Monday, August 01, 2016

When in Doubt, Document


An example of a half-sheet documentation and placement of how it should go on the table at a show.

Documentation when showing is such an important aspect of showing model horses. First and foremost, it does the one thing everyone should ever hope to do: learn. Sure, it can help your model win it's class if done correctly, but the main purpose of documentation is education. Not only for the judge, but yourself as well!

The purpose of this post is to teach how to research and create your own documentation so that you can use it to help explain your breed assignment choices for your models. I'm focusing on Halter/Breed more than Performance because I'm not familiar with Performance Showing.

Why do we Document?

For the purposes of a halter class, the first thing that needs to be done when you decide to show a horse, aside from naming it, is assigning it a breed. Learning about breeds yourself is a good start, and it can be daunting (there are an estimated 300 breeds worldwide for horses!) so it's understandable not everyone can know every single breed, their characteristic, their restrictions, etc. and this goes for judges too.

Ah, the variety of horse breeds...

Most judges pride themselves on their knowledge and work hard to know all they can. But it's hard to know when a judge knows about a particular breed or not without asking. And normally a judge is too busy to ask if they need more information on a particular breed, so it's just easiest to research and place down some stats and photos so they can have a quick reference while they judge, just in case.

Spanish Jennet says "Do I LOOK like a beefy muscled stock horse to you?!"

Some people try to select an unorthodox breed for their model so it doesn't complete in a class with other similar models, thinking it may give them a better chance. This can work sometimes if they truly found a good or better breed than most would go with, but sometimes this is counterproductive. For example, if you have a clearly Stock-type horse like an Ideal Stock Horse (ISH) or Peter Stone Weanling and you want to show it as a Spanish Jennet just so it doesn't have to show in a massive Quarter Horse, paint, or Appaloosa class... it should not do well (especially when documented) because the model doesn't look like that breed in body type at all, even if it's colored like one. Different muscle types, proportions, and structure all are why it's not a good idea.

When to Document

Now you don't need to document every breed. Most Judges know about the basics like Quarter Horses, Arabians, Clydesdales, Shetland Ponies, etc. It's more rare or obscure breeds like Orlov Trotter, Kladrubers, Italian Drafts, Konik Ponies, etc. that need a little more info.

Very unique head of a Kladruber

You may also need to document if you're showing a model that is more commonly shown as a popular breed, but you found a cross that looks similar. Or if you have a common breed in a rare color (like Gray Morgans or "Pinto" Thoroughbreds). Again, some judges may know and understand these circumstances, but sometimes it doesn't hurt to document so they're on the same page.

Sato, Palomino and Pinto Thoroughbred Stallion.
Unusual color overall for a Thoroughbred,
though most know about his color due to Sato being a Breyer Model.

Most of the time, prior to a show, you can ask a judge if they would like documentation for a certain breed. It's best not to bombard them for every breed assignment you've chosen, but if you have a particularly rare or unusual option, they usually don't mind. They also don't usually mind being ask which class they want a certain breed in, especially if it's one that can be known to cover several categories. A Gypsy Vanner for example can be considered a pony breed, a draft, and even a carriage breed to some.


How to Document

Using Publisher to make Documentation

Most shows have rules that documentation should be no larger than a standard piece of paper (11.5 inches x 8 inches). I personally like to keep it to a half sheet of paper (as seen in the first picture at the top of this post) or less so it doesn't take up room and can sit nicely in front of my model. I usually use Microsoft Word or Publisher to make these so they are typed up nicely, perfectly spaced and arranged, and can be printed off nicely on card stock if I ever need to make copies.

It's not suggested you use a phone or tablet to show your documentation, just because the screen can be hard to see from certain angles, the screen may time out and go dark before the judge gets to it, and of course the obvious reason of you then don't have it on you and can risk it getting lost or damaged when not in your sight.

Ok, maybe it wasn't necessary, but it was cute!
Don't do this... laptops don't belong on the show table.

You can find your information from websites, breed books (I mention some in another blog post here under "Research and Credibility"), or by learning from breed associations. Be careful, some "breeds" like "Canadian Cutting Horse" are touted as breeds in some books, but they aren't actually a breed. Be sure to confirm with fellow hobbyists if you're unsure. Never flat out ask for people to find a breed for you, but make an effort to research and compare yourself first.


