Origami Boy on a Rocking Horse by Neal Elias

Written by RussellIntermediate, People


origami boy on a rocking horse by neal elias

“They swayed about upon a rocking horse, And thought it Pegasus”
-John Keats, 1817

An Origami Rocking Horse… and a metaphor?

When I was looking for a quote to put at the top of this article, I found a comment from multiple sources that a rocking horse moves a lot but doesn’t make any progress. Well I haven’t written anything on this site for about five months, so I guess there’s not been a lot of progress here either! That said, I have finally got around to writing something, so I guess things are moving slightly. Let’s hope it translates into some more progress over the cure of 2022!

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I’ve gone back to one of my favourite origami designers for this review, and to one of my pet projects: making sure that older designs don’t get forgotten. This Boy on a Rocking Horse is by Neal Elias. It was designed in the 1970s. Who doesn’t love a good rocking horse?

I really like this model. It’s distinctive. Rocking horses are a traditional childhood toy, so this is one of those designs that will instantly bring back a few memories if you had a rocking horse – which I did. A few different origami rocking horses have been created, but this is the only one that I know of that has someone riding it. This is Neal Elias exploring the idea of two subjects from one piece of paper again, much like his Last Waltz and Siesta.

Folding the Boy on a Rocking Horse

I was surprised when I saw the instructions for this one. It’s made from a traditional bird base. I wasn’t expecting that. It seems that every time I think I’ve seen everything that you can possibly do with a bird base, another design comes along and proves me wrong.

One of the long flaps at the top is colour-changed to create the rider. The other becomes the horse’s neck and head. The tail is formed from the small central flap, and the bottom two long flaps become the body of the horse and the ‘rockers’ on each side.

You can watch a timelapse of me folding the boy on the rocking horse here.

photo of the boy on a rocking horse in progress folding

As it’s derived from a bird base, it’s not that difficult a design to make. The folding sequence is pretty simple to fold and if you can make a crane, you can do one of these, and it will probably take about half an hour to forty-five minutes. It’s an intermediate level model.

The only potential issue with folding the Boy on a Rocking Horse is that a number of folds are judgements, with no real references. If you get these wrong, you can end up with a slightly odd looking model – a horse with too big a head for example, or a rider with an overly long face.

In fact, I’ve still not got it quite right in the model shown here, as I’ve got black triangles at the tips of each of the rockers, which means I still haven’t got the proportions quite perfect yet. You can get rid of them by adjusting a couple of folds earlier on, but if you’re not careful you end up with the rocker joined to the rider’s feet and I didn’t think that looked good. I thought this was a better compromise.

This model isn’t too precious about paper choice. Obviously it needs to be something that is different colours on each side, but after that, something reasonably thin will do. Ordinary origami paper will be fine. I used a sheet of 20cm x 20xcm (7.9” a side) tissue foil, as that’s what I had lying around. That produced a model that is 10cm tall and 9cm from nose to tail (about 3.9” x 3.5cm)

Instructions for folding the Boy on a Rocking Horse

Diagrams for the Boy on a Rocking Horse are available in Dave Venables compilation The Origami of Neal Elias, published by the British Origami Society. This is an excellent book, including instructions for folding several models I have featured on this blog, including the Last Waltz, Andres Segovia and The Thinker. It’s suitable for intermediate level folders.

This book is available from the BOS via Amazon.  Click here to read reviews and check the price.

Get Involved

I’d love to hear your views on this origami boy with a rocking horse.  Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below, or you find can me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Check out my Pinterest boards too!


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About the Author


Russell has been folding origami since he was 8 years old and has recently written the book, Origami Made Simple. He is on the Council for the British Origami Society and a member of OrigamiUSA. When he is not folding, he enjoys photography and traveling.

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