The Plastic Herd
September 25th, 2018 by Mike Teegarden

Christine DiCurti cuddles with a young colt she has not yet fully rehabilitated. The restoration process starts with Christine stripping off the old paint and applying a white basecoat.
Photos by Mike Teegarden

Rescued horses find new life, thanks to artistic owner

Christine DiCurti keeps an unusual stable of livestock at her Ester, Alaska, home. Among them are a zebra, an appaloosa and a clown fish horse—named Nemo, of course. These are not your typical thoroughbreds, though.

Christine creates colorful yard art from old plastic rocking horses, transforming them into whimsical expressions of her mood using paint and a lot of creativity.

“I love horses,” she says. “That’s what it comes down to. I’ve always kept that love of horses, and ridden off and on over the years. This is just a continuation of that love.”

Christine and her husband, Erik Hansen, live a few miles outside of Fairbanks. Three years ago, she became enamored with an old plastic child’s rocking horse in a neighbor’s yard.

“In the neighborhood we walk, it’s about a 2-mile loop,” Christine says. “For quite a few years, there was a swingset with a horse on it, an old one. The person who lives there lives in Hawaii and only comes back once every two or three years. I’ve always said, ‘Oh, I’d like to save that horse, paint it, make a zebra out of it.’ I really didn’t have any hope that we would ever get the horse.

“But Eric knew the guy, and when I was gone he happened to be walking. The guy was there and redoing a lot of stuff, taking down stuff. Eric asked him if he would sell the horse, and the guy said, ‘You can just have it.’ That was sort of the start of things.”

Christine took that first horse and stripped the old paint, repainted it with a white basecoat and turned it into a zebra. Erik added a pole to mount it in the yard.

“And then it was like, ‘Hmm, I wonder if we could find anymore,’” Christine says.

That was the beginning of her quest for toy horses mounted on bases with springs or on swingsets. Christine hasn’t looked back. Her herd now includes eight horses, with three more in the works.

She and Erik found some of the horses on Craigslist. Others were discovered as they cruised around town on their bikes. Family and friends have also contributed. The farthest one—brought back by Erik’s son—came from Buffalo, New York.

The horse art is a summer project.

“All winter long I weave,” Christine says. “I weave rugs and scarves. I do tie-dying with my girlfriend in Oregon to sell at bazaars. By the time summer comes, I really am tired of it. It’s too nice. We’re outside biking. So this is something different I can do. I set up in my loom room with my paint table and just sit up there. I can have the door open and just sort of figure out what I want to do with each horse.”

Most of the horses have arrived in good condition, but Erik had to manufacture a new part for one abused steed.

“We got one recently that was a little more broken,” Christine says. “None of these have been broken in any form, but recently this summer we got one that the saddle had a little break in it. Erik made a new tail for that one.”

“Out of resin and fiberglass,” Erik adds.

Erik is supportive of Christine’s latest passion, but has his limits. She says he told her, “I refuse to make a carousel. You can mount them in the garden, but don’t ask for a carousel.”