A beginner/novice guide to model horse showing

So, you've heard about showing model horses and are thinking about entering one.

Or, maybe your best friend has been showing and has talked you into coming to the next show.

Whether you're a spontaneous person, or a very organized one, you can have fun at a show.

But how well you do at the show, in the ring, may be based on how much research and preparation you do.


What can you expect at a live show?

Organized chaos, some might say.

Usually a show hall is set up with multiple "show tables" and additional tables for participants to stage their entries.

As a class is called, participants bring their entries to the table, set them up; and then they are judged, pinned and announced. Participants then clear their entries from one class and bring up the next. At the end of a grouping, there may be a championship judge off; often the horses who placed first or second in any class in that grouping return for championship judging.

A show may consist of one or more "divisions" running simultaneously on different sets of tables. Divisions are sometimes split as halter, performance, novice, workmanship, collectibility; halter may be split further by finish type and/or breed/type. A show may be only one division; e.g., "all halter", "all performance", "plastic only" or some other configuration.

Each division may have a separate class list, or all "similar" divisions may have the same list. Most shows do not share class lists with other shows. Get a copy of the show packet to know specifically what is scheduled for the show you'll attend. If you have questions, ask the show holder, before the show if at all possible.

For purposes of this article, only original finish (nominally plastic, china) will be discussed. For completeness, I'll just mention that original sculpture, customized, custom glaze, and artist resin are other types of finishes.

Breed types are groups of breeds by functionality, e.g., stock, sport, pony, draft, etc. One example of type break downs is here.

Most hobby participants are very friendly and helpful. And have different reasons for coming to the show. Some folks like to come to the show just to socialize. Others are intent on the action in the ring, and enjoy the accolades of success.


While is is possible to find a piece in your collection, put it on the table and come home with a championship, it's usually a bit more involved. For a first show, bringing no more than a dozen horses is suggested.

When a judge is looking at an OF piece for halter consideration, the two major things that come into play are the condition and breed assignment.

Condition refers in part to how "pristine" a piece is compared to when it came out of the factory. Has the piece been broken (and repaired)? Has it been well loved, and have rubs from wear on the ear tips and other "points"? Is it free of dust and cob webs? Even if not, gently wiping with a soft cloth, and/or using a makeup brush (like one used to apply rouge or powder) to remove some of the smaller specks might be a good idea, especially just before placing them in the ring.

There is also the matter of "factory flaws" that may be inherent in the piece, such as overspray from a masked off area that is not a crisp delineation, or excess flash from the seams that was not fully removed. Some showers can be extremely picky when selecting a piece for their show string.

Breed assignment deals with a horse's ABCs and what it most resembles in the real horse world. (ABCs refer to Anatomy, Biomechanics, and Conformation; full explanation is beyond the scope of this article.) Most breeds have a general description that addresses hair color, body shape and perhaps some aspect of conformation. An ewe neck is generally not desirable conformation, but a Akhal-Teke includes that as part of it's breed standard.

Finding a good reference book is important to finding a breed that well resembles the model. (Artist Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig has an extensive reference book list here.) For instance, a black horse-shaped object with no markings and feathers could perhaps show as Freisen, or maybe it's better suited as a Dales pony. In general, breed descriptions can be trusted for general information, but there may be exceptions that further documentation is suggested.

For instance, I once showed a horse as a Hanoverian; it had a belly spot, which most books definitions would exclude as the definition included only "solid" colors; but I had a letter from the Hanoverian Society that stated that a "small" spot would be acceptable in the breed. Without that additional documentation, many a judge might disqualify my horse based on the breed assignment of Hanoverian. If showing a horse as an unusual breed, providing description of the breed portrayed is often helpful to the judge. When entering a performance class, having a simple but effective description of the event being portrayed, which phase of the event the horse is portraying, can have a great affect on what placing the judge may give. Check your show packet for restrictions on the size and usage of reference information.

Also check the show packet for any per class limitations. Many shows limit the maximum number of horses a shower can show in one class to three. So if you have six "Paint" horses, perhaps some can be shown as "Mustang" instead.

To keep on track and record results, many showers create a horse list which includes the class(es) each horse will be entered in, and the placings from that class (if any).

Check the show packet for what identification is required and prohibited. Some shows allow a small merchandise tag on a string to be used for identification, with horse/owner identification on one side and breed/gender/age/color information on the other side with specifics on which side should be placed face up when the entry is put on the table. Some shows require a 3x5 card to be placed by the horse with horse/owner information which is collected to generate the results. In addition, some regional areas have a owner/horse identification system in place where each owner is assigned a 3-4 alphanumeric character identifier and then up to three digits are used to uniquely identify a horse. Some shows supply this identification; others require the owner to supply it. Specifics should be spelled out in the show packet.

Next, it's time to pack for the show. Here's a detailed article on packing and shipping.

Don't forget to get maps and directions for the show hall. Not to mention munchies and music to/from. Having paper and writing instrument is helpful to not only keep track of the days' showing, but also allow exchange of email addresses, web URLs, and phone numbers. And having a little spending money to enter the raffle is always fun.

At the Show

Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig has compiled an extensive article on Live Show Etiquette that is a good primer on community and "unwritten" expectations of behavior.

In general, remember the "Golden Rule" -- do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be friendly and flexible. Talk to folks and get to know your neighbors and ask questions. One important thing to note in any show is not to touch another's horses or props without first asking permission.

Allow plenty of time to get to the hall and unpack before the show starts. The show packet usually indicates what time "doors open" (and showers can enter to begin set up) and when "judging starts" (the first classes are called to the show tables).

If you run into problems, or have questions, please ask the show holder.

If you miss a class, don't worry. Most veteran showers are fortunate if they get all their horses into their classes, and often miss one or more at a show.

Above all, have fun.

After the Show

If at all possible, start packing horses for home as soon as they have finished their judging (and call backs) for the day. This will reduce the amount of time required at the end of the day to pack everything up to go home (or out to dinner with other showers).

Don't forget to leave without saying thank you to your neighbors and especially the show host.

If there is a show survey, please fill it out. It will help the show holder to understand any issues, and gather suggestions for future shows.

When you get home, don't forget to share your awards and memories.

Reviewing breed assignments and creatively thinking for the next show is always good form.

Enjoy your first show.

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