Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More About Callbacks

Always, always, always bring your second place models and reserve champions up for a callback. People will tell you that judges only look at first place and championship horses when picking champs and overall. I couldn’t disagree more! As a judge, I want to pick the two best horses at the show for my overall champ and reserve. So what if they were in the same class or section?

However, a judge won’t skip over a first place or champ horse to do this. If they decided one horse was better than another within a class or section, they shouldn't change their mind during a callback. A judge can only pick a second place or reserve horse for reserve or overall reserve and then only if the first place or champ horse that beat it wins champ or overall champ.

Clear as mud, right? As an example, let’s say I’m judging the Stock horse section callback. I’m torn between four horses: the first and second place paints and the first and second place mustangs. I like them all and would love to give them all rosettes (the big fluffy ribbons.) If I want, I can choose the first and second paints as champ and reserve respectively. I could do the same for the first and second place mustangs. However, if I chose the first place paint for champ, I cannot choose the second place mustang (or vice versa.)


Performance champs are usually a little different. Many judges choose overall and reserve based on points. Because performance horses show in several classes, they could have won several of each type of ribbon. Each place (1st, 2nd, 3rd on down) is assigned a point value with more points won for higher placings. The judge counts each horse’s points then awards champ and reserve to the first and second highest point totals.

Yesterday I mentioned that workmanship and collectibility are sometimes sections within a division. In this case, a judge may also choose their overall champ and reserve based on points. If a few horses stood out--winning both their green and yellow card sections--the judge will pick between them. Showers like this system because it is perceived to be more "fair" and shows that the judges has been consistent in her decisions throughout the day.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Show Structure and Callbacks

All shows follow the same basic structure. First, there are divisions. A large two-day show could have more than 10, while a small specialty show** may only have one or two. Divisions are separated by make (what is the body made out of? Plastic, resin, or china?), finish (was the model painted at a factory or by an artist?), company (Breyer or Stone), card-color, or scale. And sometimes, all of the above. Mini custom Breyer halter is a real division featured at this year’s Breyerfest.

Divisions are often them broken down into sections. In breed classes, the sections are usually Foals, Light, Stock, Sport, Draft, Pony, and Other breeds. Sections then break down into classes. For example, the Stock section usually looks like this:

CM1. Quarter Horse
CM2. Appaloosa
CM3. Paint
CM4. Mustang
CM5. Other Part/Pure Stock

The last class, “Other Part/Pure Stock” is a common catchall class. Not all stock horses fit into the first four classes. Rare breeds and crosses go into this class.

Performance sections are usually split by discipline, i.e. all western classes are a section, all English are another section, etc. Workmanship and collectibility vary wildly and are sometimes included as sections with an OF, custom, or resin division.

After each section, there is a callback. All first and second place horses are brought back to the table so the judge can chose a section champion and reserve champion. When you see ads mentioning a horse has won a championship, they usually mean a section champion.

A Stock section callback

After all the sections have been judged, there is a championship callback. All the models that have won a champ or reserve in the same division are called to the table so an overall (aka grand) champ and reserve can be chosen.

**A specialty show is held to feature one corner of the hobby. Common themes are performance only, OF halter only, custom finish halter only, Breyer only, Stone only, stock horse only, draft horse only, etc. Many of these shows are small with only a handful of showers and can be held in a living room or garage. However, not all specialty shows are small. Fantastic Plastic Classic and Evergreen Custom Classic are large annual specialty shows.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Workmanship Classlists

I've seen workmanship classlists organized three basic ways: by color, by breed, and by degree of alteration.

By degree of alteration, I mean the style of customizing (etching vs. repainting) and the amount of changes to the original body (simple custom vs. drastic custom). This type of classlist is only seen for custom models. Resculpting is uncommon on custom glazes or artist resins. This classlist, from Red River Live, is typical:

Custom Workmanship
G1 - Repaint Only Trad Scale
G2 - Repaint Only Classic Scale
G3 - Repaint Only SM Scale
G4 - Etched Models Trad Scale
G5 - Etched Models Classic Scale
G6 - Etched Models SM Scale
G7 - Simple Custom Trad Scale
G8 - Simple Custom Other Scale
G9 - Major Custom Trad Scale
G10 - Major Custom Other Scale
G11 - Unrealistic Custom

These classes are also further broken out by scale. Red River Live is an established show held by an experienced show holder, who anticipated that the Etched and Repaint only classes would be the most popular. As a result, she split Etched and Repaint into three scales while Simple and Major custom are split into only two scales.

This kind of classlist is popular in Region 5. It works really well when most showers are familiar with the definitions of each class and know where most of their models go without asking a judge. We experimented with this kind of classlist in Region 1 didn't end well. Because so few showers were unfamiliar with this system, we didn't have enough mentors to teach which models went where and why.

