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Performance Showing Model Horses in Live or Photo Shows

Get Started Showing Your Breyer Horses in Western or English Performance Classes


Breyer model horse with halter and lead held by a scale handler in western dress.

Showing Breyer horses and model horses in performance classes includes showmanship.

Photo Courtesy Kollean Gouyton Copyright 2010 Used With Permission

How can you show a Breyer model horse or any model horse in a so-called "performance" class? After all, the word performance implies motion, and model horses are static, frozen in one place. Model horses do indeed show in both photo and live model horse shows in English and Western performance, as well as in a wide range of Native Costume classes, harness classes, and more.

The Horse Show World

Among owners of living, breathing equines, it's common to begin showing their horses in performance classes rather than halter classes. Usually real horses are shown in-hand or in halter showmanship classes in breed associations where the horse's breed characteristics help them earn points and status as pedigreed stock. The average horse owner who attends a few shows per year for pleasure usually shows in performance classes at small local shows. They may show in equitation classes, which are judged on the rider's position and ability rather than the horse's appearance, or Western shows that judge the skills of rider, horse or both, such as barrel racing, trail classes, reining and more. The average backyard horse carries his rider over fences or through simple reining patterns but probably wouldn't do well in the show pen among the fancier specimens of his breed, if he's even a pure bred horse.

Model Horse Shows

Most model horse collectors, on the other hand, begin by showing their models in halter classes, breed classes and color classes because no tack or special equipment is required. Collectors assign breeds and pedigrees to their models, so purebred horses abound in model horse shows. Breed classes are the norm rather than the exception. It also helps that you can begin photo showing with an affordable original finish Breyer horse right out of the box using a simple backdrop made with an old tablecloth or bedsheet and a digital camera. Nothing fancy required!

As your participation in live and photo shows for model horses grows, you may be curious about performance classes. After viewing photographs of breathtaking models and tack sets, you may be tempted to begin showing in performance classes.

Starting Performance Showing on a Budget

Performance showing costs more than halter-only showing because of the investment in tack (saddles, bridles, blankets, harnesses and accessories), rider dolls, clothing for the rider dolls, scale vehicles such as sleighs and wagons, cows and calves for Western performance, trail accessories, jumps and more. There are a few ways that you can get started in performance classes without breaking your budget.

  • Focus on low-investment performance classes. Halter showmanship requires a show halter and lead rope. A doll in the proper scale, dressed in Western or English show attire, adds a lovely realistic touch but isn't necessary. You can have the lead shank stretched off camera so the handler is "off screen".
  • Use Breyer model horse tack. Breyer produces Traditional scale tack that's fine as entry-level tack for photo showing. As your interest in performance showing increases, you may want to invest in better tack by some of the hobby's finest miniature tack makers, or purchase tack making kits or books to make your own.
  • Choose one model horse scale for your first performance show classes. By selecting one scale such as Traditional or Classic scale, you can obtain several saddles, bridles and accessories in the proper scale. Stretching your tack budget across several scales may force you to purchase inferior quality tack. Focus on quality and one scale to get started. The most common scales for performance classes are Traditional, Classic and Stablemate scale, although you can find custom-made Little Bits/Paddock Pal (4" scale) and micro mini (1" and smaller) tack.
  • Start with one discipline: Western or English. If you've taken horseback riding lessons, you'll know the difference. Western style features a more relaxed seat and a saddle with a horn; think of a cowboy, and that's Western style. English style features the rider seated in a more forward position, with a slim saddle without a horn. Think of fox hunting pictures you may have seen and that's English style. Either style is popular for model horse shows, but by choosing just one to get started, you can focus your tack acquisitions more easily. If you've ridden one style in real life, start with that one since you probably know intuitively how the saddle and bridle should fit and what you'll need for at least basic setups.
  • Visit the horse show associations for each discipline to learn the rules. Read books from the library on dressage, English huntsseat, English equitation, Western reining, Western games and various classes. Learn all you can and find good reference photos of champion horses to see how tack should fit and what items are required for proper show turn out.

How much it costs to begin performance showing really varies with your choices, but expect to pay as little as $10-$15 for a simple Breyer manufactured halter and lead set and about that much for a doll from Breyer such as Brenda Breyer already outfitted in proper show attire. Breyer actually makes male and female rider dolls that are easily positioned on their horses to mimic proper riding position, and outfits for rider dolls so that your little show string can be properly turned out. These items are available at toy stores, major retailers, and online stores nationwide.

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