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?

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