An example of documentation with the need-to-know stats
and pictures of a similar horse to my model.
It's very important to keep your documentation efficient. As short as possible so it's not so wordy and the judge has to skim or sit there and read forever, but also relevant to how we judge. We don't need to know much about a breed's history, though some information about breeds that contributed to it may be handy. Things like physical conformation descriptions (including height and weight averages), colors allowed AND what is actually possible (some breeds may allow any color but are limited by what is actually in the gene pool), and perhaps some of the breed's uses can help paint a picture about what a judge should look for. You can include links to websites or books you used to "cite your sources" but it's not often needed.


My custom Flash with PAM head who I made the
documentation for. Note the conformation similarities.

When picking photos to use as an example, it's always great if you can find a picture of an example from that breed that looks similar to your model, either in body type, pose, or color. It can be difficult or impossible to actually do so, but does help support your choice if you can find it. Most important is that the conformation matches, that the horse is not doing a gait that the breed can't do, and that it's an actual color that exists or is possible in the breed. Nothing's worse than putting down documentation that contradicts your chosen breed assignment so be sure you read and understand your choice.

If you don't have a picture of an actual cross (which I highly suggest you find one is possible), but you feel the imagined parents could have your model as their offspring, you can use photos of both parent breeds to get your point across. At that point, it's a lot like thinking about the results of breeding real horses, a skill not everyone has. Some judges are ok with this thinking, some may not. For example, be aware that breeds with a lot of feather (like Gypsies, Shires, or even Friesians) don't always pass on even 50% of the hair the parent had. The more refined the 2nd parent is, the less leg hair the foal will have. Same goes for body bulk, muscle definition, etc. Look at pictures of real crossbreeds to see how they look and work from there.

Shire x Thoroughbred... notice some feather, but not near the full amount a Shire has.

All in all, my theory is "When in doubt, document." If you're unfamiliar with a judge's knowledge or you want to be sure they understand where you're coming from with the decision on your breed assignment, by all means put down something for your own piece of mind. But remember, it's the models being judged, not your documentation. Some have though they models are rewarded for the homework, but most judges are indeed looking at the models first and only factor the documentation if they need the brush up education.

Shown as a Campolina, a good choice for this mold in Tobiano



Thursday, June 02, 2016

Critique: Fuel, Not Fire!

Overall, critique is both the most helpful and loaded thing that can come up when an artist shares their work. But it's a necessary part of life, especially for an artist. When you start down the road of creation, you will be judged. There is no way to avoid this unless you just plain don't share publicly ANYTHING you make. Here's the thing though: nothing ventured, nothing gained! Yes, I'm speaking in a lot of cliches, but it's all true.

Asking for help can only help!
In short, when you show off your an attempt at a custom, sculpture, or tack, people will be looking at it with a critical eye, whether they share their feelings about it or not. It's just human nature. Critical doesn't always mean bad, though! It just means they're assessing it, as people's brains like to do. If they decided to point out a few spots that could be fixed, for the most part this is not because they want to shut you down and discourage you. QUITE the opposite! Most want to help you grow and improve and succeed as an artist! And from personal experience, if they're trying to help you, that means they see something special, a potential, that just needs refinement.

Many have criticized we live in a time/society that awards everyone, passing out participation trophies like tissues, telling everyone they are a special snowflake and they're doing a great job doing whatever it is they're doing no matter what. This leads to many people getting a false sense of accomplishment, sure, but I have to believe that most people understand the truth about their own individual abilities. Self confidence and esteem is one thing, it's invaluable really so you don't get yourself down, but thinking everything you touch is gold is quite another and I haven't seen many people being the latter.

Ease up, Gramps, it's not that bad
I'm not going to lie. Sometimes the truth hurts. You work hard, you pour so much heart, soul, effort, and to the limits of your current skill, sometimes with frustration, and you're justifiably proud of what you've been able to create... only to be told a laundry list of faults, problems, and mistakes. I hate to say it, but that's life, and some Creative people tend to be just a touch sensitive to it (I say, as a creative person myself) especially as they just begin their "career."

This reminds me of one of my most favorite musicians, Lindsey Stirling. This girl is AMAZING with a violin, and mixes classical training with modern style in such a seamless and inspiring fashion. What she does is original, unique, and fantastic. However, one has to start somewhere:



People booed Piers Morgan's vote, made out to be the bad guy, but he did absolutely nail some issues she needed to address: missed notes, sour moments, balancing playing well AND physical movement. What she did was certainly a lot better than most could doing what she did... but she needed to perfect it. She cried, she got angry later... and then she decided to do something about it. Proving someone wrong may not be the most noble way to improve, but sometimes it helps more than anything else could have been. A kick in the pants if you will.

