EDMOND — Jackie Wilson created her first wooden rocking horse when she was pregnant with her daughter 34 years ago after seeing an example in a magazine.
One of her latest one-of-a-kind rocking horses was made for President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to give to Prince George of Cambridge when he was born.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Wilson, 62, of Edmond. “What an honor.”
It was the toughest secret Wilson ever had to keep. She was contacted by an employee of the U.S. State Department, the Office of the Chief of Protocol, who told her she purchases gifts for dignitaries and saw the horses on Wilson’s website.
Wilson and her husband, Randy, talked that night, guessing the horse might be for the future king of England.
She asked the State Department employee if her rocking horse was for the royal family. The woman said, “It could be,” before swearing Wilson to secrecy. She didn’t want Wilson to tell her husband, but it was too late for that.
“Keeping quiet was hard,” Wilson said with a smile. “I was so excited. It was a privilege.”
She was so overwhelmed that she gave the president the $1,100 horse as a gift.
Wilson would hide in her private workshop, tucked among the trees surrounding her home in far north Edmond, to work on one of the glider horses she calls Secretariat, a hand-chiseled running horse with an English-type saddle — the special horse headed for England.
The horse Wilson made from pine and oak is part of the Royal Childhood Exhibition now on display at Buckingham Place.
Exhibit items are drawn from royal collections, the Royal Archives and private collections of members of the royal family. The objects on display relate to more than 25 royal children.
The Wilson family is headed to London to see the horse that was made in Edmond and is now on display in London through Sept. 28.
Wilson has never had her work displayed for others to see.
“My horses go to private homes,” she said. “I am not used to getting a pat on the back. This is a whole new era.”
Once photos of the horse started showing up on the Internet, Wilson knew that was the horse she had made. She usually puts a black saddle on her Secretariat horses. The State Department official wanted a brown saddle, which is now embossed with the presidential seal.
Wilson had been asked about including a polo mallet, similar to one Prince George’s father, Prince William, might use while playing the sport. Later, federal officials decided they would carve the mallet from a branch of an oak tree planted on the South Lawn at the White House.
A gold plate has been added, to tell people the horse came from the president of the United States, but Wilson’s name is never mentioned.
After seeing photos of her special horse repeatedly on the Internet, Wilson decided her secret was over. She now is proudly talking about the royal horse she made.
Wilson used to make and sell her horses in downtown Edmond in a shop she called “a woodworker’s dream.”
Her horses range in price from $350 to $1,400. She closed her shop in June 2012, a year after it opened.
She had a love-hate relationship with the store.
“I had never worked outside the home, and I didn’t like that part,” Wilson said. But she said she does miss seeing the people who came to her shop, and seeing children ride her horses.
She said it is a blessing that she is now working from home. She sells all her horses by word of mouth and from her website. She will have a booth at the Morgan horse show in October at State Fair Park.
She makes four sizes of horses in several colors. Her horses rock, glide and roll. Some have real horse hair tails and manes. Some wear leather saddles. A few of the horses’ necks are decorated with garland and others flowers.
Her favorite part of making a wooden rocking horse?
“I like when it starts looking like a horse,” Wilson said. “I like the bandsaw. I like painting. I love making horses.”