Thrifted Rocking Horse Makeover


This post walks you through the transformation of a thrifted rocking horse a makeover using milk paint and clear wax.

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This is the time of year everyone is purging! Closets are being cleared out and organized. Boxes in the attics and basements are being sorted through. A good portion of this stuff is donated to local thrift stores. So, mark my words, this is the best time of year for you to go thrifting to see what you can find.

The other day, I was out and about when I came across a small wooden rocking horse. At first glance, I didn’t think it was my style nor did I think I had a use for it. However, when I picked it up, I noticed the horse had some nicely carved details and that it was the perfect size for a table centerpiece. When I studied the rocking horse a bit more, I realized that it would look great if it was given a makeover – particularly if the paint had a patina that looked as if it had been on the horse for years.

The best part, this rocking horse was $8.00. I thought, heck for $8.00, I can’t go wrong.

Today, I will walk you through the steps I used to give this little rocking horse a makeover. This was an easy project and took less than 2 hours from start to finish.

Thrifted Rocking Horse Makeover


As with any project, the first thing we will need to do is gather our supplies. You can apply this technique to any wooden item that you find. I selected this rocking horse because it was a small size and perfect for a table centerpiece. Also, I thought it would be perfect for holding napkins.


Step 1 -Prep work

There was nothing wrong with this rocking horse, it’s simply that I didn’t like the look of the existing paint job.

It’s difficult to tell from the photos, but horse has lovely carved details on its eyes, nose, mane and tail.

It was already clean and didn’t need any repairs. So I simply gave it a light sanding using 220 grit sandpaper and wiped it down thoroughly with a cleaning product. I used Mr. Clean because it contains a degreaser.

Then using some painters tape, I taped off the “rocker” on the bottom. I liked the existing color of the rocker and didn’t want to get any paint on it.

Taping off the rocker

The prep work for this pieces took an estimated total of 20 minutes.

Step 2 – Apply the Paint and Wax

If you are unfamiliar with milk paint, it comes in a powder form. You mix the powder with water using a 1:1 ratio. For this project, I used 1/2 cup of milk paint and 1/2 cup of warm water. Then I added 3-4 drops of MMS milk mix EZ. One of the reasons I use milk paint is because it imparts a time-worn look to pieces. It naturally “chips” when applied to previously painted surfaces and it also has natural crazing. The result is that it makes pieces look as if they are old and storied with a good deal of character.

Once the paint was mixed, I applied it to the rocking horse.

Painting the rocking horse

The original painting could still be seen through the first coat of milk paint. Don’t panic if this happens.

First coat of paint

Wait about 30 minutes for the paint to dry and then apply a second coat. If necessary, apply a third coat.

Second coat of paint

This little horse required 3 coats of paint. You can see that once it starts drying, there will be areas of chipping and crazing. Can you see how nicely the carved details show up now that the rocking horse has been painted a uniform color?

Worn patina of milk paint

You can see the texture the paint creates in the photo above. Doesn’t it look like the horse is 100 years old?

When the horse was completely dry, I gently sanded the entire piece using 220 grit sandpaper and wiped away any dust. Then I sealed it with MMS clear wax.

Step 3 – Enjoy your Thrifted Rocking Horse Makeover

Once your horse has been sealed, you can use it! Of course milk paint is nontoxic and food safe so its entirely safe to use this horse on my table. I thought this would be perfect for holding cloth napkins. It would also look cute with a vase of flowers set in the middle. Below are some images you can pin to your Pinterest account for future reference.

Thrifted Rocking Horse Makeover

Don’t you love fast and easy projects that generate great results? Me too.

Thrifted Rocking Horse Makeover

This little rocking horse was perfect on the buffet where folks could get their cutlery, napkin and glass. I love the slight chipping of paint that occurred in various areas.

Thrifted Rocking Horse Makeover

Here is a little side by side comparison showing the before and after.


Thank you for stopping by the blog today where we work on projects large and small. The place where we also, we love a good old fashioned transformation. One final note, I did try to find a similar rocking horse that you could purchase online. I did not have success. However, I would encourage you to look on Etsy, Ebay and at craft stores, in addition to thrift stores, for similar rocking horses.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy the following milk paint projects:

DIY Napkin Ring Ideas

DIY Napkin Rings

Front Door Basket Wreath

DIY Front Door Basket Wreath

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  1. Such a CUTE little horse!! I love how it turned out..the crackled paint on it looks so good…like it’s been on there for many years. I would have never thought of using this as a centerpiece but it totally works! Such a fun find, Anna!

  2. Love the way this project came together, Anna! It’s beautiful. Those little chippy touches you add get me every time. I can see this in so many different spaces. It’s fabulous! Hugs, CoCo

    1. Thank you so much CoCo. Sometimes it’s the simplest and most affordable things that have the greatest potential. Right?

  3. Wow! You’re so creative to see how wonderful that horse could be!! What a fun transformation! I’m always amazed at what white paint can do! It makes a great centerpiece and napkin holder! I have never tried milk paint, so I’m pinning this now! I definitely need to try it!

    1. I think we both love white paint and the transformational power it contains! Thank you for stopping by and for commenting. Happy New Year Donna!

  4. Turned out great Anna! Now I understand milk paint a bit better. Thanks so much for sharing at the Fabulous Friday Link Party. We are happy to be sharing your rocking horse makeover this week.

    1. I have a small milk paint addiction. I can’t find any other paint that gives the same kind of finish. Thank you for stopping by the blog and for commenting!

  5. What a cute makeover! And I love learning about milk paint (finally!). It’s so fun to see you using this as a napkin holder on a buffet table. So Clever!

    Thanks for sharing at the Fabulous Friday Link Party. I’m so happy to be including it in our Features this week.

  6. A pony centerpiece, yay! You have a great eye for seeing the potential in items. Love how the milk paint adds to his character and gives him the look of having had a wonderfully storied past.

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