Granted, there are those who publicly rip on pieces as if there wasn't a feeling human being behind the piece they're so viciously attacking. Usually this happens most on new OF models from Breyer or Stone. Keep in mind the molding process itself may cause some flaws here and there, and judging by one or two angles in a picture is not the best way to fully assess it. NO ONE is stupid for liking something even if it has flaws. Something can have flaws and people can still like it The Gypsy Vanner is a good example of this. Now, these public opinions may have at least a kernel of truth to their bashing as far as the flaws they identify, even if the way they convey it is rude. Yes, they need more tact, but it's one of the things you have to deal with as well when you present your work.

People are already passing "final judgement" (good and bad) on this guy and he's not even out yet!
If you post something publicly, IT WILL be judged. Accept it, because it's just going to happen. Anyone who has seen the comments section on... well, anything on the internet, knows this. If it is up for sale, it will most certainly be judged and critiqued publicly, no matter what because people tend to care more when money is involved (another life lesson!) People will ask opinions on it and other people will gladly give it. You can't stop this, so it's best to prepare for it emotionally and mentally.

Being an artist means having a thick skin. Being able to handle presenting your soul to someone and have them pick over it. Sure, there's your own personal vision, but there's also fixing to correct flaws and problems that dwarf the idea. As replicators of the living, breathing equine equivalents, we have a standard to match: the realism and fascinating science of how the horse moves. From major muscle groups to subtle nuances like how hair flows when a horse moves, we're constantly learning how to faithfully copy our favorite animal.

Hubba hubba, am I right?

That said, DON'T let them get you down! There's always room for improvement and hey, you made something, which is a lot more than many can say. It can be easy to get discouraged, but NO ONE started off perfect. My love and goal of striving for the elusive "perfection" is what humbles me so I can listen to critique. Yes, even I *may* get defensive at first on occasion (no one likes to hear what they're doing is wrong) but taking a step back and mulling over what has been suggested to you is ultimately the best decision.

Even if it doesn't seem like it... Everyone starts somewhere! circa 2003-ish
To those who receive genuine, helpful, constructive criticism... for the love of your craft, LISTEN and take it with dignity and humbleness. Even if you're well-versed in the equine form, there's always going to be someone out there who knows more than you, or even is just a fresh pair of eyes to see something you can't see because you're too close to the project. They only want to help and are as excited about your project as you are AND they took time to say something! And never assume anyone's opinion is invalid just because you don't think they don't have the experience or education to back it up. Lots of people understand and notice issues without holding a degree or their have own line of sculptures. It's all a balance of Pride and Humility.

If someone offers advice you do feel is absolutely just plain wrong due to your own research, you're obviously welcome to calmly counter with your reference materiel to "show your work." If they continue to argue, you can respectfully agree to disagree, but do try to understand what their perspective is just in case you missed something.

Whoops, almost missed that! Drawing on images with Paint or Photoshop can help visualize issues

Now for those who critique: there is a right and wrong way to give advice. First, you have to ask if advice is wanted. A lot of artists are not ready to hear for many reasons, one being they know there's something wrong and they plan to address it themselves first later.. Or perhaps they just aren't emotionally ready to hear anything after struggling with a lot of other problems. Unsolicited advice is a surefire way of creating a poor attitude, hurt feelings, and crushed confidence. And yes, you should care about all of those because creative type people have a certain personality that depends on a certain state of mind to properly create.

Once you've been given the go ahead for advice, be gentle. Do not outright rip or bash on the work done. "It would die if it were real" or "Looks like a giraffe" is NOT helpful. Use positive language and a "compliment sandwich":

  • Point out an overall good attribute or compliment the idea
  • List what what needs fixed with some possible solutions or reference pictures
  • Wrap it up with what has been done RIGHT. 

"Wow, I never thought of Valentine being a Standardbred, very cool! Now that neck is getting a bit long, may wanna knock it down a vertebrae or two. Remember it should be the same as the length of the head... but otherwise I like where this is going! Keep it up!"
Backing up with solutions and facts is helpful to both show you know what you're talking about but also so the artist has somewhere to go with it. But always say *something* GOOD about what they're working on so they know you're not just seeing the negative. Encouragement is both good for an artist, plus it helps them open themselves to what you have to say.

