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By Chris Jones
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, manufacturers such as Hartland and Breyer began producing the model horse as toy replicas of real horse breeds.
With the love for horses a universal passion, it didn’t take long for these replications to become highly collectible. It followed that collectors began sharing their mutual interest by holding model horse shows that followed the principle of live equestrian events.
As a result, just as live horse shows evaluate structural correctness and breed characteristics, model horse shows follow these same guidelines but in scaled comparison.
There are two local shows on the horizon. Lee’s Feed Bucket Sale/Breyer Fun Show is Saturday, Aug. 2 starting at 10 a.m. at 4110 Mother Lode Drive in Shingle Springs and Saturday, Sept. 6 at 10 a.m. at Foothill Mercantile, 121 Mill St. in Grass Valley.
The making of a champion begins with the model purchase and selecting the best specimen possible. From collector to hobbyist to judge, the criteria are the same: attention to detail.
Aside from receiving a model as a gift or making an Internet purchase, it means personally looking at each model the store has available and comparing them side by side with a critical eye to choose the best possible one.
When selecting a model for purchase make sure the color is “legal” or genetically possible for the breed. How crisp are the edges of a horse’s markings and how smooth is the overall paint job?
Inspect the shading for realism and dappling for proper scale in relation to the size of the horse. Check for bent legs or rubs (which can happen during shipping) and smooth seams.
If the model is glossy, is the finish even and free of blemishes or imbedded lint? Make sure there is no overspray of one paint color with another in areas where they touch, such as along the mane, forelock, tail or socks.
Lastly, look at the eyes to be sure they are nicely detailed and shiny because they often give a model its realistic appeal.
It’s all in the details
With sometimes dozens of horses in the ring, all competing for the same blue ribbon, paying attention to these details can really make a difference.
Once the model is chosen for competition in model horse shows, it’s time to assign it a breed. While understanding there is no perfectly conformed horse, one with poor structure can limit its ability to perform a specific task in the real horse world and that same philosophy follows with model horses.
Look at the body type of your model first. Does it more closely resemble a thoroughbred, stock horse, light breed or draft horse? Research equine breed books or select a breed or type that best resembles the model.
Unusual breeds are of great interest to judges and comparing the breed characteristics to the model is important for supportive documentation.
Print the information and keep it as small as possible for available table space. Be sure to laminate it for durability. Documentation that is nicely done and has supporting photos that actually resemble the model makes for a superior entry.
Model horse shows consist of two essential divisions: halter and performance.
Halter shows often include divisions such as original finish plastic and its sub-class, collectibility; while the artist resin, china/resin, and custom classes are eligible for a workmanship sub-class that evaluates their preparatory and finish work.
The performance classes focus more on the model’s pose and suitability to real-life tasks. Classes require proper in-scale tack for each discipline such as English, Western and other (this category consists of the popular costume classes such as Arabian, parade, Native American, fantasy, etc.).
Dolls are not required but a dimension of realism of the entry and also allow for creativity. Scale of props, carts and obstacles is critical, as is the application of sticky wax to retain placement of headgear or accessories for the model’s best possible presentation.
The entry is complete with a card that briefly and neatly describes the activity being displayed.
The “triple crown” of collectability model showing consists of great condition; significance (i.e. vintage, rarity, difficult to obtain, etc.); and correct breed assignment. It is the evidence of the exhibitor doing his or her homework and putting in the extra active effort that increases the likelihood of a judge giving that model the nod.
Remember to be particular about the model selected for purchase — it all starts there. Make the effort to research the breed assignment and add photos that match the model, both in color and pattern as well as in body position. Ask questions of the judges to improve future entries.
When a model begins to place consistently well in large classes, at multiple shows and under a variety of judges, it will indicate the undeniable sign of excellence — the makings of a champion.