Traditionally, Region 1 uses the same system as NAN. We split by color. Because this is the system NAN has chosen in recent years, this is the most common kind of classlist you will see. This example is from Rose City Live, where I judged a couple weekends ago:

Simple Custom Workmanship
S28 Bay
S29 Black/Brown
S30 Chestnut/Sorrel
S31 All Grey
S32 Palomino/Buckskin
S33 Roan
S34 Dun/Grulla
S35 Other Color
S36 Pinto - Tobiano Pattern
S37 Pinto - Other Pattern
S38 Appaloosa Pattern

Seems much simpler than the previous list, right? Yes and no. Would you put a tobiano roan in tobiano or roan? Does varnish roan go in Appaloosa or roan? What about a minimally expressed pintos that don't have body white?

Rags to Riches first foal. Like her mom, a minimally expressed sabino.

As a general rule, pinto trumps solid colors (including roan) and oddball colors (zebra stripes, brindle) trumps everything else. "Pinto" only includes horse with body white, so the baby above would show in chestnut. All Appaloosa colors (varnish, snowflake, blanket, leopard) show together. Roan only includes dark head roans and rabicanos. If you're still confused about where your horse should show, always ask the judge.

The final split, by breed, is my personal favorite. Horse are called up for their breed classes and are "double-judged," meaning two people judge the class at the same time. One looks at workmanship, while the other evaluates realism and conformation.

Double-judging is quicker because every horse only has to go on the table once. Also, it's an instant second opinion. If one judge doesn't care for your models, the other may have a more positive opinion. The downside is judges are often in too short supply to arrange this kind of classlist.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What is Live Show Quality?

Pronounced L-S-Q (you will rarely hear someone say live-show-quality) this term has been used so frequently and stretched so far from it original meaning, that it’s surprising it’s still used at all.

On the low end, it’s a meaningless marketing term thrown into every ad on MH$Ps. On the high end, it means 100% certified quality: stick it on the table and watch the ribbons roll in.

A few years ago, the incomparable Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig wrote a very thorough definition of what the term means to her. She is describing the pinnacle of realism and the ideal artists strive for:

Live Show Quality Guidelines

It's a great article and well worth the read. I don’t agree with all of her opinions on conformation, but this is a good example of the varied and contrasting opinions you will encounter in the world of live showing.

This is your reading assignment for the weekend. There won’t be a pop quiz on Monday, but I’d like talk more about workmanship next week and this article is a good starting point.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Placing Your Models in the Ring

More helpful tips from guest blogger Tiffany Birkinbine:

If a show hall has varied lighting then evaluate a table’s lighting before the show begins. If you have a horse with a ghost scratch or small flaw, place your model in a darker area. This will help keep the judge from seeing it as well compared to an overhead light emphasizing the flaw. However, if you have a model that has beautiful detail and the table has an area that is highlighted more by lighting then place your model in that area so that your model’s detail can be highlighted better.

I always try to find a spot on a table that isn’t real close to a Trad so that the bigger model doesn’t overwhelm them. Sometimes that is not possible in a big class but if there are other stablemates in the class I try to set my models next to them. It’s all about making sure the judge can get a good view of my model and not get lost in the crowd.

in: As a judge, I love to see a class organized like this. If the class is big and the minis are already grouped, it encourages me to split the class into big guys and minis.

To help stablemates stand out and not get lost among the Trads in a class; place them on a base. You can buy beveled wooden bases at a hobby store for about a dollar. For some added touches, paint or stain your base, glue on model train grass or dirt, add flowers, tall grass or rocks. All of this can be bought at hobby stores or model train shops. Just make sure it’s not so heavily decorated that it detracts from the model and also check your show’s rules as some shows do not allow bases.

Laura in: You may also want to check with the judge. Some judges like them, some judges hate them, and some are indifferent.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Crossbreeds and Grade Assignments

Programming notes: Friday posts are getting to be one too many things in my already packed schedule. Regular posts will be Monday through Thursday. This post was also meant to go up yesterday, but was delayed because of Internet problems. Is anyone else having issues with the new Firefox, or is it just me?

Showing models as crossbreeds has its advantages and pitfalls. At many shows, they get a class to themselves, which is can be smaller than the purebred classes. Do you have a long conga of the same mold? Crossbreeds can allow you to spread them out through multiple classes.

Many molds, especially OFs, aren’t an exact replica of any breed. Companies like Breyer and Stone often stick implausible colors on molds, then leave it up to us to justify the combination of body type and color. In many cases, no purebred assignment can account for both body and color.

Over the years, I've collected a series of guidelines for showing crossbreeds. They aren't all universally accepted, but I think they increase the chances of success.

Limit your fractions

Since a horse only has two parents, you can only use half fractions--and halves of halves--and halves of halves of halves…and so on. That means 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, and 1/16. You can go smaller, but it’s not necessary. If a horse is only 1/16 one breed, that’s enough DNA to contributed a color gene but little to body type.

Include both halves

This is another difference between real world and model horse showing. Real horses (especially breed shows) often allow horses to be shown in halter as half-something without listing the other half. But real world judges don’t have to analyze realism or consider if a cross could possibly come in that color.

