Thursday, May 26, 2011

Necking

Okay, this went from one part…to two…to now three. It could be 8 parts in a week--who knows. And please forgive the interruptions of the last few weeks. I’m not planning on making it a habit. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming:

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Just guessing from the hundreds (of thousands) of customs I’ve seen over my years in the hobby, I’d say necks are the body part customizers struggle with most. And I can understand why as a horse’s neck seems to move like it’s made of rubber. It can stretch, twist, and compress as if it had no bones. Trying to recreate that movement with wire and clay is a unique challenge.

The Unique Anatomy of the Neck

Throughout the rest of the body, the horse’s skeleton sits close to the surface. But even in an emaciated horse, you still can’t clearly see the cervical vertebrae (neck bones).

I mentioned this earlier today on my Facebook page that I’m going to occasionally use photos of emaciated horses to illustrate the skeleton. However, I understand not everyone feels comfortable looking at these kind of photos. Heck, even I don’t like to see surprise abused horses photos--especially when I’m in the office pretending to work and doubly so when I’m trying to eat.

So instead of putting the photos directly into my post, I will link to them and provide a warning that will appear like it this:


*WARNING: This link shows an emaciated horse*: This horse was rescued and later rehabilitated.

And here’s an alternate reference of a lean but not starving horse:

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Is this cool with everybody? Anyway, back to my point…

So when you are looking at the shape of a horse’s neck, you’re just looking at the squishy parts: muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, fat, fascia, and fur. Because of all the squish, a horse’s neck appears to lengthen and shorten in different positions.

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Under all the squishy parts, the horse’s cervical vertebrae doesn’t actually change length. However, the bones attach to weird spots on the body and head.

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The top of the neck attaches at the poll, ie the top of the skull. The bottom of the neck attaches very low on the body--closer to the chest than the withers. The bones form an S-curve, which looks like it's curled up into the neck.

Gender Variations

If all that squishy anatomy didn’t make it hard enough, when you’re sculpting a neck you have to keep things like breed and gender in mind. Testosterone impacts the size of neck, building of a crest on the top of neck. The crest gets more cresty with age. For example:

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I don’t want to quite use the term sexy…but I think it’s a good look. It’s distinguished, like the equine equivalent of George Clooney-style salt and pepper.

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Mares tend to be more delicate, in some case very elegant and lean:

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Yes, two separate Ruffian references in one tutorial.

Geldings usually sit in between depending on how young they were when gelded. The neck is thicker overall than a mare, but lacks the crest of a mature stallion.

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Funny Cide in racing condition.

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Funny Cide in retirement at the Kentucky Horse Park

Conditioning and Discipline

While gender has an important impact on the shape of the neck, a horse’s discipline (his job) and conditioning can have a great impact on shape as well. Regular light riding doesn’t do much, but sitting and growing fat in a pasture adds blubber to the neck, too.

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Racehorse necks (as seen in the above section) are especially lean and straight. Dressage (especially rollkur’d horses) increase the arch and builds up the neck muscles. For more on this topic, I highly recommend you check out Sustainable Dressage.

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Gaming and roping horses can develop the opposite way. Especially at low end rodeos, you will see horse after horse with an over-developed underside of their neck and no muscling on their top line. I consider this a serious fault if seen on a model.

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Breed

Now I’m going to finally wrap up with the biggest influence on shape: breed. Gender, conformation, and condition don’t hold a candle to the influence of breed.

As a general rule, thinner necks are more S-shaped and snake-like. Thicker necks look proportionally shorter and show more crest (even on mares and geldings.)

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An Arabian

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A Morgan stallion

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A Suffolk Punch

Breed also influences head-set. Every horse has a neutral position, but it will be higher and lower on various breeds. Stock horses--western pleasure ones especially--are bred for a super low headset.

