Today we are making a “thestral” for the front yard. As a child of the 80’s I naturally had to name it after a My Little Pony Pegasus pony. We decided on “Wind Whistler” and she currently is living in her storage box until I set her back up.
Last year I finally did it. I bought a pony…from Home Depot, and I made a “thestral” for our holiday yard décor. I did a rather simple version of her last year, this year we have added more detail and bulking her out a bit more. First, I will review the basic method, then method I used last year, and finally how we fancied our pony up this year.
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I normally can get away with decorating for Halloween a month out without the neighbors looking at me like I am bonkers. Our neighborhood gets lots of trick or treat action so we try to ramp up the experience for the kids as much as possible. I am a little behind this year as its Halloween week, and we are just finishing her up. Well, almost finished; her head will have to be a project for next Halloween. I want to give her horns, though I doubt I’ll be able to make that happen by New Years. We shall see.
There are two sizes of the skeleton horses with motion activated neighing. (Large/Small). Storage is a major concern when opting for holiday decor for us due to our numerous hobbies and interests, so we chose to get the pony sized one. I had to order her off the website, some stores had them in stock, but the 3 near us didn’t. But, hey, they offered free shipping to the house, so that was great. Once “Wind Whistler” arrived, I assembled her, confirmed the size, made sure all parts were there, and plotted my next move.
My first “thestral” – AKA The one I made last year. I had seen a few other versions of skeleton/horse “thestral‘s” in person and floating around the internet over the last few years, and I just loved the idea. I like to think that I took it a step further to the next level over the basic ones I’ve seen. I WAS going to do more than just paint it add wings and call it a day. But…oh, just you wait! It’s going to be hilarious and so fantastic.
Firstly, I removed all the part “a” stickers off the pony and made sure to remember what part went where. I would suggest keeping the directions for this purpose or, lacking directions, just take a photo. I dismantled the pony (things you never think you’ll say) and carried her to the Garage of Doom. One day I’ll reorganize that place but not today. Today I would paint. I got a very basic cheap black matte spray paint and gave her a good dusting all around. I let the paint mist and be mottly in places because I wanted some depth and shadowing visible. It didn’t have to be solid for my purpose.
Allow to dry.
TIP for getting spray paint residue off your skin is mixing coconut oil and baking soda together as a scrub.
Now (singing) my little “thestral” was ready to be reassembled. An authentic “thestral” is more than just a skeleton horse, and I could have easily stopped there and made some wings and, Ta-da I’m done. But, I was thinking about it, and the description is a “skeletal horse” not just skeleton. So my little mad genius brain said, “hey Sarah, put black pantyhose on it”.
-Insert mad scientist laughing here. See, I told you it was fantastic!
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3-5 pair of black pantyhose (to replicate skin). This is optional as well I suppose, but I love the added texture as skin. I say 3-5 depending on if you decide to get the horse size or the pony. As I mentioned before, I chose the pony size.
I must tell you, putting pantyhose on a plastic skeleton horse is probably one of the funniest things I have ever done in my life. It wasn’t difficult to slip the back half of the horse and pull the pantyhose all the way up and to the “thestral‘s” mid section. Now, the front half and neck were a little different.
Remove the neck and the head of the “thestral” and, starting at the front hooves, pull the second pair of pantyhose up and over the body until you meet the center. Both pair of pantyhose should meet at the point.
I didn’t have to secure them down they stayed in place very nicely.
At this point, you are almost done. You will need to cut a slit large enough to snap the neck back in place where the neck attaches back to the body. Do not add the head back at this time as that will happen in the next step. After making the slit, apply a dab of clear nail polish to help avoid the slit from growing on its own.
Take the the 3rd pair of pantyhose and cut off one leg to use for the neck portion “skin”. Pull the pantyhose down to where the neck and torso meet and pull it over the connection, then secure it in that crack. That should hold it in very nicely. You may have to tie it off if it gives you any trouble. Just run the excess ends beneath the neck line and tie off.
Now, pull the end that is going towards the head and make it snug, removing any slack in the pantyhose. Attach the head. The head looks pretty amazing as it stands, so what I did was pinch and tie off the top end like I did where the neck meets the torso.
I had some leftover Spirit Halloween dragon wings from a costume a few years ago so I fitted those to her back and TADA! She was complete. Alas, the wings didn’t last the season, but that’s OK as I am a crafty little devil.
Fast forward to this year.
While I was researching how to making dragon wings and such, I stumbled across this blog post on EPBOT:
They built a “thestral” in such detail that inspired me to step up my game for this year. I began plotting my copycat version. I wasn’t sure how in depth I wanted to try my hand so I hemmed and hawed for a few months and as you can clearly see that time has gotten away from me and I had to hurry. I began the wings a few weeks back, I’ll go into more details down below in a moment. Just about a week or so ago, I saw on the Home made Harry Potter! group on Facebook that another person decided to tackle the EPBOT version. I looked at the calendar and said “HMM” I bet I could get this made PDQ if I hustle. I will link her YouTube videos here as well, Magical Curiosities. I followed the design in her video for the most part, except I built onto the stomach and the butt a bit more, and I will work on the head design.
Before we begin this year’s version of the Wind Whistler project, let’s go through the list of materials we will need.
