One constant in my outdoor Christmas decorating plan is wreaths on the front gates. Since many of my neighbors know Hawk Hill for the pony that grazes in the front lawn all summer, this year I decided to make wreaths with an equestrian theme. Most people see our gate decor from 45mph, so I knew I needed to go big! I had no luck finding instructions for constructing this kind of wreath, so I decided to post instructions for those who might be curious in the future. These instructions should work for any sort of shape- It would be fun to see the same style wreath done in other interest-specific shapes.
Update 2020: In response to so many requests to buy, a local small business is making these wreaths to sell. Order yours now via this link: Horse Head Wreaths – or use these instructions to create your own!
Materials you’ll need:
EITHER a precut horse head wreath form, OR these
Supplies to make your own wreath form:
Supplies needed for Wreath Construction:
1. Coated Green Twist-Tie Wire – You can make your own with floral wire but twisting tiny uncoated wire is frustratingly fiddly and will leave your fingers mangled after a few dozen, so get the coated wire or pick up a pack of Garland Twist Ties to make this project even easier.
3. Horse halter (optional, front-door sized wreaths will need a foal or pony size halter)
4. Green floral wire (for shaping bushy greenery into defined ears).
2. Evergreen garland – In 2014 & 2015, I made and sold a few hundred of these wreaths(!), and my best results came from using a combination of high-end faux pine greenery with cheap garland as a filler. The cheap garland adds a nice bulk while the nicer stuff gives the finished wreath an expensive look.
1. Thick work gloves (making 100’s of these wreaths is when I discovered and fell in love with Simply MUD work gloves, which protect without removing my ability to feel my way around for wires)
3. Sharp scissors (to cut garland)
Supplies for Final Touches:
INSTRUCTIONS TO MAKE YOUR HORSE HEAD WREATH:
1. CREATE OR ACQUIRE WREATH FRAME. Find or make the outline you’d like to use. I spent most of Junior High practicing my skills at doodling horses, so I just laid out a horse halter to provide proportions and sketched in the shape of the head. You could just as easily download a silhouette and enlarge to size. (Note that if you want your wreath to be standard front-door sized, you’ll need to base your measurements on a foal or pony sized halter instead of a horse size). I had so many requests I actually located precut forms for sale, so if you want to skip this step, grab a horse head wreath frame by clicking here.
2. Lay out a panel of wire mesh over your outline. Wearing work gloves, begin folding the edges inward, conforming to the shape of your outline. You’ll have to cut a bit to make the wire fit. To form the sharp corner at the throat, make a cut straight up from directly underneath that point (for non-horsefolks: it’s called the “throatlatch”) and fold each side up to reinforce the face and neck. Modeling with chicken wire requires a bit of rough handling, so don’t be gentle with it! You may need to add pieces or layers to get a full, rigid head. When you are happy with your shape, smash it flat.
3. Acquire greenery (looking like a bag lady with the spoils of your Black Friday shopping, like me, is optional!)
I mix two kinds of garland for these wreaths: Cheap basic garland purchased in bulk for filler and more authentic faux evergreen garland to make the wreath look at first glance like I used real evergreen boughs.
VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:
Fluff your greenery before starting, so your wreath will look full and natural. To fluff garland, begin at one end, grasp each wire one by one and bend back out from the central core at a 60-90 degree angle. With fluffed greenery, you’ll be able to use less materials and still create a wreath with a full look. Just trust me, it’s worth the extra step!
Adding Garland to Create the Horse Wreath
Lay out your garland on the wire frame, and double it back and forth to cover the frame, securing the garland every 6-12 inches. Don’t try to make your garland go farther– a fuller look comes from packing the greenery pretty densely.
The contours of your design may be different than mine, but this is the actual shape the garland took as my horse head wreath came together:
Use the folded wire pins or garland ties to anchor the greenery to your mesh frame. Start with a few very spaced out wire ties to help get the greenery under control and the end product easier to visualize, then keep adding wire ties until the greenery is completely secure and cannot be shaken loose. Continue until your frame is covered and your wreath’s shape complete.
Cut off any excess garland, then cut those pieces into 4″ to 6″ lengths. Use these short bits to add fullness anywhere the wreath looks sparse.
Wire twisted in this configuration will solidly anchor your greenery.
Finishing your Wreath
“Grooming” your horse: you may find that your horse head looks a bit untidy and un-horse-like when done. Don’t worry! With the garland well anchored at many points, you can now fold, bend, and even snip portions of greenery to clean up your horse head shape.
Tip: For the ears and any fine points of your design: green floral wire can help your ears go from bushy to neat: simply grasp the ear in a fist, forcing the sprigs to face one direction, and spiral wrap floral wire down the length. The green floral wire will disappear against the green branches but leave a distinct and neat edge.
When I was finished, my wreath seemed too bushy- smashing under a board flattened and neatened the overall appearance.
Decorate your Wreath
I really think these wreaths look better with horse halters on them! You can decorate them with old halters like mine, pick up a few cheap red halters, make your own with ribbon, or inexpensively build a “halter” using real halter hardware from LuckyPony.com. Most recently, we’ve started displaying ours with bright red rosette ribbons, for an extra-horsey version of a holiday bow. Pick up the rosettes here.
Add a red horse show ribbon for holiday charm and equestrian authenticityThis entire project from sketch to final hanging took me about 45 minutes for my first wreath, and about a half hour for my second- an outstanding value for very large wreaths that should last several years. My favorite part about these shaped wreaths is that they are so unique! In a world where most Christmas decorations come from big box stores that sell identical items by the hundreds-of-thousands, it’s fun to have decorations that are totally unique to you!
For a reference of how the backside of this wreath should look, he’s a shot of the back of one of mine:
Update November 2018:
It’s been fun to see this post travel far and wide each Christmas since I originally made and posted these in 2013! So many of you have provided feedback and thank you’s, and I read and appreciate each one! If you take-on this project this year, please share a photo in the comments- I’d love to see your results!
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