If you don’t list the other half, you leave it up to the judge to make-up, and that will rarely be to your advantage. An Arabian/Welsh Pony cross would look drastically different than an Arabian/Clydesdale or Arabian/QH cross. The right assignment can get a judge to look at a mold in a new light and forgive what they have previously thought of as a flaw in the mold.

Stick to believable crosses

Some crosses are more likely than other. Two members of different rare breeds may never meet in real life, let alone create a foal. Some crosses are unlikely because they’re impractical (Miniature to large draft horse) or the result is undesirable. Common, function crosses generally fair better than random-bred horses. They often have their own registries that have created a standard from which a model horse judge can work.

Always, always, always document

This is two fold: 1) Research allows you to discover if a theoretical cross really looks they way you assume it would, and 2) including the right photo can convince the judge that your model is an authentic representation of a real horse.

Finding the right photo can be tough if the cross doesn’t have its own supporting registry. Google image search can be hit or miss, so I often turn to online classified sites like Dreamhorse and EquineNow. These sites allow you to search by color and breed (and include secondary breeds.)

Remember, every cross has its devoted fans

And some of those fans are judges. (I have seen hundreds of QH/Morgan crosses. I know what they look like and how they move--you have been warned.)

No model horse is grade

“Grade” means a horse who’s parentage is unknown or mixed beyond recognition. Since we’re just talking about plastic ponies, their parentage is all unknown and it’s our job to make it up. I strongly dislike using “grade” as an assignment, even when the horse in question is a portrait model. This assignment doesn’t help your model at all, which is the job of a good breed assignment. As a judge, I tend to translate “grade” to mean “I gave up.”

Going back to last week’s Flash post, imagine one was shown as a “Grade Pony.” Maybe Flash is the perfect representation of a specific pony of hopelessly mixed heritage. But why would I pick a model with essentially no breed assignment over a model with an accurate breed assignment?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Breed Assignments: Flash

This is my first experiment with a new feature. I’ve chosen to photograph four of my own horses for a virtual class. My goal is to highlight what I look for as a judge and the challenges I face as a shower.

Since today’s post is just about breed assignment, I’ve removed realism and basic conformation from the picture by using four horses of the same mold: Flash. This mold is nice example of a few things: A) he’s another example of a mold that doesn’t show well as the breed it’s meant to depict and B) he’s pretty generic and can shown as a number of different breeds.

Not all breed assignments are created equal. Some assignments are easier because the breed is common (or at least popular in the hobby) and no documentation is required. Some more obscure breeds can be researched with some ease via popular breed books. Other breeds are almost unheard of and may require you to speak a foreign language to track down enough information about them. For this post, I’ll be including levels of difficulty for each assignment.

Horse #1:

Breed: Morgan
Difficulty: Moderate to High

The difficulty here is justifying the pinto, pattern, and the body type for this assignment. Difficulty gets exponentially higher when you’re looking for all these characteristics in one real life example.

Horse #2:

Breed: Connemara cross
Diffculty: Easy

This is the breed assignment of the original mold, the breed is considered common, and the color is well known in Connemaras.

Horse #3:

Breed: New Forest Pony
Diffuculty: Moderate

The trick with this assignment is his color. In the US, this color is called buckskin but in Europe (and by the Connemara registry) it’s called dun. Genetically, the terms dun and buckskin refer to completely different colors that look vaguely similar. This issue gets substantially cloudier because most Americans (including the Buckskin Regisrty…which you’d think would know better) also call dun “buckskin.”

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

Horse #4:

Breed: Quarter Pony
Difficulty: Easy

A common breed in its most common color. No documentation needed, right? (Wrong…I’ll get to this in a minute.)

Feel free to take a minute and decide for yourself how you’d place this class (and feel free to post your placings in the comments. Don’t be afraid to disagree with mine just because it’s my blog.)


All done? Okay, my turn:

Forth place - Connemara cross

This is the most common mistake I see new showers make. If you are going to show a horse as a cross, please tell me what is was crossed with. I know in the real world that sometimes you don’t know a crossbreed’s exact mix, but these aren’t real horses. We’re making things up, so you might as well make up the other half, too. Saying a horse is just half one breed, but not another is kinda like doing half of your homework. (I’ll come back to crosses in more detail tomorrow.)

Third place - Morgan

Let’s say this horse was shown with photos of this horse and this horse for documentation. The documentation demonstrates that, although rare, pure-bred Morgans can both be overo and have dark legs on a palomino. A for effort, but his color isn’t my problem with this assignment. The Flash mold lacks several essential characteristics that make the Morgan unique. To make a better Morgan, his neck should be longer, arched, and cresty with a cleaner (thinner) throatlatch. His head should be longer with a petit muzzle and larger, hooked ears. To his credit, Flash has a compact, athletic body with those lovely massive Morgan feet I adore on my own mare.

