Collecting & Showing Basics

Model Horse Collecting and Showing

By Cindy Newhaus, used with permission from Lakeshore Collection, Ltd.

Collecting model horses and sculptures is a hobby enjoyed by a growing number of enthusiasts all around the world, offering the pleasure of enjoying beautiful horses without the considerable care and work they require.

Collection sizes may range from a just few cherished pieces to thousands. Some may collect only a specific breed of horse; others may specialize in a particular medium like china, a particular brand such as The Lakeshore Collection, fine bisque porcelain, plastic, customized pieces, or so on. But the vast majority collects anything and everything they love!

While many simply enjoy their collections at home, a fast-growing number of collectors are becoming involved in model horse showing, competing for fun, prizes, bragging rights, as well as the fun of meeting other collectors and seeing other lovely models! Many model horse clubs and shows are educational and fun for adults and children alike.

The collecting and showing hobby is becoming so popular that just one website, “Model Horse Central” ( has links to over 1550 model sites, in about 20 categories!

Model Horse Show Basics

There are live, photo and on-line shows, but all have some basics in common. At minimum, a model must have an assigned name (it’s best to use something other than the manufacturer’s name in case more than one Lakeshore Collection “Marshall” is exhibited, for instance), breed and gender. And no matter what, accuracy to breed standards or performance event rules, realism, scale and condition are of primary importance.

Be sure you show your model as the most appropriate breed and gender! Just because the box calls it a Hanoverian stallion, for instance, a model with a lighter build may show better as a Thoroughbred gelding. Sometimes the model’s color doesn’t actually occur in a breed. Comparing your model to photos and descriptions in a good breed book is educational, fun, and will help you win more awards.

Most live and some photo shows offer divisions by make or media, to allow for differences in characteristics, then there are classes within each division. For instance factory-made plastic Arabians compete against other plastic Arabians, not against original hand-painted artist sculptures which may cost thousands of dollars. Typical “make” divisions and their hobby abbreviations are:

Original Finish (OF) – As it came from the manufacturer without any alterations, typically mass-produced. Some shows will even have different divisions or classes for OF plastics, chinas, and resins.

Custom (CM) – A model that has had alterations such as being repainted, having body parts repositioned, or has a hair or sculpted mane and tail added. Some shows will even have a custom glazed (CMG) division for ceramic pieces that have been reglazed and fired in another color.

Artist Resin (AR) – A resin casting of an artist’s sculpture that has been uniquely hand-painted by an artist, hobbyist or owner.

Model Horse Show Classes

Shows may offer halter or performance classes, or both. In performance, the goal is to have a setup that looks like a “freeze frame” of a real horse performing in that event, be they English, Western, Harness, or Costume events. Models wear finely crafted miniature tack, bits held in horses “mouths” with sticky wax, appropriate for the event. Tack is usually made by hobbyists themselves, with one of the many kits available, or purchased from a hobby tack maker, rather than mass-produced. Other props like dressage rails and letters, cattle in cutting, trail obstacles, or fences, flags and jump numbers are used, all scaled to the size of the model. Some hobbyists even outfit scaled rider dolls in custom-made attire appropriate for the specific event!

There are generally a variety of Halter classes that shows may offer, but a halter itself is not required unless it is a Showmanship class.

Typical Halter classes offered may include:

Gender (Stallion, Mare, etc.) – Judged primarily on how well the model conforms to gender body type (Stallions tend to have thicker necks, more muscled than a gelding, etc.) and if it is a good example of stated breed.

Breed (Arabian, Morgan, etc.) – Judged primarily on how well conformation of the model matches breed standards. Since there are over 140 breeds of horses and ponies, it is common to have “type” classes such as “Draft” or “Pony”. Rather than individual classes for Percherons, Clydesdales, Belgians and Shires, any Draft breed horse would just be entered in the Draft class and each is judged based on their individual breed standards.

Color or Workmanship – Color classes are judged on what the judge feels is the best example of palomino, bay, etc. color. If it is an OF model, neatness of the finish may also come into play. Workmanship classes are for CM, CMG or AR horses and are judged on the quality of the painting and customization work.

Make or Collectability – There are usually individual classes for various makes of models (Lakeshore Collection, Breyer, etc.) and these might be even further broken down by run size (Lakeshore Runs of 25 or less vs. other Lakeshore Limited Editions, for instance). These classes are judged primarily on rarity and age of the model. Condition may matter a bit less as a well-mended but very rare piece may outplace a mint but more common one. The general appearance of a model is also considered.

Presentation (Showmanship or Liberty) – Judged primarily on appearance, aesthetics, neatness, and look of an entry. In Liberty, horses wear no tack at all. In Showmanship, they wear the same type of halter or bridle that the breed or type of horse would wear in an “in-hand” class. At live shows, handler dolls are typically used and entries are also judged on conformance to Showmanship patterns; in photo showing, it is common to run the lead out of the photo as though a person were holding it just outside the edge of the photo.

Some shows even offer special classes for original sculptures (OS), rare test pieces (TR), or one-of-a-kind (OOAK) models. Unrealistically colored models are typically only shown in their own special fantasy, decorator, or unrealistic color classes.

Showing Your Model

Many clubs and organizations offer photo (mail-in and/or on-line) or live shows all around the world. Many offer the chance to win prizes, ribbons, trophies, year-end, high point, or cumulative awards.

At live shows, exhibitors pay a fee in advance and bring the actual models to the show, sometimes driving for several hours. The fee typically includes a table, so the entrant can unpack their horses (there’s usually a 1-hour “set-up” time before judging starts) and have them ready for the classes. Then each model is taken to the “ring” (usually a long table) when the appropriate class is called.

Many live shows are sanctioned by NAMHSA ™, the North American Model Horse Shows Association (check for information and member shows near you). Models that win 1st or 2nd place in a NAMHSA show receive a card, good for 2 years, that entitles that model to show in the North American National Championships (NAN), held in alternate years in Lexington, KY and in the western US. Showing at NAN is an honor in itself and there are typically hundreds of entrants from all around the continent with thousands of models exhibited at an event which lasts 3 days.

For photo showing, good, clear, well-lit photos with the horse filling most of the frame will help the judge see your model clearly and help you do more winning. Since scale and realism are so important, please, no pictures outside in the grass-it will be knee-deep! Many hobbyists use kitty litter, model railroad supplies, coffee grounds or sand for in-scale footing. A good background will look natural.

The photos and any entry fee are sent either via the mail or on-line. In on-line showing, passwords and instructions are provided. If photos are sent via mail, entrants must include a SASE (Self-addressed stamped envelope) for their return after judging as well as the results. The model’s name, gender, age, and either the manufacturer and model number or artist’s name, along with the owner’s name and address, must be on the back of each photo. A piece of “magic type” transparent tape is used on the back so entrants can write the numbers of the classes they wish to enter in pencil and erase for next time.

Why not give model horse showing a try and see for yourself what all the fun and excitement is about?