This was the post that got me thinking about model horse showing. Welcome Beth.
How A Billboard In Vienna Helped Win A Ribbon In Atlanta: The Wonderful Craziness of Model Horse Shows
by Beth Patterson
My name is Beth and I’m an addict. I’m addicted to plastic ponies. Not the ones from youth with the bent legs, broken ears and black marks all over from pretend fights with all the other ‘stallions’ but their upper crust-y kin. Children’s models gone high tech: re-painted coats, corrected conformation, tiny tack and scaled down show rings.
Many of us in the US and I’m sure others around the world grew up playing with plastic horses. Breyer, Schleich, Julip, and now Peter Stone are some of the larger companies I am aware of but I’m sure there are more in the world. Barbie had horses all the way back to my childhood 4 or 5 decades ago and she isn’t the only doll in the world who liked to ride! How many of us indulged our inner artist and crayoned or magic marker-d our horses to new colors or markings? I spent many a happy hour playing barn in our living room on the green and brown rug. And every one of us who had Barbies and horses probably tried to make her “ride” them which in my day resulted in a broken Barbie. Didn’t stop me from doing it again tho.
No judgment or prejudice intended, but my brand of choice was always Breyer. Imagine my surprise as I got older and continued collecting when I became aware of folks who “showed” their models! It started as photo shows. You would take a Polaroid of your model, list its name, breed and gender on the back or margin and mail it and an entry fee to the person running the show. They decided who ‘won’ the class and mailed photos back with their winning satin or paper ribbons. Performance classes were next; you put tiny tack on your model, maybe have scenery or props and model cows or dogs to add to the realism.
Then it all moved Live Halter classes by breeds, performance classes by type. Folks started to repaint and then add mohair to their models. Tack became more intricate. Props became fancy, and to an exact scale. Sizes were standardized, using Breyer sizes as reference. Traditional is 1:9, anything bigger is Large Traditional and they go down to micro minis at 1:64. And yep, tack goes all the way down as well!
Breyer, later part of Reeves International, started involving itself more directly with hobbyists in 1990 by hosting an annual get together called Breyerfest. By the mid 90’s they added what is now one of (in my opinion) the most competitive shows in this country and probably the world, the Breyerfest Open Show. If you collect model horses in any capacity then you need to come to Breyerfest at least once. Just to see the crazy.
The hobby continued to evolve and as molding became more flexible in its processes, output and cost some individual sculptors decided to try to expand the hobby margins. Of course there have always been horse sculptors, but these folks were specifically marketing to the plastic model collectors. The first molds I have found were derived from Breyer originals. Someone took their Breyer, used dremels, resin or filler putty and heat (to make the plastic malleable or bendy) and once they were done, used it to create a master mold. The master mold then was used to cast models to be sold. Of course this can create copyright issues so do not try this at home!
From this point things took off! Many changes came, some were embraced and others left along the wayside and now we have many different types of models giving all collectors something to enjoy.
At our live shows Original Finish (OF) models (right out of the box off the store shelf) by Breyer and others compete against each other, then there are customs. Customs (CM) take those OFs and repaint, possibly repose, sometimes drastically change them and show against each other. Artist Resins (AR) are original sculptures that are cast in volume for others to paint/change and then show. Custom Glazed (CMG) models take any of the prior listings (done in porcelain or bisque) and their finishes are colored then fired on in a kiln. Some sculptors prefer to work in the china world so there are OF Chinas as well. Add some tack and props and performance classes, in every possible type of genre. English, Hunter,Pleasure, Western, Arabian Costume, Harness and everything else you can imagine appear on the show class lists.
Halter classes, performance classes, but what about rare models? Collectiblity classes were added. Models judged on their rarity, condition and desirability. What about all those repainted/changed models? Workmanship classes are available too. They consider the quality and execution of the work, the accuracy of the color and the correctness of any changes. No adding extra joints to legs, they must be anatomically sound. And usually anatomically correct too, which is a change from the old Breyers I grew up with!
Let me show you some examples, because pictures are fun! [note: all pictures here are my own, or were taken for me by artists. Please ask before using them for anything commercial. Just to share with a friend is fine, and some are available on Pinterest for those that frequent that site. All conceptual work is the property of the various artists]
Cedarfarm Wixom – this is an OF model by Breyer. This mold is now commonly called Wixom by hobbyists and is much loved for customization.
Customization in progress, by a lovely lady in England named Sophia. Our community is international!
Close up of the CM work on the mouth
Ah, an issue once it gets to the painter. Steph Michaud is one of the masters in our hobby! The overlay adds a section showing the problem with the stifle which she fixed before painting
The finished product!
I did mention ribbons, and a show in Atlanta Georgia? Way back when? Well those of us who show in the Halter (aka “Breed”) classes are always on the lookout for pictures and reference material to bolster our claim that a particular model we are showing is a shining example of its listed breed. You enter your horse with its documentation in a class for others of its kind. The best example of the breed wins. The first and second place finishers advance to their Section finals. Those two also receive a nomination to the North American Nationals (NAN), held annually for all the best models to compete head to head from across North America!
So the best Tennessee Walkers (TWH) and the best Missouri Fox Trotters and the best Saddlebreds (ASB) all move to the Gaited Section finals. And those two best finishers go on to the Division Final to compete for Best Custom (or Artist Resin, or China) and THOSE two best finishers go on to Best In Show. I will tell you honestly that the ‘real’ horse world has got nothing on us model horse folks! One model show will expose you to more rare breeds, more un-gelded adult male horses, more weird and rare colors than you can imagine in your wildest dreams! Stallions galore, brindle coloring and weird roans and combinations you only dream of like Shetland/Shire crosses… as long as you can document that it exists, its valid to show.
Here is a picture of the guy from above, named “Da Bomb” with his paper ribbon for winning his breed class, his satin ribbon for winning his section, a big ole rosette for “Champion Custom” and his green NAN card showing he qualified for Nationals for the next four years. You can also see his documentation, showing he is representing the French version of the Percheron. American Percherons are leggier, lighter and have a more refined head. British Percherons have their own standards too, different from the others.
So this summer I bought this gorgeous model and then start wracking my brain for how in the world to get him into some breed classes. What in the world can I do to document his appearance and conformation?
And just three days later, like magic, I see this from my cyberfriend Ellen! Invictus’ twins in modern day advertising! Quick as a wink I emailed to ask if I could borrow her picture for my show coming up in Atlanta! As soon as I got a yes, I put together my documentation and packed my printout.
Voila! Not a NAN qualifying win but a very very good showing for his very first class ever. Third place is a great result with the large number of entrants that were at this show. His class was a conglomeration of all “other” Spanish horses AND all “other” Gaited Horses, only excluding TWH/ASB and Andalusian/Lusitano, so he was up against many proven winners and lots of new contenders. I don’t have an entry count but I’m sure there were at least 20 horses in the class.
He was only beaten by another new Resin of mine and by my friend Natalie’s Criollo who went on to win Champion Artist Resin. I think we can say his show career started off with a bang! And since every show has different judges, different competition, different lighting you can expect different results. I’m confident he will NAN qualify before the year is done.
Postscript: Augustus Invictus NAN qualified and won a Reserve Championship at the Palmetto State Live, the next spring in Jenkinsville SC. However, in the end, Invictus did not attend Nationals. All the trailer stalls were taken by stablemates able to compete in multiple classes.
I, too, put the Viennese billboard to good use. Observant readers may recall seeing it in Living Digitally: Fundraising Viennese Style, a Guest Post. RS