Painting Tips Part 7

VII. A primer on painting ponies (Part One)

My thanks to those kind folks still writing to request more information on painting - I've downloaded my previous postings in this thread and will attempt to edit them into some sort of a coherent document. But if you'd like a text file describing my method so far, just ask and ye shall recieve.

Anyhow, as promised last week, my "method" for painting horses.

This may seem self-explanatory to some, but it wasn't to me. The first step to getting "realistic" horses is to know what a horse actually looks like. What's a chestnut? A bay? So lets define some terms right away.

DISCLAIMER: I am NOT a horseman - everything I know about the breeding and color classification of horses I got from books and websites (try the jockey club or arabian horse breeders sites for lots 'o good info). And some of the following color classes are of my own devising, to try and describe horse colors I have seen in either paintings or in life. So please don't e-mail me telling me I couldn't tell a bay from a chestnut - in real life I probably couldn't!

Anatomy lesson: For wargamers, the following terms are probably all they need to know about a horses anatomy: I will assume everyone knows what part of a horse is the mane, tail, hoof and muzzle.

Fetlock: The ankle of the horses leg. Is directly above the hoof. Unless colored white by a cuff, is the same color as the horse's cannon.

Cannon: The lower leg between the fetlock and the knee joint.

Blazes: Irregularly patterned white markings between the eyes on the horse's head. Can be a star shaped pattern, a streak extending down to the muzzle or the entire face and muzzle can be all white.

Cuffs: White markings on the fetlock, sometimes extending up the cannon.

BAYS: A horse of various brown shades, ranging from a light brown to dark reddish-brown, with black mane, tail, muzzle and cannon. The black markings on the leg can often extend up over the horse's knee - if he has white cuffs, the black markings are always above the white.

CHESTNUT: A horse that can range from a bright coppery-brown to red-brown to a dark brown (liver chestnut), with mane and tail usually the same color as the body. Sometimes a chestnut will have a flaxen or golden-brown / blonde mane and tail. Unlike bays, chestnuts have no black markings on the cannon.

BLACK: Self-explanatory. Can have white blazes or cuffs in any combination.

GREY: Can range in color from a pale dapple grey up through a dark steel grey. Mane and tail can be either darker or lighter than the coat color, the cannon and muzzle can be darker than the coat and a grey can have white cuffs.

ROAN: A pale rusty-brown coat ("strawberry roan"), often with dark cannon and muzzle. Mane and tail will either be the coat color or much paler. Can have both white blazes and cuffs in any combination.

DUN: A pale yellowish coat with dark mane, tail, muzzle and cannon. Could
also be described as a "yellow bay", but I prefer the term dun. No blazes or cuffs.

PALIMINO: A pale golden brown coat with blonde mane/tail and white blazes and cuffs. Has no dark markings on the lower legs.

WHITE: Self-explanatory. Will usually have a white tail/mane and pinkish-tan muzzle. If a "white" horse has a dark mane/tail and cannon, it is most probably a very pale dapple grey and not a true white.

There are other types of horse coat colors, but these are the most common.

LIGHTS vs HEAVIES: At least during the 18th and 19th centuries (and most probably earlier) the regiments of European cavalry were divided into lights (dragoons, hussars, chasseurs, etc) and heavy (horse, cuirassier, carbanier, etc). In the heavy regiments it was oftentimes preferred that all the horses be either black or could pass for black (at least during peacetime), while the light regiments got the browns and paler horses. Although this is NOT definitive, it was quite common and in general I only paint the lighter shades (duns, roans, paliminos) for my light regiments. Of course this "rule" does not apply to regiments with distinct horse colors: the Scots greys and Queen's bays spring immedietly to mind.

This preference for dark horses could lead to some interesting circumstances. In his memoirs Marbot states that his chasseur regiment was better mounted than most heavies because they preferred black, but inferior animals, while he got larger and better-breed bays and chestnuts.

MUSICIANS: Trumpeters were almost universally mounted on white or grey horses.

Getting Started: I always glue horse and rider together before priming. This is just my personal preference. Now that I've set the ground-work, next time I'll actually deal with slapping paint.

  • Gettin' Good: An introduction, explanation and disclaimer.
  • Part 1: How to get good at painting? A professional's opinion.
  • Part 2: How to get good at painting? Dissenting opinions are heard.
  • Part 3: The selection, care and feeding of brushes.
  • Part 4: Questions and answers from the gentle readers.
  • Part 5: A primer on using stains and washes.
  • Part 6: Ragged Rebs (or painting irregular units in a regular way).
  • Part 7: Painting Ponies I. Just what sort of beast is that, anyway?
  • Part 8: Painting Ponies II. Your basic black, brown and chestnut horses.
  • Part 9: Painting Ponies III. Fancies - whites, greys, duns and finishing touches.
  • Part 10: A primer on stripes, checks and tartan plaids.