The Ideal Morgan Stallion

Second Place - Quarter Pony

The Quarter Pony is a developing breed and their registry is open to horses of unknown parentage. As a result, you’ll see a lot of registered Quarter Ponies that look like Flash, athletic and generic. However, the registry specifically requires that “ponies must be easily recognizable as having characteristics of quarter-type or quarter bred ponies.” Again, the neck and head are an issue. His neck and headset should be much lower. Muzzle should be smaller and the head finer overall. I’d like to see larger hindquarters, as a Quarter Pony is ideally just a short Quarter Horse.

Having said that, judges are susceptible to persuasion. You can find numerous examples of athletic ponies of mixed heritage that are registered as Quarter Ponies and resemble Flash. A great photo showing a real life example makes a strong argument to a judge.

First Place - New Forest Pony

For once, a breed assignment that fits Flash’s head and neck! While you can find exceptions, short pony-eque necks and course boxy heads are common within the breed. Athletic bodies with horse like proportions are increasingly becoming the norm outside of the New Forest, as these native breeds have increasingly been bred for dressage, hunt, and jumping.

The trick with New Forest Ponies is that this is one of those breeds people think they know because they show up in a lot of breed books. Body types vary with Shetland pony-like proportions (long bodies, short legs) on one end and mini warmbloods (below) on the other extreme. As a shower, you have no control over which type a judge has in mind at the start of the day, but you can influence them to reassess their assumptions through good documentation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Model Halter vs. Real Halter: Pt. 3

Color is a constant issue in model horse showing. Unlike horse breeders, Stone, Breyer, and independent artists aren’t restricted in any way as to color. We don’t have to worry about those silly genetics. We can just pick something pretty and run with it! As a result, it falls to the shower to research a breed that matches the body type of the model and comes in the same color.

Breed books are an okay start, but they have an unfortunate tendency to be unspecific unclear, and inaccurate. Luckily, hobbyist Leslie Kathman has created a handy-dandy guide just for this purpose. Beyond that, there’s good ol’ Google Image Search, which is where you’ll eventually end up anyway trying to find photos for documentation.

As I mentioned on Monday, colors are often eliminated from a breed’s gene pool over time. Sometimes the color gradually withers away as a side effect of selecting for unrelated characteristics. Other times, the color is bred out intentionally because the color is considered undesirable. Registries will often take this one step further by not allowing horses that are the “wrong” color to be registered or approved. This is the case with the Friesian registry, which does not approve non-black animals for breeding.

The AQHA used to have a similar rule denying papers to foals with “excessive white markings.” Colonels Smokin Gun (Gunner) was one such foal:

If he’d been born on the wrong farm a few decades earlier, Gunner would have been just another overly white foal to quietly “disappear.” Instead, he was registered with the APHA, despite coming from two QH parents.

That was until a few year ago, when the AQHA passed the following:
A horse having white markings with underlying light skin beyond any one of the following described lines shall be eligible for registration by AQHA only if it is parentage verified through DNA typing the offspring, its sire and its dam. Breeders should be aware that the American Quarter Horse, while long recognized, identified and promoted as a solid-colored horse, can and does occasionally produce offspring with overo paint characteristics. Such markings are uncharacteristic of the breed and are considered to be undesirable traits.
In other words, they are happy to take your money in exchange for papers as long as you keep your pintos out of their halter classes.

And in the model world, chaos ensued.

On the one hand, we’ve always allowed unusual colors like chestnut Friesians, as long as they had appropriate documentation. Now, we have a rule that says they’re allowed but at the same time says they’re undesirable. What’s a model horse judge to do?

There isn’t a tidy answer for this problem and different judges have interpreted this rule in their own way. At this time, pinto QHs appear on a regular basis in at live shows. Disqualification is always a risk, but never a certainty.

Just speaking for myself, I disqualify them. I know its sounds hypocritical given my post from Monday and my allowance of other “undesirable” colors such as cremello QHs and chestnuts Friesians. However, we already have a separate class for pinto stock horses: the Paint class. In my opinion, a pinto shown in the Quarter Horse class is in the wrong class.

The primary reason you see pintos shown in the QH class has nothing to do with registry rules: the shower is trying to move their horse into a sometimes less competitive class. With few exceptions, the pintos seen in QH classes are minimally marked. The Paint class, for better or worse, frequently rewards loudly marked horses, putting these models at a disadvantage (which is also why you probably won’t see someone trying to show a solid-colored horse as a breeding stock paint.) This is especially true for custom-finish divisions, where workmanship and finish play a larger part in breed classes. Just as the louder patterns dominate in the paint class, these minimal marked models get a leg up against solid-colored models.

Is it fair either way? Not really. I’ve repainted minimally marked customs and resins to make them more competitive. Same body, same base color, but the pattern made all the difference. One of my current best show horses couldn’t win a NAN card until I extended his pattern. My advice is to keep this bias in mind when you decide whom to bring to a show.

