Bay horses slowly shedding their coats

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Restoring rides . . . Caroline Bay Association member Allen Martin has been restoring the merry-go-round horses. PHOTO: GRETA YEOMAN

Allen Martin is uncovering part of Timaru’s history, one layer of paint at a time.

The Caroline Bay Association member has been spending hours after work and during weekends stripping layers of paint off the merry-go-round horses as part of a project aimed at giving them a long-overdue facelift.

It has been a time-consuming, painstaking task – it took 30 hours to take the paint off just one of the 20 horses on the carousel – and it seems there is no easy way to do it.

“We found last year when we were doing some repairs on the horses that the paintwork needed a bit of a shake-up.

“In the past, some of the guys had just painted over the top, so that’s the goal, to take off as much paint as we can.”

Mr Martin’s tools have been paint stripper, a sander, a grinder for the tricky bits, and plenty of patience, but he is always exploring other options.

He started keeping a track of the hours he was spending, but says he quickly got sick of doing that.

He has had a lot of help from his partner, Jadine Buckland, and other association members, but they are realistic about how many horses they will be able to revamp in time for this year’s carnival.

They discovered the horses are in pairs – identifiable by the pattern on the saddles – so they are aiming to complete as many pairs as possible.

With few photographs around that provide clues about the original colours, and some horses having had a variety of different shades over the years, the bay association has turned to a local paint retailer for help, and has narrowed down seven proposed colour schemes for the saddles to two.

“At the moment, there are about 30 different colours . . . so I’m told.”

Mr Martin has not had a lot of input in choosing colour schemes – he is colour blind, so his efforts have been going into removing what is there already, rather than choosing what will replace it.

They have expanded the scope of the project to include some other aspects of the merry-go-round, including the beams, base and carvings, and long-term, the colours will all tie in together.

“At the moment, it’s a bit willy-nilly.”

Finding the time to work on the horses is the challenge, but Mr Martin says that apart from the sanding, the project is quite therapeutic.

Does he even like horses?

“Not myself, but I like these ones. They don’t annoy you.”