Perfect Ponies

Somers woman combines passions for sewing and horses to launch business making stick ponies

By Justin Franz
Janet Brand shows her stick ponies on Dec. 6, 2016. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

LAKESIDE – Janet Brand loves horses.

Her passion for ponies is obvious at her home in Somers where there are paintings of stallions and photos of her horse Payton scattered on the walls.

Brand also loves sewing.

That love is also evident when walking into her craft room, where bins overflow with cloth and materials waiting to be made into something new.

For years, Brand’s love of horses and sewing were separate interests. But a few years ago, she found a way to combine those pastimes by making stick ponies. Little did she know that her effort would soon turn into a small business called “Purple Mountain Ponies.”

The stick pony, or hobby horse, is a simple toy. It features a straight stick, a small stuffed horse head sometimes with reins, and a wheel at the bottom. Children have been known to play with stick ponies as far back as the 1500s.

Centuries after the first stick pony was created, Brand, who works at a local quilt store, stumbled upon the toy while shopping. She inspected it and realized that she could make one for her granddaughter.

“I saw the stick pony and decided to give it a go,” she said, five years later. “When I first saw it, I knew I wanted to make at least one, but I had no idea it was going to turn into a big project like this.”

Brand got a pattern from an Australian company called Melly and Me and built the first one. Soon she was designing her own ponies. At first, she just gave them to her grandchildren or friends, but after awhile, someone called asking to buy one. In the last few years, she’s made more than 50 ponies and recently opened up her own store on Etsy. She’s sold the ponies locally and has shipped them as far as Florida, although she notes it’s an awkward item to ship. Purple Mountain Ponies is also registered with the Montana Department of Commerce’s Made in Montana program.

It takes Brand three to four hours to make one pony. She starts with a wooden dowel and wraps it with fabric before putting a rubber cup at the bottom. She then starts working on the horse’s head, which she stuffs and adds eyes and reins. She uses different types of fabric for the horse’s mane and notes that every horse she makes is different.

“They’re just so fun to make and they’re just different,” she said, gesturing to a stick pony herd in the corner of the room. “Every time I finish one, I take it to my husband and say, ‘Look how cute this one is.’”

Brand said the best part is that it’s for a child.

“It’s just so much fun to make something for someone who is so excited about it,” she said.

Brand’s ponies sell for about $50 each. To buy one, visit Etsy.com and search “PurpleMountainPonies.”