The Olensky Canadian Eight Hitch
The story of this incredible work of art begins in 1991, when it first germinated between Ivy, a dog breeder and shower from Canada (Soft-coated Wheaten Terriers) and model horse lover, and myself. Ivy was a tack customer. After a fortuitous visit when we played with my own model hitch, the order was officially placed early in 1992, and construction and payment began. I had only recently completed my own 8 of Breyer's black Belgians, my first, which dated back to 1985 for the wheelers' harnesses. My hitch eventually would transition from MirrorFlex to chain platelets in 1990, an improvement. This black hitch, exhibited at BreyerFest for several years, used a green and yellow Eighmey wagon, with driver dolls by Jacobs, and a Hartland dog. You can still see him in the wagon bed. :) Ivy was the proud owner of 8 bay Breyer Clydesdale Stallions, carefully collected and matched over the years--- with what difficulty, I can only guess. Because of the enormity and cost of the task--- there are very few model 8-hitches of this detail in existence--- her hitch was done, and paid for, in pairs. The first set of harness, and thus oldest, was the Wheel Pair, created originally in 1993. (When it came to updating, this one caused the most problems.) The Lead Pair was next, dating from 1995. The Swing and Point Pairs were last, 1996, in a rush of success. In 2002, cleaning and gold-plating were performed, as well as (hopefully) finally solving the difficulty of the spinners. No part of draft harness takes more of my psychic energy and effort than those things---!!
Over the course of those five years, major changes in my draft harness building were directly linked to and inspired by this particular hitch. The Rio Rondo draft hames are the most public result. Seeking a better draft hame than the Lenham Pottery ones, I created a pair specifically to fit all known Trad-scale draft molds at the time, using brass and solder. L. E. Ross was originally commissioned to cast them; when this deal fell through, they were given to Carol Williams of Rio Rondo. Needless to say, she has done a good job...! Another improvement inspired by this hitch was the technique of using gold-filled wire. (One of the reasons for the long wait was the germination of all these new techniques. A hitch built today would take considerably less time.) Other special features on this set of harnesses include name plates engraved by Renee Foust; harness brasses by Lenham Pottery (I helped design the Rio Rondo ones, but felt this hitch should retain its original decorations); European style butterfly Liverpool driving bits (commissioned by me from L. E. Ross); gold plated almost everything; and red felt pads, requested by the owner. The set of harnesses, now at nine because a Single Driving was added, stands, in sheer size as well as timing, as the most massive work I have ever created.
And I didn't do it alone. It never would have happened, left to myself; the proof of this is the 6 dapple grey Clydesdales. These models, one pair each of the three releases (wheel=1973s, swing=1964s, point=1987s) have been in my possession from their beginnings, and I had intended to build a harness for them; but did I?! These 2003 pictures are the first time they've ever been hitched up together. What can explain the magic and persistence that got this hitch 'through the wall' of dreaming, and into real life?
As best I can explain it, it was the long-term congruence of a deeply interested, not to say fanatic, model horse collector and draft horse lover, who somehow found the words to inspire and stoke the ego of an equally fanatic artist--- who in turn was long-term devoted to the craft, and who did not depend wholly on models for income. It was a truly extraordinary relationship. I can honestly say it would have worked with no other. It could never be duplicated; certainly the result will never be sold!! I can't say I would never make another 8-Hitch; but it could never have this aura; and it would never go for what this one did. Within the world of one-of-a-kind model tack, this hitch is truly a testament to a one-of-a-kind love for the model horse.
I am hoping to post more pictures of the Canadian 8 in the future on this page...both with my greys, and with the 8 bays, and their own custom-built red and white wagon, to which it ultimately belongs.
Click here to go back to the Harness Page.