A quick explanation for anyone new to the hobby, or just tuning in out of amusement: what is performance showing with a model horse? Performance showing is portraying a model horse in any given task that a real horse would be used for. And yes, it's as wide of a range and field as that sounds like. Everything from a hunter over fences entry to jousting, to Amish driving, to cattle work can be included. It is judged on what the horse is doing, rather than the horse itself as either artwork or representation of anatomy.
Just how do you judge the performance of an inanimate object you ask? Well we all circle around the show ring and gallop them up and down on the table top while skipping in our own 2-legged canters and prancing trots beside the table, and then we roll a dice to see who is fairest in the land on that day.
Yes, I'm kidding. But you'd be amazed how often people ask if that's how it works.
In actuality, we set up the horse or horses and assorted other props such as cows or jumps or trees or doll riders or what have you in a scene, and the entire package is judged as if a frozen moment in time. While it seems relatively simple enough, it's actually extremely complicated, particularly because not only are we judging the skill of craftsmanship for creating all elements of the scene, and not only are we judging the level of skill in the shower's use of the horse and all accouterments, but we're also judging the scene itself against the ideal of the skill that is depicted. For example in a western pleasure class, each of the entries is judged not only on the elements for the event – are they all correct and of quality, but we are also judging if that horse is doing what it should be doing in a western pleasure class of the level shown, and how well it is doing so.
A scene from a typical model horse show: show rings down the center, with entrants tables around the sides. Performance entries are being set up in ring 1 in the foreground.
A typical successful performance entry. Oddly enough, yes doll riders are optional, however they are becoming more popular and necessary for a winning entry as competition gets tougher.
A performance division at a model horse show comes from a general list of 12 or so classes in which any event portrayed can be fit, and depending on the size of show and number of entries, further classes are split out to more specific disciplines. In some shows, Original Finish and Customized models will compete against each other, and in others, they may be divided to separate divisions.
There are two very important things for showers that we’ll be discussing another time in great detail: research and documentation. The largest part of performance is emulating a real horse event in as absolute close detail as possible. The only way to do this, is to know EVERYTHING you can about what you’re trying to portray. In many instances, you’ll find that model horse showers often have a larger knowledge base than real horse showers out of necessity. They have to be able to tell the difference between what is possible or what is allowed and what is not. In real horses, a lot of that doesn’t need to be thought of because it can’t happen. One great example of this is positioning your horse within the scene. Movement is restricted to the plausible in the real world, a horse cannot fly, so it has to have the proper propulsion to get over a fence. If it doesn’t it doesn’t get over the fence. End of story. In models, you have to know that it is implausible for a trotting horse 5 scale feet in front of a 6 foot jump to make it over that jump. But you can still put the model there… see the difference?
Can you spot the plausibility issue with this entry?
He's too close to the wall for the angle of the jump. He would have had to come through the wall to make that angle with his body position as it is. (Admittedly not the best photo angle, but you get the idea)
Each of the above topics I'll be going into in far more detail in the future, but this gives you a general grasp on what performance is, and where the challenges lie. Some of my ideas for future topics are listed below, I hope they (and I) interest you enough to keep reading! For now - I'm off to go clean for my birthday party :P
What the future holds (in no particular order):
Planning a Classlist: different size shows and how to arrange the order for your entrants sanity
Western Pleasure: a rundown of the “easiest” class
Dolls – for good or for evil?
live show set ups vs photo show set ups – the different elements
picking your models – how to make use of a difficult horse
reins – they are not floppy neck decorations
documentation – what to include and what NOT to include
scene vs performance
My biggest pet peave: Costume classes. Are they a TACK class or a PERFORMANCE class?!?
positioning your model to an obstacle – measuring strides, direction, momentum, etc
Proper Jumps: what type of jumps are allowed in what events
Safety first – just because eit can happen, doesn’t mean it should
proper presentation: those little details that make or break an entry
bits: the general rules for breeds and disciplines
Boots: using vet wrap well, when boots are optional and when they're not
Stay tuned for next week!