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This allows a stock horse to comfortably carry his head lower. Obviously the peanut rollers take this to an uncomfortable extreme, but these horses can carry their head level to their withers without discomfort or severe training. When you compare stock western pleasure to Arabian western pleasure, you’ll notice the Arabs have to arch their necks to achieve a low headset.

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It’s not an Arabian’s natural position.

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Breeds like the American Saddlebred fall at the very top of the spectrum.

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A quarter horse may not be able to physically raise his head as high a position the average ASB considers comfy. When we get into poses next week, keep breed in mind. A horse’s neck will reshape in predictable ways when moved above and below their neutral position, but that can mean very different thing for different breeds.

Next week I’ll start chopping up ponies, so you’re homework is to a) find a pony you plan to reposition and b) find 3 or 4 photo references for your horse’s breed. I suggest finding examples of different genders and poses for comparison.

17 comments:

Natalie K said...

I had no idea testosterone impacts the size of a crest. Thanks!!

Emma said...

Ooh, this is perfect! I just hacked off an ASB head the other day and was suddenly stumped about how to reattach it--it looked quite easy at first! I'll be looking forward to next week :)

Christina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RobinHoodFan said...

Hahah! I was hysterically laughing when i got to the Clooney photo! lol! Great post once again! Cant wait for next weeks!

~RobinHoodFan
blog.pozzitoons.com

Noble Farms Custom Saddlery said...

Awesome! I have a ISH that I was planning to readjust his head and neck - I will wait for the rest of your tutorial, even if it takes forever!

Silver Ruffian said...

Thanks for posting this. I have trouble with necks. I also appreciated seeing the two Ruffian photos. And seeing George Clooney was nice too!

Two Fishies said...

I just love that top photo of her. I think it deserves a similar drastic custom.

Silver Ruffian said...

I love that photo too. She obviously knew what her business was on the track. Maybe a Lonesome Glory as the base for the drastic custom? I have the latest traditional Ruffian Breyer, but I'm way too chicken to cut that one up.

Two Fishies said...

I was thinking LG, too.

I have a Ruffian body I've been dying to turn into a Secretariat custom, although with all the work it could end up very, very big.

Silver Ruffian said...

The LG model I've got has no tail, poor thing, which is why I got him so cheaply. I love that model! I would love to see your Secretariat custom, if you decide to do it. I just realized something...Secretariat does remind me a lot of George Clooney. Yeah, I know, that sounded weird.

Two Fishies said...

I see you tail-less LG and raise you an LG missing two legs!

Silver Ruffian said...

An LG missing two legs? Geez! I'll see your LG missing two legs and put my poor butchered Sham model on the table. I don't know jack about poker, but I know weird when I see it. Poor baby came in two separate parts: his head and his body, and I don't know what they were thinking of with all that epoxy goop on his legs. He's missing both ears, too, so your earlier tutorial about making ears is definitely gonna come in handy!

Two Fishies said...

I have a Sham I cut clean in two down the middle of the barrel. For the life of me, I don't even remember why. They I have another Sham with the neck and legs sawed off. And then a Flash who's just down to a torso...

...This could quickly become the game that never ends. ;)

Silver Ruffian said...

I have a Huckleberry Bey I did plastic surgery on. Hacked his lower face off. I don't know why. He looks like one of those big blue horse thingies from the movie Avatar, and I can tell you right now I wasn't trying for that look. It just...happened. Then I have this running Breyer stallion I want to make into a mare. Whoever had him before me apparently believed that size did matter. He's got elephant sized balls and a dangly to match. Thing gives me the creeps.

Your turn.:)

Two Fishies said...

The running stallion wins. ;)

Silver Ruffian said...

Shoot, I was hoping you'd top me! That running stallion model is the only one that I keep wrapped up in a towel in the body box. He's scheduled for surgery later on this month. It's gonna be quick and brutal...

Katherine Bone said...

I know a peanut-pushing Arab, and although he's supposedly full-blooded, his headset is usually quite low for his breed, yet his stablemate, who is also an Arabian, is the exact opposite...