Model horse showing

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Model horse showing is a hobby built around the collection of scale model horses, with equal focus on honoring the (live) horse show industry as well as the artistic merit of the miniatures.

Classes & Divisions[edit]

Model horse shows consist primarily of two divisions: Halter and Performance. There are both Halter-only and Performance-only shows, though many larger shows will include both. Halter can be further broken down into smaller divisions based on material to equalize the different fields of craftsmanship. Common sub-sections include:

  • OF Plastic or Original Finish Plastic, refers to the original plastic horses produced by companies such as the Breyer Horse Company or the Peter Stone Company. Many shows now further break this down to give separate classes to Breyer and Stone Company horses.
  • OF China/Resin or Original Finish Chinas and Resins, refers to professionally produced porcelain horses produced by companies such as Animal Artistry, Pour Horse Pottery, or Alchemy Fine China.
  • CM China or Custom Glazed Chinas, refers to professionally produced porcelain horses that have been individually re-glazed.
  • Artist Resin refers to professionally produced resin models which have been individually painted by professional or amateur artists.
  • Simple Custom typically refers to OF Plastic horses that have been repainted, haired, or minimally resculpted, regardless of original material or manufacturer, where the original mold can still be identified. It implies minimal customization, generally limited to a repaint.
  • Drastic Custom typically refers to OF Plastic horses that have been repainted, haired, or drastically resculpted, regardless of original material or manufacturer, where the original mold generally cannot be identified. It implies heavy customization.

Halter Division[edit]

These classes evaluate how a model represents the actual breed of horse. The divisions and judging criteria are derived from their real-life counterparts. Although known as "Halter", no tack or costume is required on the model, and it is generally omitted.

Collectibility Division[edit]

These classes evaluate the rarity and condition of models. Documentation as to why a given model is collectible (i.e. very low number produced, very hard to find due to age, etc.) is often presented with the entry. Some shows require documentation. Models in this division are always Original Finish models.

Workmanship Division[edit]

These classes evaluate the finishwork of the model. Preparation work on the model before final painting, any re-sculpting work, and final painting are all considered. These models are never Original Finish models.

Performance Division[edit]

The Performance classes focuses more on the model, its pose, and its suitability to real-life tasks. Common classes include:

  • English Performance, where models are placed in simple dioramas reflecting the events of traditional English Hunter/Jumper competitions.
  • Western Performance, with divisions for stock work (cutting, roping), rodeo, reining and trail work as well as traditional western classes such as pleasure, horsemanship and trail.
  • Other Performance, often includes the Costume class, where a model is judged by both its own conformation as well as the accuracy and craftsmanship of the costume it wears.

Live Shows[edit]

"Live shows" involve traveling to a given location to present one's model horses in person, alongside the models of other hobbyists. There is usually an entry fee, but most shows will accept multiple payment options. At most live shows the exhibitors are allowed to sell models, tack, and other related items.

Photo Shows[edit]

"Photo showing" is a way of showing one's model horse and/or pony collection without taking it to a live show and is also a way of depicting a scene with one's model horse.

Photo showing originated in the 1960s as an alternative to "live" showing. Photo showing involves taking photographs of the models and emailing or snail-mailing them to the "show holder" (the person who has agreed to organize and judge the show) to be judged alongside photos submitted by other entrants.

Photo shows may be open to the public or may be offered through model horse clubs, when they are open only to club members and often award points that count toward awards based on annual and/or cumulative winnings. Clubs usually have a standard class listing that is used for each show. In any case, the numbers of the classes in which the hobbyist wishes to enter her horse are written on the back of the photograph. Once the photographs arrive at the show holder's house, she sorts them by class number, starting with the lowest number. As each class is judged, she re-sorts them into the next class according to the next highest number on the list.

Although each judge has her own preferences, the criteria for placing include the model's biomechanical correctness, breed type (how well the model suits the breed that the hobbyist has chosen for it), condition, presentation, and photo quality. Although there is some difference of opinion, most hobbyists consider the primary intent of photo showing to be evaluation of the model itself and not of the photographic skill or artistic sensibilities of the photographer, although consideration of these is taken.

Most photographs show a full side view of the model. Presentation is a matter of taste. Some judges prefer a very plain background (often solid sky-blue or tan) and others prefer a more realistic one (enlarged photographs of pastures or farm scenes are common), but it is important that the horse not blend into the backdrop and that the footing, which is often sand, kitty litter, or some sort of false turf, not obscure the model's hooves and legs. It is also important that the footing, backdrop, and any props such as fences or plants used in the photograph be in scale. It is extremely important that the model be in focus and that the lighting be clear, bright, and even, without stark shadows or heavy off-color overtones. Ideal outdoor lighting conditions usually involve bright but not direct sunlight, which can be difficult to obtain. Many hobbyists resort to setting up small indoor studios with special photo lamps. There are hobbyists who work as professional photographers within the hobby but most exhibitors do their own work.

Model horses may be photo shown in both halter and performance classes. The judging criteria necessarily differ somewhat. While the judge is still looking for a good-quality photograph that shows the model clearly, performance photos also concert correctness of equipment (saddles, bridles, jumps, racing barrels, safety gear, etc.) and whether or not the horse would be performing in a correct, safe, and "legal" manner (according to the guidelines of the governing body of a given sport) if it were a real horse. Model horse performance guidelines follow those of real-horse breed and performance organizations.

The increased availability of digital cameras, and increased familiarity with computer photography programs and the Internet have added new dimensions to photo showing. Some hobbyists have begun to offer online photo shows in which photos are emailed to the show-holder, along with class number listings for each photograph. The show-holder then sorts them and uploads them to a website so they can be judged as would an ordinary photo show.

Alteration of photographs, such as touching up visible damage to the model or drawing in missing pieces of tack, has long been frowned upon within the hobby and is often grounds for disqualification from the show. This applies to film as well as digital photographs. In digital photography, fixing poor exposures or discoloration caused by imperfect lighting are usually permitted but nothing else. Many online show judges examine entries for signs of digital tampering.