This is my final installment of this series for the near future. Tune in tomorrow when I will delve deeper into breed assignments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Model Halter vs. Real Halter: Pt. 2

I’m not going to talk about live Quarter Horses anymore (is that a sigh of relief I hear?) but I am going to start with this year’s NAN Champ OF Quarter Horse.

I’ve judged this specific horse at previous shows, I’ve lost to him at other shows, and I’d steal him off the table if I had a chance (I’m kidding--sort of.)

Even though Breyer markets this model as a Thoroughbred, his owner shows her copy as a racing-bred quarter horse. This is a great choice because the mold is not as bulky as a stock horse mold like Smart Chic Olena, but not as lean and leggy as a Lonesome Glory or classic-scale Man o’ War, which many model horse judges prefer in a Thoroughbred class.

He’s not shown as a halter-type QH (as I discussed yesterday), and he’s not in a halter pose. A horse isn't supposed to gallop in a real halter class. But in the model world, there is no rule against it and I have never seen a judge knock a horse for an “inappropriate” pose.

Even "bad horse" poses are allowed:

And "natural" poses:

In this case, artistry wins out over adherence to our real world counterpart. Speaking as an artist: thank god. Sculpting and customizing would be dreadfully boring if our only options for LSQ (live show quality) models were performance and halter appropriate poses. As is, I find myself constantly biting against the bridle of live showing’s restrictions and limitations.** If I could only sculpt/sell models in polite/boring poses, I’d go batty.

**My constant attempts to bend or circumnavigate live showing rules are probably the reason I’m so familiar with them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Model Halter vs. Real Halter: Pt. 1

This was supposed to be Friday's post, but real life decided to intervene before I could complete it. These days, my schedule is not completely my own.

When talking to non-hobbyists, I find it’s usually easiest to describe live showing as a shrunken down version of the real thing. However, this comparison only works to a point. Not all breed associations offer “halter” classes at their shows and those that do each play by their unique set of rules.

And then there’s fashion. A written breed standard is rarely amended, let alone substantially altered, but the current aesthetic in all halter shown breeds appears to be in constant flux. In some breeds, halter bloodlines have become so specialized they’ve virtually become a breed within a breed. For illustrative purposes, I’m going to use the Quarter Horse as the most dramatic example of this split, but the same issues apply to a number of breeds including other stock breeds, Arabians, and Morgans. Cutting, reining, roping, pleasure, hunter, racing, and halter have all split out to varying degrees within the AQHA, but no type is excluded from a model horse halter class.

When I judge a model QH class, I know I have options on how I can approach it. The first option is to judge it as a real world halter class and choose horses that best represent this physical type:

This is CK Kid, and as much as it pains me to say so, he was an AQHA World Champion in halter.

If he were a model horse, I’d say his legs are too small and his back is too short in proportion to his body. Top to bottom, he is completely upright with no body angles to absorb any shock from movement. This much muscle (1500 pounds on a 16H horse) on top of double-ott feet is a recipe for disaster. I’d tell you this horse wouldn’t be able to run correctly with his conformation and is susceptible to a premature death. Considering his sire, dam sire, and grand-sire died at 9, 16, and 12 respectively, it’s a safe bet this 9-year-old stud doesn’t have many years left.

Referring back the judging elements I previously outlined, this horse is typey but not well conformed. His proportions border on unrealistic, which is a concept that makes my head hurt.

As a judge, my second (and preferred) option is a holistic approach. I know QHs include a wide range of body types, each bred to serve a specific function. At live shows, we show all types, ideally with no bias. I try to judge each against their own type, i.e. reiners should look like this, pleasure horses should look like that, and so on. Type-y-ness may be a tiebreaker only in that I prefer a model that is easily recognizable as it's assigned breed, but it’s not my first concern.

In contrast to the above, let’s look at a National Champion model halter horse:

This is a model I would love to have for my own show string. Her shading and collectibility both add to the “wow” factor, but for the purposes of this post, I’m only going to cover her conformation.

Overall, her build is lighter than the behemoth above, but there is no mistaking her for anything other than a stock horse. Her legs and hooves are substantially larger and better built to withstand the physical stresses of athletics. If she were a live horse, I’d guess she's bred for roping or gaming but with the potential for more. She’s balanced and well muscled, with straight legs and good body angles.**

In addition to various modern types, as a model horse judge I frequently encounter horses shown as historical breeds and types. In these cases, make or break often depends on quality documentation (future post.) This kind of breed assignment is usually chosen because colors are often eliminated from a breed and physical types evolve. However, the basics of functional conformation stay the same, as the below horse attests:

Peter McCue, AQHA Hall of Fame inductee.

Not perfect, but the basic angles are correct and a glance at his record testifies that his conformation was more than functional. He was a successful racehorse, but an even more successful stud and founding stallion of the AQHA. He’s built like a horse that could have walked out of a QH breeder’s barn today, but he was born in 1895.

A modern Quarter Horse with similar conformation, born over a century later.

