Friday, July 29, 2011

Just who's random garble is this?!?

   So after many moons of suggestive nagging by bestie Laura Skillern of "Don't Eat The Paint" fame and occasional fortune, I've finally decided to follow in her hoofprints and start a blog on my own subject of expertise: performance showing in the model horse hobby. Feel free to blame her in the future for unleashing me. Reliable and regular writing not being a major accomplishment of mine in the past, I'm nevertheless excited to finally have the motivation to give this a shot. Plus, it might prove a welcome regular distraction from homework or at least an activity to keep me awake during some of those boring lecture classes my school is so fond of requiring us to take.

This is Laura, please direct all future hate mail for this blog to her :)

   Lets start with who I am.

   "Hello, my name is Lauren Wood and I've been a model horse tackmaker, regular performance shower, and judge for about 15-20 years."

   Geez, that sounds like I'm opening the dialogue at a really weird self help group. Not to mention dating myself greatly. I'm snarky, blunt, unfailingly honest, sometimes overly open about my personal life, and generally I think a pretty fun or at least entertaining person. Note that I said fun and not funny; while I think my ever present jokes are usually funny, it's well proven that that may not always hold true in the opinions of others. This is just a mild warning for whats to come. In addition to being an "Equine Miniaturist", which is the easiest and most grown-up sounding way that I've found to explain why I play with tiny toy horses at my age, I'm also a dancer (ballroom, swing, country, and occasional attempts at latin), a full time student at Oregon State University with a double major in Accounting and Finance, and judging by this first paragraph, quite fond of run on sentences and excessive punctuation.

This is me. In my defense it was day 2 of 18 hr show days after a 27 hour bus ride... I was slightly delirious with exhaustion. Plus it was an easy way to carry my rosettes out to the car... 

   I've been creating my own tack for model horses as long as I can remember. I started out by snitching rolls of Christmas ribbon from the hall closet to make bridles and harnesses (many obscenely elaborate), and slowly progressed over the years to what is now generally defined as "Top Live Show Quality". Don't worry - that's a term we'll go into great detail about many times over as we progress on new topics. It's entirely subjective, so I use it loosely here. I still have my trusty old yellow bay #824 Clydesdale Stallion that for years and years was the primary victim and driving force of my herd. Yes that was one of many subtle and probably unsuccessfully funny puns to come. But with years of research, work, and learning as I showed, I've progressed to being a pretty regular success in the performance showring.

Custom harness circa 1990ish... 

2010 OF Combined Driving National Champion

   Between school, the afore mentioned dancing, and a general burnout from pushing too hard in too many directions, I haven't really been showing over the past year. As my interest returns, I'm finding it a bit more focused on certain things and at the same time, broadening. But one thing that hasn't changed is that I've always enjoyed instructing and sharing what I know about performance showing. I started judging maybe 7-8 years ago, and since I've been asked back to several shows - I think I've developed into a pretty good one. I was mostly raised in the hobby in the infamous Region X - in my opinion the most organized, developed, and progressive of any hobby population. It is an absolute requirement of any of their judges that not only be they knowledgeable, but that they also be capable of and willing to explain their placings. It's a policy I've always taken with me wherever I've judged.

As a tackmaker I pushed myself to progress by keeping to one rule: I only showed my horses in tack I made myself. This is not to say I think I'm the best out there... far from it! There are some tack makers out there that make things I am absolutely positive come from magic wands. The rule stemmed from three major factors: 1) I couldn't afford the good stuff, or if I could - it was a choice between another horse or a tack set, 2) I would never get better if I didn't keep pushing myself, and 3) I found it infinitely more satisfying to have more to do with the entry than just putting a horse on the table. This also helped me progress as a shower because I learned how the tack worked, why certain straps were there or not, what their purpose was, and then could apply that knowledge to using it. Knowledge of how and why is the hardest to come by in performance showing because it's so often taken for granted or assumed. Real horse research doesn't touch on a lot of things because they are naturally implied - you don't have to tell the rider how to sit in the saddle.

... or maybe I'm wrong

Now you guys have held on this long and you've got to be wondering - is she going to babble on like this with no purpose forever? No, but I'll probably go off on similar side roads in the future, just to warn you. How about we skip back to the main road and discuss just what I plan to do with all this so-called experience and expertise.

While there are a ton of amazing blogs out there, so far I really haven't seen one that focuses on the HOW to performance show. I might occasionally throw in little tack making tidbits, but really what I think is needed most and not covered by others equally or more worthy than myself, is how to use that tack set you just paid more than double your car payment for. Or how to position your horse to that jump that was equal to your teenage son's insurance payment. Or how to use the doll that could have been a romantic weekend getaway on the coast. And we can't forget how to make more use of the model you just spent a term's worth of Ivy League tuition on for more than one breed and workmanship class.

So hi, welcome, thanks for checking in, interrupt and ask whatever you want, and hopefully this isn't just informative, but ends up entertaining as well.


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