Sunday, August 30, 2009

Making Things Easier: Pony Baskets

Little early for Monday. I'm moving tomorrow and I'm about to disconnect and pack up my modem.

Today’s tip comes from hobbyist Tiffany Birkinbine:

“An easy and safe way to carry your stablemates to the table is a basket. You can buy a small basket at a hobby shop. Put a soft cloth in the basket to keep your models from being scratched. This method helps to keep you from dropping your models along with helping you pull double duty by bringing models up for the next class and taking models back to your table at the same time after the previous class has been pinned.”

Believe me that this technique is certainly preferable to the mini-between-every-finger technique.

Friday, August 28, 2009

One Horse, One Class

This is one of the most basic and invariable rules at live shows: one horse may only enter one halter class per show. There are no second chances within one show.

For example, let’s say I decide to show a Flash as a Morgan. I put him in his class, but he doesn’t place. The judge then explains to me that she feels Flash is too pony-ish, and she would rather seen him shown as a pony breed such as a Connemara. However, even if the pony class hasn’t come up yet, I cannot show the same model again at the same show. If I would like to show my Flash as a Connemara, I will have to wait for another show.

This rule is in place for fairness. Otherwise, one shower may get multiple chances to show one horse, while others may not.

However, here’s where the big BUT comes in. If the show you are attending as a second “yellow card” division, you get one more chance to show your horse. Again, you may enter your horse in only one class in this division, but you do not have to choose between showing your horse in breed or showing in a yellow card class.

Oh, and here’s another big exception: none of this applies to “pink card” classes, aka performance. For more about yellow, pink, and green cards, please tune in next week when a guest blogger and myself will go into these divisions in more detail. And I mean it this time. My Mid Valley post is still forth coming as I've been caught up in the chaos of a move.

This horse was shown and won in one green card class and one yellow card class:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Better Know a Region: Region 2

NAMHSA splits North America into several different regions. Each region has their own rep, many have their own championship shows, and all have their own unique way of doing things.

A giant thank you goes out to today's guest blogger, Mary Thomson! Mary has written the first of what I hope is an ongoing series "Better Know a Region":


Note: Hawaii and Mexico are at the children’s table of Region 2. When one speaks of Region 2, one is speaking of California/Nevada. Though one can dream, about that Hawaii part…

Region 2 is one of the largest and most active showing-bases in the USA. With our famous good weather, and barring the occasional earthquake or fire, it is rare that a month goes by without at least one model show or event occurring - while December shows are rare, we are once more into the breach right away as early as January each year, and definitely by March. In the past we have even had a show every weekend, during the summer months.

Region 2 hosts shows of all sizes and calibers, from past NANs and West Coast Model Horse Jamboree, to the current BreyerWest and Peter Stone Jubilee and Eureka Live shows, popular repeaters such as Las Vegas Live, Fall Fiesta, specialty shows such as Fantastic Plastic Classic, Mini Mayhem and customizing/workmanship/breed specialty shows of all sizes (NAN-qualifiers and not), and the highly successful “K.I.S.S.” annual performance show series (a high-point earning, multi-show traveling competition). There is literally something for everyone in Region 2, and if there isn’t, we create one. Region 2 hosts a Championship show each year (except 2009) in a central location in the state so that everyone has a chance to attend. Shows even outside Region 2 may qualify, all they have to do is ask permission. The R2 Champ Show rivals NAN in both scope and caliber, with several thousand models qualifying each year.

The one word that best describes Region 2 is “polarized.” Northern and Southern California have definitely different showing foci and styles. But generally collectibility is the name of the game in OF (particularly SoCal), and we have a lot of high-caliber tack makers, customizers and performance showers throughout the entire state.

The one word that second-best describes Region 2 is “volatile.” Pretty much no one in Region 2 is quiet. We all have opinions and are more than happy to share them loudly with anyone who will listen. Occasionally we bicker strongly amongst ourselves even on our own boards, which has earned us an outside reputation of being the “mean girls” (some of us even had shirts made), but we do it because a) we like it and b) we are all very passionate about the hobby in R2. Yet the instant our somewhat-combative-at-times style is attacked from the outside (and it has been), we definitely circle the wagons and will shove back!

That being said, we LOVE new showers and will help anyone who needs it. We do not have many novice divisions in our shows; we pretty much encourage newbies to just ‘dive in’ and go for it. No shrinking violets in Region 2, rest assured!

Region 2 encourages youth showing and good sportsmanship - Some Northern Cali showers are 4-H leaders and utilize collecting and live shows as part of their area's "4-H Horseless Horse Project." The 4-H'ers not only assist in planning and running live shows, but also participate and show in the R2 year-end Championships.