If you and the artist disagree about what is wrong, you can rebut with facts and reference materiel, but it's likely best to back off and let it go. The artist may just be still blind or in denial, but they may also be trying to save face to saving their feelings for making a mistake. It may not be the best way they should deal with it, but either they'll come around or they'll just continue to hamper their own growth and you just can't force them either way.


Overall, Critique is a GOOD thing and should definitely happen, but remember not to hurt people's feelings, assume, or step on people's toes. Too many feel that it's rude to even suggest it, or to talk about something behind an artist's back, but ultimately, it does help teach and people can learn from it. Just keep it respectful (it's a small hobby, people DO hear about this kind of stuff) and someday, some newbie kid may become the next big name artist!


Thank you to whoever spoke up and helped me with this model... the first time I remember getting advice (to raise the back with a lowered head) that helped improve my work and caused me to open my eyes to really *see* what I was looking at.




Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Ultimate Breyerfest Survival Guide

Welcome to the Happiest Place on Earth!
Ah yes, he we go, yet another awesome Breyerfest to look forward to with live horses, models, contests, carnie food, models, room sales, and did I mention MODELS? I’m excited and the Kentucky Horse Park is in my backyard, so to speak, and I’ve worked there for four seasons (as well as been to about a dozen Breyerfests). For many, it’s a shining jewel in their events for the year, traveling to the Mecca of all things horse. Breyerfest brings home “Our Tribe,” a group of friends we usually only see this once a year. And we almost always make new friends as we get first timers to make the journey and see what all the fuss is about.

In an attempt to reduce stress all around, I do have some very important tips I’d like to share to make it the most enjoyable and EASY trip as possible, not only for the newbies, but for crowds in general! For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to write this as if I’m explaining it to someone who’s never been to Breyerfest, the Kentucky Horse Park, Kentucky in its humid summer, or around horses in general. I'm going to give some basic guidelines about etiquette around horses, which some may think sounds pretty simple and obvious, especially to those who have or deal with horses on a regular basis, but I understand some may never have realized these rules, either through inexperience or unintended ignorance. We all start somewhere!

OVERSTIMULATION!

Stuff in bold is REALLY important and a good tip to pay special attention to.

A couple quick tips to get us started (that we may go over in depth later):

  • ·         Plan your schedule ahead of time. Breyer usually posts the program online via PDF file (Seen HERE!) with a schedule and map so you can plan your day to make sure you see the performances, seminars and more that you want to see. Prices for Special Runs in the Mercado, Breyer Store, and SPecial Ticket items will also be visible on there so you can budget your weekend.
  • ·         Use a lightweight backpack or tote to bring stuff like water, snacks, and supplies like a sunscreen, hand sanitizer, camera, spare batteries, collapsible umbrella, poncho, etc. Always be prepared!
  • ·         Carpool if you possibly can! Parking is a headache, especially on Friday at the Park and at the Clarion on just about any night. Reduce the number of parking spaces needed (bonus: help the environment!) and carpool if you at all can.
  • ·         Dress comfortably and don’t forget your physical needs to stay cool, fed, and hydrated!
  • ·         Do NOT touch ANY MODEL without permission. This includes sales models. It’s only proper etiquette.
  • ·         Stay in touch with friends especially if you’re carpooling or plan to meet up. Cell service can be iffy both at the Park and the Clarion, so create a “Meet Here When” plan if technology fails.
  • ·         Use the Breyerfest App if available! It’s actually very handy, especially for first timers, to allow you to take notes, find places at the Park, keep you reminded of schedules, and more! So far, an actual app is only found on Apple iOSUnfortunately there's not an Android App (so far the Android version was only made one year) due to limited resources (Breyer can only do so much), but it can also be found here on Lighsphere which does work much like the iOS app with an Android or Windows Phone using your phone's browser.


The Lines and NPOD

Good Luck ever seeing it this devoid of humans...
The line that develops at the entrance to Breyerfest on the Friday (and Saturday to an extent) morning is extremely crowded and filled with excited anticipation and various forms of plotting. With Breyerfest so close we can taste it, and a Black Friday-esque sale going on in the Breyer Store (a.k.a. the Ninja Pit Of Death, or NPOD), as soon as the massive crowd is "released," it can border on the feeling of chaos depending on where you are in line.