When the AQHA was formed 45 years later, his genes were what they sought to perpetuate. This is his descendant, Wimpy P-1, a grand champion stallion and the first horse registered with the AQHA:

Of the five photos I’ve included in the entry, which of these horse is not like the others? Hint: It’s not the model. (It’s CK Kid.)

Tune in for next week's post, when I continue to rattle on about Quarter Horses (just the model kind.)

**Speaking of body angles, is conformation a topic anyone would like to hear about from me? Please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Making Things Easier: Pack as You Show

This one took me forever to figure out, but it's been a lifesaver ever since:

After carefully arranging your ponies on your table, you’d be surprised how quickly that organization can fall apart. Somehow, the same amount of horses will gradually take up more space on your table throughout the day, especially when classes are called quickly and ribbons start to pile up.

The solution? Pack as you go. When a horse has finished his last class and doesn’t need to return to the table for a call back, put him back in his pony pouch, box, or case. This often means you should be virtually ready to go by the end of the show.

The less time it takes you to pack at the end of the show, the better. Packing quickly takes practice. Also, a show holder must stay in the hall until after all of the showers have left. Your show holder will greatly appreciate not having to wait long on their showers.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Carriage Class (and More About Breed Groups)

As promised, Carriage gets it’s own entry (parenthesis abuse to follow.)

Winner of a Carriage class (this guy has since been repainted.)

I mentioned before that most classlists included breed-specific classes (Morgan, Paint, Thoroughbred, etc.) and breed groups (Welsh Ponies and Cobs, American Gaited, UK Draft, etc.) There isn’t enough time at a show for every breed to get its own class, so only the most popular breeds get their own class while the vast majority are sectioned off into groups.

Groups may be split a variety of ways. Geography (UK Drafts), body type (Other Pony), shared ancestry (Spanish (when it includes Pasos and/or Aztecas)), and purpose/use (Harness Racing breeds) are common groupings.

Technically, you could call Carriage a “use” class, but isn’t as obvious as a class like Harness Racing. Horses you would usually see in a Harness Racing class are Standardbreds, French and Orlov Trotters. Although these breeds can perform in other sports, their primary and most common purpose still is harness racing.

Carriage can be confusing because the breeds it includes are grouped based on what they sometimes do. This gets more confusing when you consider that the breed most seen and associated with carriages (such as the draft horses of central park) and harness classes (various drafts in heavy harness; Morgans, Saddlebreds, and Arabians in fine harness) don’t show in this class.

Any given model Carriage class will be comprised of around 50-100% Friesians. In addition to fine harness, they are often used for dressage, pleasure riding, and posing for the covers of paperback fantasy novels. The rest of the class is generally composed of rare breeds such as the Cleveland Bay, Hackney, Gelderlander, Dutch Harness Horse, Dole, and Warlander.

Depending on the show, you will often see Gypsy Horses/Cobs/Tinkers placed in Carriage. Since they are still relatively new in the world of model horses, the hobby as a whole is still deciding where they belong. When they first appeared in the hobby, they almost exclusively went into Draft classes. But the current trend is leaning heavily toward Carriage.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Pretty in Pink (Cards)

A big thank you to today's guest blogger, Vicky Norris! See some of Vicky's amazing work on her website.

Take it away, Vicky:

The NAN cards that are pink are awarded in the performance division of NAN qualifying shows. Like green and yellow cards, 2 per judge are handed out in each class, 1st and 2nd places.

Performance....the best way to describe what showers do in performance is to think of a snapshot, a moment in time that the shower tries to capture in miniature.

Performance showers try to get as realistic as they can in miniature, down to poop on the butt of a cow if they are working

Often showers have to make do with what is available or make it themselves if they can. Tack makers, prop makers and sculptors all try to be as realistic as they can when producing their artwork.

Class lists will vary from region to region but all will have the basic classes.....
English trail
English Pleasure
Western trail
Western Pleasure
At larger shows OF and CM/AR models show in separate divisions, but at the smaller shows they often compete against each other.

Judging: Tack must fit the model and be neat and clean. It must be appropriate for the event. The model must be DOING what the shower says it is doing. I think this is one of the hardest for showers to understand at times.

Documentation is a must for every class but the basic pleasure classes. It is extremely important for unusual or seldom seen performance. It is always necessary for costume classes.

A judge sees the overall first then goes on to look at the details. She must know basic performance rules and be able to translate her knowledge to all of the different breeds that will be shown in performance.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Those Mysterious Yellow Cards: Pt. 3

Welcome to the exciting final installment of my explanation of yellow NAN cards! You can find part one here and part two here.

Today, I’m focusing exclusively on workmanship. On Friday, I mentioned this is my favorite division, and I mean that both as a shower and a judge. I paint plastic ponies for a living, so this division most closely approximates the challenges I face as a painter.

