos and a little more information. Given the time zone difference, I feel the response was prompt and the person I spoke to, Vanessa, was nothing but wonderful! She provided photos, shipping cost information to the US, and answered any other questions I had. I ended up purchasing directly from Horsing Around instead of through their Ebay shop. This resulted in a slight discount, since they didn't have to pay Ebay fees. My stirrups shipped on the 24th and arrived the same week.
These are cast in "white metal". I'm not sure exactly what type of metal that is, but it feels pretty lightweight, possibly lighter than the Sulser castings. I don't know how this metal will hold up over time, but I'll be updating this blog when I find out. There is some texture and exposed seams on the stirrups. I'll be cleaning up the seams a little with an Xacto knife, but I don't know that the texture is enough to bother me. These stirrups don't have the mirror smooth finish that Sulser castings do, but there's still plenty of shine.
I find the shape of these stirrups much more realistic than the Sulser casting. They're much rounder and to me more like a real stirrup, like
. Like the Sulser casting, these don't have sculpted stirrup pads. You could paint them on or glue down a piece of leather if you really wanted to. I actually think the glue method would work better on these stirrups because of the slight texture.
These stirrups are a little bit larger than the Sulser castings and seem more in scale with the models I tried them on. I especially like the way they look on the Chips Stock Horse, Working Girl, and the G3/G4/WEG molds. They look pretty good on the G1 Seabiscuit, but maybe a little big on the G2 Warmblood. Overall, I find the fit better than Sulser.
Rancho De Los Caballitos
Material: Gold plated. Sculptor: RDLC. Price: 7.99 (
I haven't used these stirrups myself. I'm mentioning them here because they're the only other option for cast stablemate stirrups that I can find on Ebay. From the photo in TWMHC's Ebay listing, they look small and bulky. I can't say for sure since there's nothing in the listing photo to suggest a size. According to the listing, experienced tack makers will find this artists work to be the best on the market. Maybe the stirrups look better in person. I've had that happen several times with saddles. They look great on the horse, but you take a picture and somehow it loses something. The gold plated stirrups were the only ones available at the moment, but I have a feeling that whatever the regular "silver" color is they'll be a bit cheaper. The western stirrups by RDLC were $5.99, so that would be a safe bet for these stirrups as well.
I'll be using the Horsing Around stirrups for my projects from here on out. I ordered 10 pairs, enough to keep me in business for a few months at least. The texture does not thrill me, but it's something I can live with when I compare the shape and scale compared to Sulser's castings (and price!). As I experiment with the Horsing Around stirrups, I may find that the texture will buff out with some work, we'll see.