Beep!
First, the drive to get into the Park! I would like to offer this helpful tip and really want to encourage this: If you are not trying to get to the Breyer Store for the NPOD, have a 9:30 Ticket for the Special Items, or desperately want to see the Opening Ceremonies, I would suggest NOT showing up until later in the morning, after 10:00 AM. The line truly is enormous and takes a while to get through, and Breyerfest is going to be there all day/weekend. Just because it opens at 8, doesn't mean you HAVE to be there... unless you need to be for the above reasons.
The gates officially open at 8:00 AM (though I know people who line up MUCH earlier than that), with Opening Ceremonies at 9:30 AM which last about half an hour to 45 minutes, after which most exhibitions begin. If you absolutely MUST be there when the gates open, try to get there early, like 6:30 or 7:00 AM, bring a camp chair, and be prepared to just chill. Friday is very busy because there’re lots of employees that work at the Park itself, plus office employees from various associations (USEF, USDF, Pony Club, etc.), so it may be nice to be considerate if you notice a solid or striped Yellow KHP hangtag over someone’s rear-view mirror and let them ahead of you, they may be trying to get to work. Also remember that Parking will be $5 per day unless you have a $15 weekend pass (purchase recommended!) or $50 season pass to the Park.
It can kinda be like that...

As for standing in the line to actually get through the gates, this has been a point of controversy and ill feelings for many years but it seems to go without saying and everyone needs to remember, there are CHILDREN and ELDERLY in this line. Do NOT push and shove, act inappropriately, instigate any conflicts, or otherwise make the situation worse than it is. Injuries have happened in the past and they really didn't have to happen. Please remain calm and TRY to act polite, even when in the NPOD (hey, I can at least ask...) They have made this better in the past with handing out numbers so there’s a “First come, first served” system: as you show up to stand in line around the parking lot, you’re given a number if you want to go to the NPOD. They will only accept people in the order of the numbers to enter the NPOD. They also have this system for the Breyer Pop Up Store (this year called the Breyer Mercado). This helps, but remember to hold on to your number. If it’s your first year at Breyerfest, I would suggest NOT going to the NPOD. It is NOT for the faint of heart. They tend to have some “leftover” special runs from various events and web specials, occasionally some real gems like sample models or unpainted blanks, etc. BUT it can get quite tense in there with some real strong personalities. It didn’t get its nickname for nothing!

Hi, Fluffy!
This is one of the few times the Kentucky Horse Park uses their Mounted Police, in action and ready for duty for pedestrian control. The only other time they make such a strong presence is during Rolex, the international 3-Day Event. When the Officers do allow the line to move on towards the Covered Arena, you must STAY BEHIND THEM. You are not allowed to pass them and if you do, they will run down any offenders and send them to the very back of the line which tends to be at the other end of the parking lot. It’s best to listen to what they say and follow their directions. They are real police officers (a division of the State Troopers I believe) with plenty of experience and can uphold the law and order in any way they see fit.

They really are quite friendly :)

For the Special Item Tickets line, remember to show up a good 15-20 minutes before the actual ticketed time so you can find your place in line and be in the right spot when the front number is called. Technically, if you aren’t there when the line gets moving, you have to be at the back of the line no matter what your number was. They usually have this area covered with roof tents and misting fans, but there’re no chairs and people tend to sit on the grass. You may be standing a while (like up to 45 minutes if you end up towards the end of the line), feel free to chat with your neighbors and make some new friends!

Back of the line is less than ideal, but fair's fair...

Remember, you can’t take shopping bags into the Breyer Store and this includes the Special Ticket Line. You will either need to use Breyer’s Bag Check, or I heavily suggest returning to your car and putting your goods in a shady spot in the vehicle OR find a friend to hold and watch your bags for you. There has been problems with people stealing from the Bag Check in the past, though they have added a system to make that less likely, I still suggest securing your bags on your own if possible, and sealing/tying/zippering any bag you do check so nothing falls out. This usually doesn’t include purses and some smaller backpacks/totes so you can usually take them in, but they may ask to inspect them at some point. Be nice to the Lions Club volunteers for standing in the sun and doing their job of screening and crowd control!

For Three Day Ticket Holders, unless you’re only there the one day, if you don’t need to pick up your Celebration Model on Friday, then don’t. The line is usually crazy long the first day but at various times on Saturday and Sunday you can pretty much just walk up to the window and grab it. On Day 2 and 3, sometimes there’s a short line of about 50 feet tops, but it’s a lot easier on everyone to just pick it up on Saturday or Sunday instead. You are guaranteed to get this model, after all!