It says a lot for Region 2 that our favorite Arizona and Texas friends come out to judge and show here whenever they can. A Region 2 show guarantees good fun, general mayhem and hilarity, juicy gossip (!), chocolate and Chris Jones crying when she wins! Come check us out! We accept you, we accept you, gooble gabble gooble gabble!

Once again, thank you Mary! If anyone would like to guest blog about their own corner of the hobby (or country--I would love to include information about showing outside of North America) please drop me a line at laskillern *at* comcast *dot* net.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Making Things Easier: A Classlist

This post will be the first of an ongoing series. These are tips, not hard and fast rules, that are meant to make showing easier on you. I had wonderful intentions of making this a weekly feature (Making Things Easier Monday?) but my friends will testify that I’m just not that organized.

Even veteran showers will create their own classlist. Before the show, copy the regular classlist into a word document and then type in your horses’ names or numbers next to the class you plan to show them in.

When a class is called, glance down at the classlist instead of searching your table while trying to remember how many “OF Appaloosas” you brought with you. This is the easiest way to assure you won’t miss a class.

Did you remember all of your OF Appaloosas?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Leave Home Without It

The following is a basic checklist of assorted supplies you should take with you to every live show:

Pen or Pencil (preferably half a dozen): The amount of pens I have lost at model horse shows over the years is probably only rivaled by the amount of other people’s pens I’ve walked off with. I tend to forget whether that pen I picked up to write something with was mine to begin with or if it was borrowed.

Scissors (one of those little pairs): They are essential to performance showing, but I still bring a pair when I’m just showing in halter classes. Inevitably, you will need to cut something down to size.

Leg Tags: When model people say “leg tags,” they mean those little white price tags people use at garage sales. Most regions have some sort of a tagging system to identity a horse by name in results, which are published after the show. Some regions use different systems to ID horses for results, but in these regions leg tags are still used for the owner to write their name on. It is very common for multiple showers to have the same model in a class and mix-ups happen. Leg tags are the best way to assure that you get your bay Huck back and not someone else’s.

Index Cards: Index cards are the basis of the second most common ID system. Showers fill out a card for each horse with its breed and gender on the front and the horse’s and shower’s name on the back. Even if your region does not use this system, index cards are handy to scribble out a little last minute documentation. This happens a lot.

Touch-up/Repair Supplies: These can be as simple as a couple horse-colored sharpies or as complex as a full painting kit (which I travel with to all shows.) If you are inexperienced or uncomfortable repairing models, less is more. You don’t want, in a panic, to cause more damage to your model by attempting a drastic repair. However, tiny rubs on the tips of tails and ears are common damage going to and from a live show but easy to repair in a few seconds before a class. I know a lot of non-artistic showers who still carry small sets of horse colored touch-up paints for emergencies. Years and years ago, I used to carry make-up to a show for this purpose. The benefit was that is wasn’t permanent if my last minute cover-up wasn’t convincing.

Camera: You’ll kick yourself after your first big win if you forget to bring your camera to document the achievement. Statistically, your chances of winning will go up when you’ve forgotten a camera and doubly so at a “no-frills” show where you don’t get to keep the ribbon.

An iPhone is not a viable substitute for a good digital camera.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Common Breeds vs. Rare Breeds

When people talk about breed documentation, they often recommend it for rare breeds a judge may not be familiar with. In the real horse world, what’s considered common and well known depends highly on your environment. At my barn, most boarders aren’t completely sure what a Morgan is, except “short” and “buckskin.”

Below is a partial list of breeds that are common in live showing. It’s by no means comprehensive, and just because the breed is “common” doesn’t mean you should not include any documentation. In this case, I only mean that these are breeds a judge will have some familiarity with (but not necessarily know everything about the standard or rare colors that can occur.)

American Saddlebred (ASB)
Chincoteague Pony
Cleveland Bay
Colorado Ranger
Donkey (Mammoth, Standard and Miniature)
Dutch Warmblood
Gypsy Vanner (aka Colored Cob/Irish Tinker/Irish Cob/Drum Horse…this issue will be addressed in a future post)
Irish Draft
Miniature Horse
Missouri Fox Trotter (MFT)
National Show Horse (NSH)
Paint Pony
Paso Fino
Peruvian Paso
Pony of the Americas (POA)
Przewalki's Horse
Quarter Horse
Quarter Pony
Rocky Mountain Horse
Shetland Pony
Spanish Mustang
Spotted Draft (aka North American Spotted Draft)
Standardbred (STB)
Suffolk Punch
Tennessee Walking Horse (TWH)
Thoroughbred (TB)
Welsh Ponies and Cobs (parts A-D…also another future post.)

