One of the best ways to ease into performance showing in photo and live shows is by acquiring the miniature tack and accessories to enter Breyer horses in halter showmanship classes. Showmanship in the real horse world is judged not on the horse's conformation but on the handler's ability to show or demonstrate the horse. While Western and English attire and halters are acceptable, most people showing in the real horse world in showmanship classes in North America don Western attire.
Getting Started in Halter Showmanship: Breyer Horses and Accessories
The basic requirements for a halter showmanship setup for photo or live shows includes:
- A model horse: A standing or walking horse makes the most sense, but with the right imagination and accessories a trotting horse can also do well. A galloping, jumping, rearing or bucking model may not do as well against calmly standing or walking models.
- A Western-style show halter: Western style show halters are made of leather.
- A lead shank: A lead shank attaches via a clip to the metal ring on the horse's halter and consists of a clip, chain, and leather strap attached at the end.
- Pattern: At live shows for model horses, it's not uncommon to see people leave printed patterns of the maneuvers the horse is intended to be led through next to their entries, and in photo shows some show associations require exhibitors to attach or describe the pattern.
Optional equipment includes:
- A handler doll: Breyer makes both male and female scale dolls suitable for use in halter showmanship classes. Note that some model horse shows require a doll, so read the rules of the show before entering to know whether or not you need the doll and clothing.
- Western show clothing: Proper Western show clothing is essential for the doll. The out of the box clothes that come with Breyer dolls may be suitable or if you're handy, you may want to sew a Western-style shirt for your Breyer model. A cowboy hat is a must!
- Props: Some Western showmanship classes use orange highway cones to mark the turns for patterns. In showmanship classes, handlers lead horses at a walk and trot through a memorized pattern (available ahead of time). Cones may be used to mark the section where the horse must be shown.
- Arena setup: An arena fence complete with sponsor signs, all made in the appropriate scale, and sand footing complete the realistic image of a show pen for photo show entries.
Considerations for Halter Showmanship Classes
In real halter showmanship classes, the judge walks around the animal to note its grooming and overall health. Make sure your model horse is squeaky clean by running a soft cloth over it, making sure to clean and dust all the crevices in manes and tails; this is the equivalent of bathing and clipping a real show horse. Likewide, in real halter showmanship classes, certain breeds are shown with loose, long manes and tails such as Arabians, while English-style hunter horses are typically braided, with at least the mane braided and preferably the mane and tail. Plastic models cannot be braided, but if you do have a horse with a braided mane and tail, opt for an English-style setup for the ultimate realistic touch.
Lastly, keep in mind that the show rules in real horse shows forbid the handler from physically touching the horse to guide or correct while it executes its showmanship pattern. Make sure your doll is holding the lead shank and not touching the horse to ensure your entry isn't disqualified. Remember, realism is the name of the game in model horse shows.