Keeping Your Cool and Playing It Safe

Accurate.
The biggest challenge at Breyerfest (besides trying to do everything you want!) if staying healthy and cool in the hot sun or dry and safe during rain showers or thunderstorms. Mid-July is pretty much the peak of Kentucky’s summer, with humidity usually hovering at around 80% or higher, temperatures rarely below 85 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius), and bright, skin-frying sun! Sunscreen is highly suggested, as is personal battery-operated fans, and WATER. Be sure to dress with the heat in mind: shorts, tank tops or t-shirts, ball caps, sunhats or visors are all great ideas. For footwear, wear what is comfortable for long periods of standing and walking. There are usually no guest golf carts to hail and the Trolley is a one way trip with no stops (and not part of the Breyerfest ticket) so it’s all walking everywhere. Flip flops and sandals, while cooler, may not be ideal in such a dusty, dirty, horse-occupied environment. Be mindful of your feet if you decide to get close to a horse to pet them (more on that later). I suggest sneakers or running shoes with vents.

Bring Water! If you have a way to freeze water bottles, that is a great way to keep yourself cool and hydrated. Don’t bother bringing a cooler, it’d be much too bulky and heavy to drag through crowds. A nice, light-weight backpack or tote is likely the best bet, carrying up to 1.5 liters of water per person per day minimum. Some people use Camelbacks, a special insulated water bag carried on the back. Between Camelbacks and cooling bandanas (a cloth tube filled with silicone beads that trap water, tied around the neck). They can keep you cool if they’re freshly cooled, and if you rotate them often, but they can also insulate body heat. I have found them more of a hindrance than a help personally. If you do need to run water over yourself, chose areas where blood vessels are close to the skin: wrists, ears (MY favorite), face, neck, and legs. Bringing sports drinks like Gatorade is also not a bad idea, especially towards the end of the day when salt and electrolyte levels are getting low or if you experience exhaustion.

Keep an eye out for these symptoms for heat exhaustion and seek help from Park or Breyerfest staff if you experience them:
  • ·         Confusion. (more than usual… ;)
  • ·         Dark-colored urine (a sign of dehydration)
  • ·         Dizziness.
  • ·         Fainting.
  • ·         Fatigue. (best to take rest breaks often anyway to avoid exertion)
  • ·         Headache. (one of the most common symptoms)
  • ·         Muscle or abdominal cramps. (a rumbly tummy is usually a result)
  • ·         Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. (it may not be the carnie food…)


If you or someone you see has any of these, immediately notify staff (or even a friend or passerby so they can keep an eye on you until you get help). Remove as much clothing as possible and lay the person on their side; if the victim throws up, this is the best position so they don't choke on their own vomit. Do not offer cold water to drink as this could be a shock to the system and it's likely a good idea not to give them water at all if they're unconscious or close to it as they can choke on it. Do seek shelter in a building with Air Conditioning (Visitor Information Center, Museum, Restaurant, etc.) if they can move or things like shade, fans, etc. Do not try to fan yourself, this uses too much energy. Place any cold drinks or packs in areas like armpits, groin, back of the knees, lower back, and nape of the neck to help cool these vascular areas faster so the brain doesn't overheat. There’s always someone every year that has problems, and thankfully there’re usually EMTs nearby due to the horse shows going on.

Not only is the heat a concern for you, but for your models as well! The plastic Breyer models are made of is heat sensitive and may bend, warp, or bloat in extreme heat. This is especially likely with the more recent models released which are made of a slightly softer plastic and some molds with thin legs like Weather Girl and the Mawari are more susceptible. It's best to keep them in the shade, and depending on how hot and sunny it gets, the car may not be safe. If you need to put your models in the car (and you weren't lucky to park underneath a tree), pick a shady spot inside such as under a seat, in the trunk, or reflective windshield sun shades. This is a good idea to deter thieves anyway: can't steal what they can't see, though break ins in the parking lot are very rare. Storing models insulated coolers (like what you'd use to keep drinks cool) is also a good idea, maybe even going as far as to line the bottom with bagged ice or ice packs. Ice will melt and create humidity of course, so make sure you buffer with lots of plastic, garbage bags, or slightly inflated pool floats (not recommended for models in boxes or the boxes will get soggy, damaged, and bleed ink onto the models). Customs and painted Resins should NEVER be left out in a hot car or they can become sticky or damaged! If you can, drive models back to your hotel to keep them safe from the heat. Your parking pass for the weekend will let you back in. Cracking windows or coming out to run the AC on occasion (as cold as you can get it) can also help. Days that are perpetually cloudy are not usually an issue. Which brings me to...