Spare bits of cardboard (to build up the body)
Black matte spray paint (for final touch up)
Black latex flat exterior paint
10 or 12 gauge craft wire (for tail-optional)
Paper Mache Clay (Recipe and ingredients listed at https://www.ultimatepapermache.com/paper-mache-clay )
Painting supplies and cleanup supplies
…as with this method the stand that comes with the horse will no longer be usable.
2- 4′ 2X4’s I used this as a base for outside display (optional but helped a great deal)
4- 2 1⁄2 “ conduit clamps. Size may differ depending on the size of the hooves. (Home Depot product number 051411612252)
8- dry wall screws and washers
1/2” PVC pipes, about 8 “ long split on one side with a chop saw for wings and support
2 bolts with washers. I used 3 1/2” draw bolts (Home Depot product number 887480137088), but regular carriage bolts will work
Drill and appropriately sized bits
Fabric about 3 yards should do it
Plastic trash bag cut flat for easier clean up and wing drying
Hot glue gun and glue sticks
Like I said, I pretty much followed Magical Curiosities copy cat of EPBOT. I used the masking tape to fill in some areas, then I padded the stomach out a bit more with the tape and cardboard. It seems daunting at first, but once you get the first couple of strips of tape on the body, you’ll start to get a feel for which direction you want to go to get the shape you want.
To keep the rib cage shape when you put the tape on, pinch it in between each rib to shape out the belly. Be sure to follow the length of the body to get the full shape.
To build up the cavities of the body, chest, and butt end, fold in some cardboard pieces and shape to what you want your “thestral” to look like. Then, secure the edges with duct tape and cover with masking tape. If you use duct tape you need to cover the duct tape with masking tape so the paper mache clay sticks to it. From what I can see, the clay doesn’t stick to the shiny tape.
When you have shaped the torso to how you want it to look, cover all the tape with the clay. I would recommend to work on the belly first, then proceed to do the sides and back. Once I had the belly covered with clay, I put the forelegs on so that it could “sit up” allowing me to work on the spine and sides without smudging.
In making the clay (I linked to the Ultimatepapermache.com website ) I couldn’t explain the recipe or the directions any better than the original creator of the clay recipe. I did however, change one thing and used Titebond 2, which is a premium wood glue that is water resistant. I wanted some extra protection from the weather, so this glue should help it hold up a bit more then Elmer’s Glue-All. I was a bit concerned because Elmer’s is a washable glue and I figured it would be better to start with stronger glue.
The price was comparable to any other gallon of glue so, why not, right?
I ended up making 4 batches of the paper mache clay. I would also suggest only mixing one batch at a time. I made a double batch at first and it stayed a bit wet longer than I think it should have. It dried alright in the end. I applied 3 thin coats on the clay, I did not need to do any sanding, as I smoothed out the body with a bit of water on my hand as it dried.
Once it was dried, I used the exterior black paint to coat the clay. I applied two coats for added coverage and protection from the weather. Where I live, it rains whenever it feels like it 🙂 Mostly daily. So the extra protection couldn’t hurt. We will set this aside for now.
For the tail I added a few lengths of 10 or 12 gauge craft wire to extend the tail length. This is totally optional, there are many different versions and it’s dealers choice as to how you want yours. I wrapped the wire with masking tape and applied a layer of the clay and two coats of pant as well.
Now for the fun part:
MAKING THE WINGS
Joe had the brilliant idea of using 1/2” chicken wire mesh (1/2″ 19ga. Galvanized Hardware Cloth).
We used tin snips to cut out the basic shape of the wings. To get the same size wings, I cut out one and zip tied it the other bit of the wire mesh and traced out the shape. I then used duct tape to go around the edges to prevent injury and shape out the sides. Then, I used liquid starch to apply and shape black fabric to both sides. I should have left the fabric in one section and folded and shape it in one piece. I did each side separately, which left an ugly side. However, this did allow one side to be perfect and the “ugly” side I used hot glue to attach an additional piece of fabric and secure it around the edges, giving the wings extra staying power for outdoors.
ATTACHING THE WINGS
Note: the length of the PVC pipe depends upon how you shape the wings; specifically, how long the bases of the wings are.
We took two 8” or so sections of 1/2” PVC pipe and split the side on a chop saw so I could fit the base end of the wings in the slot. It was a bit tricky to fit it in there, but it was secure! We placed the PVC pipes one on each side on the upper neck spine edge on the body. We lined it up and measured and clamped the pipes and wings in place so we could drill out the holes through the pipes and backbone. We secured the wings in place with the draw bolts, but you can use regular carriage bolts with appropriately sized fender washers. Since I used the clay to fortify the torso, the wings are well secured.
ATTACHING THE HOOF SUPPORTS
To affix the legs to the 2×4 supports, we used 2 1⁄2 “ conduit clamps to hold the hooves in place. We used drywall screws and washers to hold it down. Note that the size of the clamps may differ depending on the size of the hooves. Apply the black spray paint to cover any scuffs that happen and you are as good as done!
I didn’t do anything to the head of the “thestral” at this time, I just plain ran out of time. Next time for sure.
Attach the neck, head and tail and you are good to go.
I used a bit of mono-filament fishing line and our holiday cup hooks on the house to suspend the wings at the angles I wanted. Needless to say, I am overly pleased with the Wind Whistler!
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