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Getting Started in Live Model Horse Shows

Meet collectors and compete in horse shows with your model horses


Artist resin model horses ready for a live model horse show.

Artist Resin model horse ready for a live show.

Photo copyright 2010 Jeanne Grunert, Licensed to About.com Inc.

The lure of the show ring beckons to most serious model horse collectors at one time or another. Model horses enthusiasts show their model horses in competitions with rules based on actual equine competitions. Live model horse shows entail packing up the model collection and driving to a central location for a fun-filled day of showing, meeting fellow collectors, and possibly buying and selling model horses.

Selecting the Show String for Live Model Horse Shows

Not all model horses are created equal. Model horse shows are highly competitive. While cleverly lighting and angles can disguise flaws on photo shown horses, horses intended for live shows will come under close, careful scrutiny from the show judge. Consider the following when choosing which models to bring to a live show from among the collection:

  • Condition: The overall body condition must be perfect. Cracks, chips, broken ears and tails may result in automatic dismissal. The model should have no rubs or paint flaws. Check for seams, too, especially on original finish models. While some seams can't be helped, they should not be very large or noticeable.
  • Breed Characteristics: Entrants must note the model's breed on their entry papers and many models are shown in breed classes. Determine how closely the model horse exhibits the characteristics of the intended breed by using reference books and comparing the model to photographs. If selecting a rare and unusual breed that the judge may not be familiar with, bring a reference book to the show or a photocopy of the page describing the breed.
  • Suitability: For performance classes, model horses must be outfitted with the proper saddle, bridle, and saddle pad. Some classes such as roping or cutting call for a cow or calf model placed in a diorama scene. Look carefully at the model and be prepared to tell the judge exactly what the horse is doing in the class. For example, a standing horse may be entered in a jumping class, but don't put the model with his nose to the fence, he's supposed to be jumping. In real equine competitions that's called a refusal and may mean instant disqualification. Instead, an imaginary scene to make the standing horse suitable for the class may be Horse has finished the course and is standing in the center, saluting the judge or something like that. Consider the gait, position, and pose of the model. Rearing horses won't place well in halter or pleasure classes where a calm demeanor is a requirement for the class, while a trotting pose works well in almost all halter and performance classes.

Spending Money Doesn't Always Mean Winning

One of the great things about collecting model horses is that spending lots of money on a collection doesn't always mean winning blue ribbons. There are many stories of collectors buying inexpensive mini plastic models that happen to be in excellent condition and taking home the ribbons. Focus on quality and presentation, selecting the appropriate breed and entering the model in suitable classes.

Preparing for a Live Show

After selecting the models to bring to a live show, give them a good dusting with a soft, clean cloth. Rinsing under running water removes stubborn dust, although be careful with customized models that sport acrylic or mohair tails. Pack in soft cloth or special carrying cases sold for show models. Sticky wax, or museum wax available from craft and hobby stores, is used to keep tiny bits and bridle parts in place for performance classes and is a must for live shows. Many hobbyists outfit a small fishing tackle box with their live show supplies such as dusting cloth, brush, sticky wax and other tools for last minute touch-ups.

Show Etiquette: What to Expect

Most model horse shows provide cafeteria tables or small folding tables with a cloth over them for each entrant to set up her show string. Models are unpacked and wait until entrants are called to the show table, where they're given a set amount of time to set up their horses and displays. After judging, models are removed from the table by each entrant and brought back to the entrant's table. When placing models on the table, never line them up directly next to each other without putting something soft in between, such as a folded cloth. If one model tips, they all go over like dominoes, which can result in chips, cracks and scrapes on show days. Stagger their placement or gently lay them on their sides on folded towels until ready to show.

Never touch or pick up another collector's model without permission. Do not comment on other people's models in the show ring and keep conversation low near the judging. Of course it's fine and fun to socialize among the entrants! Many entrants bring photo albums of their real horses, pets and more to share with friends they may have only met online.

For more about live model horse shows and to find shows near you, visit the North American Model Horse Show Association.

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