Dad builds daughter a rocking horse… from SCRATCH!

One very lucky three-and-a-half-year old girl got the most epic Christmas present ever, after her dad Ryan – with very little woodworking experience – built her a rocking horse, completely from scratch.

Rocking horse build from scratch

We spoke to Ryan, the man behind the horse, to see how he built it, what inspired him to try it and precisely how happy his little girl was to have a horse all of her own, hand-made by her dad.

What inspired you to do it?

“We were visiting my wife’s parents and they have a rocking horse in their basement,” Ryan told us. “It’s a rocking horse that my wife’s great grandfather built for her for Christmas when she was a little kid.”

“My daughter loved to play on that, and would always ask to go downstairs and ride the horse anytime we visited,” Ryan continued. “It made me think, ‘maybe I could build her one so she could have one at home'”.

Learning as you go (just like being a dad)

“Prior to this horse, I had very little woodworking experience, aside from a raised flower bed and mediocre shelving unit I built for my garage.”

DIY Rocking horse plans

So he hit the internet in search of a plan – which also led to a growing list of tools he’d need to buy, as he slowly discovered just what a massive undertaking he was about to embark upon.

“I did a lot of research before I started,” Ryan said. “I ended up choosing a template from a company in Europe, which arrived about a week later. I began working on it after my daughter went to bed at night.”

From start to finish the project took almost 3 months to complete, working on it for 1-2 hours, 2-3 nights a week.

“It was a huge learning experience and I am glad that I did it,” Ryan said.

So, how did he do it?

pattern traced onto plywood


Ryan started by tracing the template patterns out onto a sheet of plywood.

leg cut outs

Before cutting them into their actual shapes.

Rocking horse plywood glued and clamped

There was a lot of clamping and gluing…

rocking horse back profile

Eventually he had something that was free-standing

Shaping the edges

Ryan used an angle grinder to carve away the stepped edges and give it shape.

carved and shaped horse

And slowly, the shadow of a horse began emerging from the sawdust.

DIY Rocking horse assembled

Ryan was afraid of doing the face, so he left it for last while he honed his new skill-set.

foot swing

The bow was a similar rigmarole, more cutting, gluing and clamping.

Clamping body to base

…and gluing and clamping.

applying the stain

Until finally came the exciting part – applying the finishing touches.

The big reveal – and a lesson for us all

And then, there was the big reveal… which made every hour of hard work absolutely worth it.

“She was extremely excited when she saw it,” Ryan told us. “At first she didn’t realize it was for her, but once she knew, it was hard to get her off the horse.”

“She ended up naming it: Rocky Rocky The Rocking Horse.”

We’d call that one a blue-ribbon win for Ryan’s dad skills – you can’t argue with that kind of smile!

Happy daughter on her rocking horse

“I would highly recommend other dads to get into woodworking,” Ryan said. “It is so satisfying to see your child’s face after they receive the project. It is also calming and a nice escape from everyday stresses.”

Whether it’s woodworking, or another way for a dad to make something special for their kids, we reckon every dad could take a leaf out of Ryan’s book. He gets to feel like a super dad – and his daughter gets a toy that she’ll cherish for life, and maybe even pass on to her own kids, as a present from grandpa.

Keen to do it yourself?

The website where Ryan purchased the template:

View Ryan’s entire process step-by-step in the below slideshow:

Rocking Horse


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