Fort Worth, Texas is home to the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. Originating in 1974 in Hereford, Texas, and moving to a newly constructed building in the museum district of Fort Worth in 1994, the mission of “The Cowgirl” is to recognize the pioneering and powerful women who have shaped the American West. In 2018 the museum closed for a major renovation of their galleries and reopened in March 2019 with the “It’s Never Just A Horse” exhibition. The exhibition includes collection objects of saddles, apparel, art and craftwork, historical items and personal effects. A highlight of the exhibition design is the integration of video and technology that enlivens visitor experience while supporting the interpretation of collection objects. Among the newly designed space and expansive video projection remains a fan favorite from the original installation at the museum; a life-size fiberglass pony that children are invited to sit on to have their photographs taken.

The pony was originally a palomino; dusty brown with a dark brown mane and tail. The Cowgirl wanted to update the look and feel of their pony by transforming it into a paint horse. They connected with me through a reference and I immediately decided that this was going to be a great new opportunity that I wanted to jump into. Here I document my process of repainting the pony, which I took to calling Dottie.

Original paint job, which had been retouched and revarnished once or twice over 15 years


paint stripping, fiberglass horse

Stripping – after first application of Soygel

A work colleague recommended Soygel as an alternative to fumey or more caustic strippers. It was so easy to work with, although it took two coats and more elbow-grease than a traditional stripper might have.

After stripping, I applied a fiberglass bonding product to fill some inconsistencies in the form and primed it with a fiberglass auto body primer. I consulted with Taylor Automotive on the best product options and their recommendation was excellent. I lost some time in this stage because I was not sanding aggressively enough. Once I got the sanding technique down, the form and finish started to become very fine.

I used a hobby set of airbrushes and Golden Acrylics to apply the paint layer. My goal with the painting was to let subtle pops of color come through in the areas of black and white. The satin varnish is an MSA product. The satin finish gave the pony a warmer, more natural appearance.

The new Paint Horse, “Dottie!”