With custom finished models (by which I mean plastic-body customs, artist resins, and custom glaze models), all breed classes factor in workmanship to some degree. Resculpting effects the conformation of a mold. Having multiple examples of the same mold in a class is also extremely common. In this case, a judge only has workmanship left to differentiate between them.

As a shower, I prefer workmanship classes to breed because it removes the factor I don’t have control over: the original body. I can’t control if a judge thinks fill-in-the-blank resin is a bad example of a thoroughbred, but this isn’t judged in workmanship classes (or at least it's not supposed to be.) As a judge, it breaks my heart to not reward beautifully made models because of a small anatomical flaw. But if I know workmanship classes are coming later in the day, I keep that model in mind.

So if the original model isn’t judged in workmanship, what is? I break workmanship down to four elements: mastery of media, prepping, accuracy, and correction.

Mastery of media: All media (oil, pastel, airbrush, etching, etc.) have their quirks and drawbacks. To me, an artist’s foremost challenge is to overcome them. Pastel can be grainy, oil shows brushstrokes, airbrush is speckled, and etching depends heavily on a factory’s paint job. When you can easily recognize what medium a model was finished with, this is generally a bad sign because its those flaws we're recognizing. As an artist, I want the viewer to see a 100% realistic representation of a real horse’s color, not the paint I used to create it. Theoretically, a perfectly executed representation of a color should look the same no matter what medium it's painted in. Theoretically.

Prepping: A well-prepped model is a smooth canvas for a painter to work on. It has no visible seams or unintentional bumps and divots.

Accuracy: Is a model’s color realistic? Is the shade an accurate representation that could exist on a real horse? Do white markings follow real-life patterns?

Correction: No mold is perfect, which leaves a lot of room for sculptors to make additions and corrections. If a customizer chose to address a model’s flaws, did they correct them or aggravate them? Do additions blend to the rest of the model? Do they match stylistically? Was detail added equally over the whole horse of unevenly in a few portions?

When I judge workmanship, my mantra is “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.” I know a perfectly executed appaloosa or resculpted head is harder to create than a plain black horse with no sculptural additions. In this case, I would choose the more elaborate of two models, assuming the execution is equal. However, I am not more forgiving of flaws just because the artist chose to tackle a difficult color.

See, aren’t y'all glad I didn’t combine all three parts into one looooong entry on yellow cards? Tune in tomorrow for our guest blogger’s description of pink NAN cards.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Those Mysterious Yellow Cards: Pt. 2

Today, I’m focusing on one of the two “yellow card” divisions currently at NAN (and a regular feature at local shows.)

Collectibility is a relatively new division in live showing. Traditionally, a model’s rarity was considered in regular breed classes. But with Breyer’s introduction of newer, more detailed, and often more accurate molds, rare vintage models were gradually being squeezed out of traditional breed classes.

Enter collectibility, a division designed to reflect the actual activity of collection in a NAMHSA-friendly form. Just like a Breyer collector looking to expand their collection, a judge will consider factors such as rarity, age, desirability, and aesthetics:

Rarity: Simply, how many were made?

Age: Age matters both by itself and how much it impacts rarity and condition. Models “disappear” over the years. They end up in attics and landfills, sometimes never to be seen again. Thus, less are available to collectors seeking them out than the original produced amounts. Age implies various threats to a model’s condition. A model must survive transportation, pets, small children, and environmental factors to remain mint many years after production.

Desirability: Do people actually want to buy it? If 50 were made, but you can’t find 50 collectors who want to own one, is it really collectible? How popular is this model or mold? PAM, Silver, and the Semi-Rearing Mustang all have strong cult like followings. But Galiceno, Black Beauty, and the Racehorse? Not so much. This factor comes strongly into play when judging Conn collectibility.

"Green Eggs and Sham" - not a particularly desirable model

Aesthetics: Are there rubs? Is the model yellowed? Are there factor flaws? On the flip side, the model’s color attractive? Is the paint job particularly well rendered? All are factors that come into play in the show ring. Remember those color classes I mentioned yesterday? This is what they are judged on.

From judge to judge, you will more variation in how these elements are weighed than the elements of your average breed class. I’ve run into just as many judges that consider condition over rarity, rarity over age and vice versa.

If you’re interested in reading more on the topic collectibility, I highly recommend checking out the Breyer History Diva. Her perspective is more on the collecting side than the showing side and full of tons of valuable insight.

Here’s the point my official post stops and move on to the editorial portion of our program:

Notice in the above few paragraphs how I kept referring to Breyers? While the same principles apply to manufactures such as Hartland and Hagen-Renaker, things go off the tracks when we start talking about Peter Stones.

When I’ve been asked about Stone collectibility before, I tend to answer with variation of my “spaghetti theory”: throw it against the wall and see what sticks. Don’t get me wrong, Peter Stones are certainly collectible (in the traditional sense--like the way shot glasses and modern art are collectible.) But how does a judge distinguish one from another? Stone produces more special runs than regular runs and more test runs and one-of-a-kinds than anything else. When everything is rare, is anything rare?