Tut tut, looks like rain... and tornadoes...
Occasionally, Breyerfest is WET. Thunderstorms and flooding can happen and happen often during the heat and humidity cycles in Kentucky. Storms tend to come from the west (by I-75) and south (Ironworks Pike) so keep an eye on those directions for clouds. Keeping a poncho or umbrella (great to keep the sun off too!) handy in your backpack is a great idea. If you do use an umbrella or poncho, be mindful around horses and don’t shake, flap, or brandish it near one in case the horse is scared. If you see lightning, SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. Barns are good, enclosed areas like the Visitors Information Center or Museum are even better. Also, be careful if there’s flooding on roadways on your drives to and from the Park. Most of the main paths to and from hotels are usually safe, but if you take a back road (like to visit farms), do not attempt to drive through any standing water on the road. Even a few inches can lift and wash away a car! It usually takes a particularly strong downpour for this to happen, but the creek around the Park (Cane Run) can rise from nothing to overflowing in as little as a few hours!

Meeting the (Live!) Horses at the Park

Mennold says Hi :)
Most of the Park's horses are well trained to deal with the inexperienced and most have seen it all. Most will be just fine with flash photography, petting, and other things that may upset the average horse. However, any guest horses for Breyerfest or competition horses there for a show that happens to be using the Park grounds at the same time may not be.

It is advised NOT to bother any competition horses who are there for unaffiliated horse shows, both for their own benefit (showing is STRESSFUL) and to reduce the risk of spread of disease. Every horse that sets foot on the park must bring with them papers to show they are healthy, but it's entirely possible that this is not fail-proof. Also, these horses are riders are in a high-stress environment and in a certain mind-set that must not be interrupted.

The most important thing to remember is that horses are living, breathing, PREY animals. They are not dogs or cats and should not be treated or approached like one. As one article put it: "WE (people) are like dogs or cats. We are predators. Predators like to do new things. Horses do not like new things, as new things usually mean the death of them." Learn the safety rules and proper conduct when in the presence of the real thing.

A relaxed horse getting a good pet :)

