Every child needs a rocking horse, in my opinion. I mean, come on. How can one gallop away from arrows being shot in their direction, or trot toward prince charming, or even ride off into the sunset without one? My Ruby needed a trusty steed for her playroom, and I found this sad looking fellow for $6 at a local thrift store a few months ago.
He was brown and dirty. His handlebars were missing and he had clearly been abandoned. But I knew it would just take some love and a makeover and he could be a stallion worthy of my little miss.
First on the agenda: a fresh coat of paint. We had been testing paint colors for the upstairs bathroom so I had several small cans of gray paint sample outcasts. I found one that was the same hue as the teepee fabric. Sweet! I didn’t have to spend a dime on paint. (I always save paint samples for small future projects. It’s a way to avoid just wasting it, and it saves you money!).
Before I took it apart, I snapped a lot of photos so I could remember how to put everything back together.
The horse was constructed really well. It was solid wood. And someone was a smarty when they made it– all of the legs were already labeled right and left. Pulling out all of the little nails was a job. They were in there pretty tight.
I taped off the eyes, removed all of the hair (it was stapled in, so I used some pliers to pull it all free), I gave it all a nice gentle sanding, wiped off all of the dust with a clean cloth, then painted three nice coats using a quality roller. I only brushed a very small part around the eyes. I recommend using a roller when painting as much as possible to avoid brush strokes, as that’s one of the dead giveaways your project was a DIY rather than a professional job.
I also got a new handle, cut it to size, then sanded the edges so it was nice and rounded and smooth. It got three coats of paint as well.
After it was all dry, I carefully put it all back together and got started not the finishing touches, starting with the saddle.
I wanted it to feel and look more like a real horse, not just a toy. I found a bag of “leather scraps” at Michael’s for $6. It was sort of like a grab bag of different colors and textures, but it had this beautiful white/gray piece. I loved it.
I used the existing pieces as a pattern and cut out a saddle out of the leather. I used a pen to trace where the slits for the attachment were, then used a razor blade run over it again and again until it made the same size slit.
I had some of this pretty gray vinyl leftover from a different project and used it for the seat cover and ears. It is soft and buttery feeling– not plastic like some vinyl. I again used the original pieces as patterns. After removing all of the screws and staples, I laid the pieces flat on the new fabric, then used a pen to trace around them. I cut them out, and stapled the new seat cover. I folded the ears in the right position, then nailed them into place.
For the hair, I was down to the wire. It was Christmas Eve (yeep!) and I needed yarn. I went to the only store open– Walmart– and grabbed a few different options. This ultra soft brown/gray mixed yarn was the clear winner. I think it looks more like real hair than yarn and it’s thick.
For the mane, I looped the yarn around and around a little bit looser than my hand, then tied a piece tightly with a knot. I then cut the opposite side all the way through the yarn so it made sort of a ponytail with two sides. Then I used 1/2 inch staples and my staple gun to secure it back into place. It was surprisingly easy.
I did the same thing for the tail, but longer hair. I gave him a little trim to make sure the hair wasn’t in his eyes. I was going to make a new bridle, but frankly, I ran out of time and now that he doesn’t have one, I kind of like him free and wild.
I just love how this project turned out, and I think it’s such a pretty piece in the room. And since rescuing this horse from the depths of thrift store abandonment, I have seen two other solid wood rocking horses that would make great toys for someone, if you’re willing to just put in a little work. Because I used leftover materials I already had on hand, I spent less than $20 on the horse, the yarn, and the leather.
And I think he is a rockin’ rocking horse, if I do say so myself. Now go find yourself a rocking horse rescue at a thrift store or yard sale.
PS: I’m over on the darling blog Bubby & Bean sharing my top 5 ways to help a new mother. All of these suggestions were kind deeds performed for me, and I’m so very grateful!
PS 2: Check withHEART over on What To Expect (thanks for the shoutout!)
PS 3: Thanks to Design Addict Mom for the feature on Ruby’s playroom!
PS 4: Check out this groovy article on my DIY headboard on the DIY Decorating Addict ITunes App Magazine. Who knew there was such a thing as a ITunes Magazine, but there is. And it’s super cool.
PS 5: Happy weekend!