So much for rarity, but what about age? Stones have only been in production for 13 years, and most Stone models currently making it show are less than five years old. Even desirability plays a lesser part as the Stone company is very good about sweeping unpopular molds under the rug (see Jumping Horse, Morgan, Western Pleasure Horse, Rearing Horse…)

That just leaves aesthetics. With the company’s spotty history with quality control, factory flaws are always an issue. They apply a wide variety of colors and techniques to their models with varied amounts of success. Most of these techniques are brought in or borrowed from custom finish artists so that some Stones closer resemble customs than factory painted models.

Personally, I would like to see an increase in color or OF workmanship classes for Stones. While I vehemently oppose "pretty pony" judging for Breyers, Hagen-Renakers, and Hartlands, the unique nature of Stone’s production practices render the traditional measuring sticks of collectibility useless. A judging system with a stronger or exclusive emphasis on aesthetics would more accurately approximate what collectors are seeking out already.

Tune in on Monday for the exciting conclusion of "Those Mysterious Yellow Cards" when I talk about my favorite division, workmanship!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Those Mysterious Yellow Cards: Pt. 1

Yellow NAN cards (officially "non-breed" cards) cover several showing arenas, so I've decided to split this post into three parts. As I did yesterday, parts two and three will cover common judging standards.

As far as NAN is concerned, a yellow card allows OF models to enter collectibility classes and custom finish models (plastic customs, custom glaze, and artist resins) to enter workmanship classes.

If, for example, an OF model is entered at NAN in collectibility via a yellow NAN card, does that mean the card was also won in a collectibility class at a local show? Not necessarily.

I’ve been researching this topic for a few weeks, but so far I’ve been able to find any sort of restrictions applied specifically to yellow NAN cards except that they are not awarded in breed classes. Those classes could be workmanship or collectibility to echo NAN’s divisions, but they could also be split and judged based on gender or color (although this is rare.)

Tomorrow I will cover common judging standards for collectibility.

A collectibility winner, or a color class winner?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Green with Card Envy

Green NAN cards (aka “breed cards”) are the most common type of NAN card, and likely the first you will encounter. They are given to the first and second place winners of breed classes in halter divisions. OF Breyers, Stones, resins, customs--they all win identical blank cards (on which you fill out your name, your horse's name, and the name of the class it was won in.)

Individual shows have a fair amount of flexibility to create their own classlists. But if they are giving out green cards, it means that each class is formed around a specific breed or breed group. Typical breed classes include Appaloosa, Morgan, and Arabian, while typical breed groups are Carriage, European Warmblood, and Stock Pony.**

**These groups all tend to contain the same collection of breeds from show to show (with some variation.) Stock Pony generally includes Paint Pony, Quarter Pony, Pony of the Americas, etc. European Warmblood covers a long list of breeds including but not limited to Hanoverian, Trakehner, Dutch Warmblood, German Warmblood, Selle Fran├žais, etc. Carriage…deserves its own entry.

Winner of a "European Warmblood" class (shown as a German Warmblood)

If a class is particularly large, a show holder or judge may choose to further divide the class. This is often done in the interest of fairness. As a judge, I like classes to all have roughly the same number of entries. If the Paint class is twice the size of the Quarter Horse class, the ribbons and NAN cards won in each class don't mean the same thing.

If a class is split, NAMHSA puts no restrictions on how they are split. They can be split be breed (Stock Pony divided into Paint Pony and everything else,) or virtually any other factor. Splits by gender, scale, and color are common. I once split a Clydesdale class by Wintersong (the mold) and molds that weren't Wintersong. Hey, I ended up with equal sized classes.

You will rarely, if ever, see classes combined. A published classlist is often treated as a promise by the show holder to their showers. If only one horse is entered in a class--oh well. The system isn't perfect and never could be (since no one could agree on what "perfect" means.)

As I’ve mentioned before, at this time shows do not have a nationally accepted standard and the judge must choose her own. Having said that, most of the time they judge on similar basic elements. The major elements in a breed class are Realism, Conformation, and Type (usually in that order.)

I could write a novel on these elements and what they mean, but I’ll save the nitty gritty for another day. Here’s the cliff notes version:

Realism: In a nutshell, is this horse even possible? Impossible horses usually means they have uneven measurements, impossible gaits, and cartoonish proportions. Or eye brows.

Conformation: A model horse can be a 100% realistic representation of a real horse--and still be ugly (conformationally speaking.) I will cover this topic in more detail in multiple future posts, but the most basic is this: balance, body angles, and straight legs.

Type: Think of type as measurement of how closely a horse matches the look of its assigned breed. Does a model Arabian have a dishy head and high set tail? Does a Shire have adequate feather? Does a stock horse have a large enough butt? Then they’re “typey.”

Generally, these elements are considered in this order, with major realism issues taking priority over subtleties of type.

Tune in tomorrow when I unravel the mysteries of the yellow NAN cards! (Or not.)