What passes for "exotic" in Washington state.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dealing with "Bad" Judges

You will not see eye to eye with every judge. This is becomes increasingly more likely when you gain more experience with live showing.

Personally, I think almost all judges are not “bad.” They have different point of view. Since showing is subjective with no agreed upon standard, not everyone will be on the same page.

If you find yourself showing under a judge you disagree with, try to focus your energy elsewhere. Talk to the hobbyist around you. Try to make new friends. You're surrounded by people that share your unique interest, so take advantage. And most importantly, have fun!

Experienced showers will often try to bring show strings that spread across more than one division. The advantage of this is that if you find yourself showing poorly under a particular judge, you can refocus your energy elsewhere. I don't endorse this for someone who is still learning the ropes, but it is something you may want to consider once you get the hang of the basics. (Expect a future post of strategies for balance multi-divisional show strings.)

You should always thank your judge at the end of the show, but I always thank a judge I didn’t agree with. They worked hard to do their best. Their opinion is different, but that’s not a good reason to create friction between you. Remember, it’s a small hobby after all and you will continue to run into the same people at shows.

You will hear rumors of judges who cheat. Take them with a block of salt. They are almost never true. After attending over a hundred shows, I’ve heard plenty of rumors but I've never seen a judge cheat. Never.

OT: I'll be attending Mid Valley Live this weekend in Oregon. Expect plenty of pictures sometime mid-week.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Talking to Judges

Talking to judges and receiving advice can be one of your best resources for learning how to improve as a shower.

Keep in mind that judging shows is a difficult and often thankless job. Showers feelings are often hurt when their horses don’t win, and they occasionally take their frustrations out on the judge. Experienced judges are often confronted by showers who only ask questions to prove the judge was wrong.

When you approach a judge, be polite. Smile and be friendly. It doesn’t hurt to introduce yourself and point out that you are new to showing and eager to learn. Let them know through your attitude that you do not intend to be confrontational. You don’t have to take all of their advice, but try to listen to their reasoning.
Judging isn't easy. Be nice.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Common Terms and Abbreviations

At live shows and on this blog, you will encounter dozens hobby and show specific terms. The following list isn't exhaustive, but it covers the basics:
Halter: This is one of the two primary divisions. All Halter classes have the same thing in common: you stand your horse on the table and walk away. Traditionally, documentation and halters are allowed (a legacy of real world halter classes) but not required. All other tack and props are not allowed. In a halter class, it's just the horse that is judged.

Performance: This is the other primary division, and usually the hardest to describe to the uninitiated. Showers combine models, tack, dolls, props, and even dioramas to capture a moment in time. A strong emphasis is placed on accuracy and respecting to rules of the real world disciplines that are represented.

Collectibility: A type of halter class, models are compared and judged based on their age, condition, rarity, and desirability.

Breed: Another type of halter class, models are judges on realism and conformation.

Workmanship: A type of halter class held just for custom-finished models. The original body is generally ignored and the model is judged primarily on finish work.

Mini: Generally, "Pebble" scale (1/20-ish) and smaller. Also included Breyer's Little Bit/Paddock Pals, Stablemates, Mini Whinnies, and Stone's Chips scale.

Original Finish: A model that has not been altered from it's original, factory painted finish.

Artist Resin: Resin-cast sculptures that are finished by individual painters. Usually, they are extremely realistic.

Customs: Any original finish model that has been altered or enhanced. Resculpting and repainting are common.

Custom Glazed: Similar to an artist resin in that they are often released unpainted and later finished by an artist, except on a clay-based body.
The hobby uses abbreviations everywhere, but especially at shows. I can't remember the last time I even said "Original Finish" out loud instead of "OF" (oh-eff.) These are the abbreviations you will see in most show packets:
Appy: Appaloosa
AR: Artist Resin
ASB: American Saddlebred
CM: Custom
ISH: Ideal Stock Horse (Peter Stone's standing stock horse mold.)
MFT: Missouri Fox Trotter
NAMHSA: North American Model Horse Shows Association
NAN: North American Nationals
NSH: National Show Horse
OF: Original Finish
OOAK: One of a kind
PRE: Pura Raza Espanola aka Andalusian
QH: Quarter Horse
RMH: Rocky Mountain Horse
RR: Regular Run
SR: Special Run
STB: Standardbred
TB: Thoroughbred
TWH: Tennessee Walking Horse
WB: Warmblood

Feel free to add more common terms and abbreviations in the comments.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Collect What You Love, Show What You Collect

“Love what you collect, if it's dear to your heart it won't matter if it wins or loses. It's nice to place but you still go home happy with your string. The opinion of others is important and validation of your choices in the form of cards or rosettes is great, but in the end, I don't really care if anyone else likes my models... I do and that's what counts.” - Elfing

Over the course of this blog, you'll read about conformation, fashion, and condition. Myself and others will write about what shows well and why. But should you let this dictate your collection? Absolutely not.

