Fire ‘Obby ‘Orse

Project Status: Complete


Right then this is a request to design and come up with an ‘Obby ‘Orse fire costume for use by one of the UK Burners groups at this years burning man! [Edit: this was a good few years ago.]

Click on the links below to jump to the various sections of this design….



To come up with an ‘Obby ‘Orse costume to be built and tested in the UK and then shipped / flown to Black Rock City!

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Time & Money

  Estimated So Far…
Time to Design 10 hrs 6 hrs
Time to Build
(Including sourcing/scrounging materials!)
20 hrs 0 hrs
Cost to Build £60 £0

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Preliminary Sketches

Horse and Fire Skirt!

My first idea was to have a belt with attached firey tail and a horses head! The horses head would hinge at the point it connects to the belt and the head could be controlled using the reins which would be stiff rods as oppose to flexible material. This design would be rounded off with a fire skirt and sword (or whip!).

Hoof Boot Covers

One thing that may be used with any of the following designs would be Horse Feet / Hooves! This is a fairly simple one to do as its just a boot cover with a metal strip around the bottom for the horse-shoe. It would be nice if the fabric for the covers were white at the bottom fading into black or some other suitably horsey colour! I was thinking of black as it would be easy to clothe the rest of the person in black.

Backpack ‘Obby ‘Orse

This version is an overhead puppet based around a back pack frame. The horse itself is moveable and controlled by the vertical rod in front of the wearer, the horse itself pivots on the backback mounted pole. This version could feature a fire mane and tail and be rounded off by the Hoof Boot Covers.

Maximum / Minimum Angles

One extra thing that would need to be added to the backpack mounted version would be chocks or blocks to prevent the horse swinging to far forward or backward (noted in this image by angles A and B).

Horse Costume

This version is not one of my favourites but included here as an option. The ‘riders’ legs are actually the back legs of the horse and there are a pair of small fake legs to make it look as though he/she is riding the horse. The rigid bridle allows the rider to control the horses head and body. Links at the knees make the horses front legs walk in time with the rear legs. I feel that this costume would be too flamable and would not pack down to allow easy shipping but is included here as an option.

Two Person Backpack Varient

This is a two person varient of the Backpack ‘Obby ‘Orse. In this version there are two backpack frames with the front person controlling the head and the back person controlling the tail. This would give the horse four legs! One extra thing that could be done would be that the person controlling the tail could lift the head controller allowing the horse to rear-up and lift its front hooves! This version could again feature a fire mane and tail.

A Slightly More Traditional Hobby Horse

This would be a slightly more traditional hobby horse in that it is basically a ride on stick with a horses head. A couple of slight additions would be the additional bar holding the seat (a bicycle seat) and the flaming tail. This version could again feature a flaming mane.


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Review So Far!

At this point without further input I have two favourites – the Two Person Backpack Variant and the Slightly More Traditional Hobby Horse. Without further input from the end users / clients though its hard to know which factors weigh more heavily. Should the prop be ultra portable, light and simple or is visual effect and impact a greater consideration?

After going over the options with the client we have settled on the one man backpack version. This will collapse down to a quiet compact set up as well as being a larger statement. Another bonus of this design is that a lot of the components can be recycled down to the other models in case there is a major flaw.

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Design Sketches

Basic Design Ideas
Basic Design Ideas

There are three main points in this sketch;
A – The pivot points that must be allowed to freely rotate.
B – The handle(s).
C – The point where the horse attaches to the backpack frame.

In the sketch there are A1 and A2 designs showing two options for the pivot points. I believe that this needs a little more refinement as A1 does not feel like it would work and A2 seems to be over engineered. The whole idea of this is that it is as simple as possible.

Pivot Point Design
Pivot Point Design

This is A3, the third itteration of the pivot point design.

A – Bolt
B – Washer
C – Tube (bolt goes through the tube!)
D – Spine of the horse
E – Vertical support pole
F – Nut

All of the nuts shown in these sketches will probably end up being wing nuts so that less tools are required during assembly.

The main points left to cover are:

  • Attaching the head to the spine.
  • Attaching the wick to the head and tail.
  • Making the support pole and spine breakdown into smaller poles.

Before covering these last points I think it is worth making a mock up of the horse so far to test the weights and ease of use. I will have to do this without drilling the holes for the pivot points as the balance point will shift as the final points are resolved and I want the balance to be easy to use. Lots of gaffer – the temporary solution while I test things out!

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Construction Notes

It turned out pretty well and didn’t deviate from the designs really. Nearly all of the horse packed down into the rucksack the shoulder frame is based around which worked well.

I did do a couple of unlit practises with it to figure out how long I could get away with the tail being before it got close to the operator when they span round!

In the end I abandoned the idea of the chocks or stops to prevent the amount of travel or rotation of the horse. I was falling into my usual trap of over engineering everything. Must remember my motto… “Keep it simple, get it done!”

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Further Reading

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