horses I work on are mostly of wood,” says Beatrice, “but I also restore those of fibre-glass or metal, or of fur-fabric or cowhide on a framework. If they arrive in very poor condition, they may need to be reconstructed. When in that state they are not really worth anything, but back to the condition in which they should be, as they were in their heyday, they will definitely increase in value, and do so even more over time.
“People may have had rocking horses stored away, then suddenly happen to notice them and wonder whether they might be of some value,” she observes. The answer is that they certainly can be.
This is when the conditions in which they had been stored comes into play. They need to be “re-acclimated” by being moved from outdoors to back indoors — returned from a damp atmosphere to a drier one. “This stage will need to be for at least six months,” says Beatrice. “The horses will need to be really dry before I start work on them.”
The cost of restoration depends of course on the condition in which the rocking horses arrive; prices start from around £850 to £1,200. If the customer would like to commission Beatrice to make them a brand-new rocking horse, this cost will be within a range of £1,600 to £3,500 depending on the size and other features.
“I make the body and head of my rocking horses in Quebec pine, a timber that is quite light, shiny and doesn’t move in atmospheric conditions,” she says. “For the legs I use beechwood, for strength. But this wood has to be treated immediately with protection from woodworm, to which beech is particularly vulnerable. I find that the pine is nice to carve, and for developing the shape.
“As regards size, they can be from 30 to 60 inches high, that is on the stand to the highest point of the horse, the tips of its ears.”
The manes and tails are made from real horse hair, the colour toning with that of the coat as closely as possible.
“The colours are according to commission,” says Beatrice. “But my horses are mainly dapple-grey, although I also have a beautiful brown that looks so natural that you seem almost to feel the texture of the horse’s coat.”
In her showroom Beatrice might have six or seven rocking horses that she has made out on display. With those in need of restoration she can have a “stable” of more than 20 at Tetbury Rocking Horse Works. She manages to accommodate them all, however, despite some of her materials having taken over housespace.
“My living-room is now my tackroom and my conservatory my room for painting,” she explains. “I have a great big shed that is my machine-room, a small room off this for storage, and my showroom is a separate room attached.”
Although most of Beatrice’s clients are from this country, one of her restored rocking horses has now gone to a new home in Australia.
“It belonged to a family over here who didn’t have enough space for this enormous horse, so their daughter who lives in Sydney offered to have it for her own family to enjoy,” she relates. “The cost was almost as great as that for the restoration, with it having to travel in a special crate and the transit having to conform to all the regulations.”
Doubtless, however, when this rocking horse, like those which go back to a United Kingdom home, joins its family it will receive a welcome that makes that cost well worthwhile.