Before I go too far, I want to be clear: I don't see anything wrong with letting a model's potential in the show ring influence your purchases. Money and shelf space are limited, and we can't buy everything we want. Why not consider a model's showing potential among other factors?

I just don't think it should be the only factor.

I enjoy showing original finish models, but it's never driven my collection. If it was, I'd never have managed to procure over 30 Shams. Yeah--you heard me--Sham, the conformationally challenged prancing Arabian.

If I wanted to mold my collection to the dictates of the show ring, I would have sold off the lot of them years ago. As Arabians go, I could do better. PAM has been the gold standard among Breyers since before I entered the hobby and remains extremely popular in the show ring to this day. I own exactly one PAM, but mine's not even a show model. The primary reason I bought her was because I also owned the test for this run, done on a different mold. The test run is on--wait for it--a Sham:

OF judges will tell you, and rightfully so, that Sham isn't a good "breed" horse. His proportions aren't great, his legs are all different lengths, and he doesn't show the detail available in many newer molds. Generally, he isn't even very collectible, as the mold is no longer as popular as he once was. Most Sham collectors have moved on to newer Arabian molds like Huckleberry Bey and the Peter Stone Arabian.

There are exceptions. The guy above has two breed cards along with numerous collectibility cards. He's a nicely painted, but it's mostly my persistence that resulted in NAN cards. Not every judge prefers PAM or Huck and I eventually stumbled onto two of them. I've also bought a handful of very collectible Shams in the last few years that are permanent features in my show string.

But most of Shams haven't earned a rosette, a card, or even a ribbon. Several won't even see the inside of a show ring. And I wouldn't trade a single one for a winning Huck or PAM.

I've known a few showers that would buy models they didn't like if they thought they'd show well. They only rejoiced in a judge's positive opinion, not from the model itself, and they frequently went home unhappy. They bought models for high prices and quickly resold at a loss when the model didn't meet their expectations. I'm not sure if they were aware of this, but these kinds of a showers are frequently ostracized from the social element of showing.

Find a class to fit your model, not a model to fit a class.

NAN Qualifying Shows

NAN stands for North American Nationals. It is a national show held every year that allow showers to compete against the toughest competition possible.

To get to NAN, each horse a shower enters must earn a NAN card. NAN cards are earned by placing first or second in a class. NAN cards are only available at NAN qualifying shows, which must be approved by NAMHSA (North American Model Horse Showers’ Association,) these shows’ governing body.

When you’re just starting out, NAN cards shouldn’t be a high priority for you. I wouldn’t recommend showing at NAN without at least two years of regular showing under your belt.

The same horse from above winning at NAN:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Choosing Your First Show

Attending your first show is like going on a first date. You want to pick an environment that will be comfortable for you and give both of you a chance to show yourself in the best light.

When looking for a first show, try to choose a show that is close by. Showing can be stressful (even for veterans!) so removing the added stress of travel may be to your advantage.

Next, try to look for a smaller show. Show size can vary from as few as a handful of showers to over a hundred. Way over in a few cases. A smaller show will end sooner in the day, so this will limit your exhaustion and stress. In addition, the judge will often have more time to allow showers to ask questions.

Fun shows are often an easier start if one is held nearby. With the popularity on NAN qualified shows, they can be hard to find in some areas.

Generally, I recommend new showers avoid “play date” shows their first time out. At a playdate, everyone judges. They are fun, but when everyone is judging you won’t have an opportunity to learn why one horse may place over another.

Mandatory Introductory Post

We were all new once. Twice, in my case.

I initially started showing in the mid-90s. I was still in my early teens and had barely started customizing. My collection constituted lightly played with regular run Breyers I'd received every Xmas from my folks. I cherished my few 3d place ribbons, having never won a second or first.

I took a break from the hobby for several years, all the while painting for my own enjoyment. When a few of my customs started to sell, I attended one show to get some live feedback on my work.

I was hooked. Showing seemed to have changed completely while I'd been gone and I had to learn the rules all over again. It was a long process, helped along by other showers who were generous with their time and knowledge. I hope this blog will serve the same purpose for another generation of new showers.

I usually show at least once a month, all year long. I regularly attend Breyerfest Live and NAN (North American Nationals.) However, my knowledge of the topic is hardly completely and I'm hoping to include several Guest Writer posts in the near future.