  • ·         Ask whoever is handling/riding a horse if you may approach. It may not be a good time to come visit if the horse is being restless, scared, preparing for a presentation, or being worked on with grooming, hoof trimming, or saddling/tacking up.
  • ·         Always walk calmly, not run, up to a horse. Running up to a horse means you may be a predator and he may try to defend himself.
  • ·         Always approach a horse from the front or slightly from the side, never from behind. Be sure to always be in view of his eyeballs so he's not surprised by someone popping into his vision. This goes double for horses wearing blinkers/blinders in harness, like the draft horses pulling the trolley. 
  • ·         Horses cannot see directly behind them or in a small blind spot directly in front of their face and under their muzzle. Be aware of this if you reach a hand up to pet them.
  • ·         Watch a horse's body language. Ears, neck position, and tail all tell how the horse feels about your being in his space.
  • +Pricked ears, ears to the side, or slightly back are fine.
  • +Ears pinned back against his neck are not.
  • +Stiffening of the neck, raising his head out of reach, or avoiding you altogether means you should take the hint and leave him be for a minute.
  • +Eyes wide ( I would say "with eye-whites showing" but some horses, like Appaloosas and pintos, have eye-white that shows no matter what, so just be aware) Half-closed eyes means the horse is very relaxed or might even be dozing. Leaving a sleeping horse lie is also a good idea, as it's only polite.
  • +A quickly swishing tail (when not swatting at flies) is also a bad sign.
  • ·         Good places to pet a horse is on the nose, face, forehead, and neck. Avoid the ears and eyes as some horses are sensitive about them. Make sure he sees your hand before you reach up between his eyes (a blind spot) or he may be surprised.
  • ·         Never walk behind a horse. If you need to, try to stay back at least 10 feet and TALK to them. Say whatever you want, just make a little noise so they can listen for you. Another way of going behind a horse is to keep your body close and keep a hand on his rump and you go behind. The idea behind this is instead of gaining some steam for a kick, the horse can only (roughly) "nudge" you away. This is NOT recommended for those not used to horses and is to be avoided if at all possible.
  • ·         Watch your feet. Make sure that your feet are one full, adult-sized step away from the horse's base. Horses like to shift weight or move restlessly, so be prepared and watch to see if a horse is planning to take a step so your feet aren't under them. ESPECIALLY if you are wearing sandals or flip-flops.
  • ·         DO NOT HAND FEED THE HORSES. This is a Park rule to insure that the horses don't start getting nippy whenever hands are put near their mouth. These horses are usually well trained to be petted on the face and nose, and it's ok to do so. But if they expect hands to have food, a hand may become food. Save your fingers and keep your apples, carrots, and peppermints to yourself. Also horses have much different digestive systems from ours. They cannot burp or throw up, so if something disagrees with them, they can colic, which is very serious and may even cause death.
  • ·         Keep an eye on your children and dogs. Just because you know what to do doesn't mean they will, even if they don't mean to cause harm. Some dogs are threatened by horses. Some children think all animals are big fluffy stuffed animals that wouldn't dare hurt them. So watch your child or dog to make sure they don't go darting in a horse's path or worse. Serious injury or death is a big possibility.
    Say hi to Harold for me :)
  • ·         The Horse-Drawn Tour Trolley does not stop. If you see it coming, get out of the way or risk getting run over. If you are riding the trolley and one of your items falls off, again, the trolley does not stop. It's unsafe to stop or jump off anywhere on the trolley route, especially on a hill, as it puts strain on the horses and risks injury to you. (Note: the Trolley Tour is not available to Breyerfest attendees unless you pay for a Park admission ticket, due to the sheer load of people they would have to haul if it was open to all Breyerfest ticket holders. Do not expect to get on with your Breyerfest Button alone. If you want to ride the Trolley, you need to go to the Visitor’s Center and purchase a regular Park Admission ticket and sticker, usually around $14)
  • ·         And this really goes without saying but it has happened: Do NOT open and/or enter any stall or paddock, either by the gate or hopping over the fence. Only Park employees are allowed to do this for obvious safety reasons. They are experienced horse people and trained professionals. I don't care if you "have horses yourself," it is incredibly inappropriate and unsafe.


The Clarion (Formerly Holiday Inn North, a.k.a. The CHIN)

You can ask for real maps so you can read the numbers, but this actually ain't lying...

The hotel where all the off-site scene is at! Room Sales, Swap Meet, Artisans’ Gallery, Meet Ups, and not to mention more models than you’ve likely seen in your entire life. It can be overwhelming, and is VERY easy to get lost in. If you don’t have a very good sense of direction, stick with someone who does, especially if they’re a veteran. I would also like to suggest coming from the Park via Ironworks Pike and right onto Newtown Pike (4-way stop, can't miss it) and not taking I-75 SB. The Exit off I-75 is very close to the entrance for the Clarion and you basically have to shoot across a couple lanes of traffic in a short amount of time to get into the left turn lane for it, which is usually backed up anyway so squeezing in can be an issue.

Please... don't do this...
Parking can be a nightmare. There is usually Breyerfest and Hotel Staff there to help direct traffic to where spots may be found, but mostly they’re keeping the flow going the right direction with no promise of parking. Carpooling or having someone drop you off is HEAVILY suggested, as it fills up quick with rarely anywhere to park at all after a certain time. Do not park at Denny’s, they will tow. Sometimes they park people back behind the hotel, almost on the nearby golf course, and may give golf cart rides to the hotel, but not back. This is a long walk back. The most packed hours are from 5:00 PM (when the Park closes) until about 9-10:00 PM (sometimes until almost Midnight) when families with children filter out. Either try to get there earlier, or carpool. Remember to create a designated meet up time and place for those you’re with in case cell service is down.

The struggle is real.
You’ll notice signs and posters being put up in various well-traveled intersections, pointing you in the direction of rooms as they explain what they have. While there’s something to be said for wandering into every room, this can be helpful if you’re looking for something specific. Writing down or taking pictures of these signs with your cell phone can help you remember where these rooms are and keep you focused.

Honey! This says they have Angels- I mean Wind Dancers!

Once again, it’s very important to remember to ask before you touch any model. They may be for sale, but some models may have special needs so they don’t break, one could fumble and drop something, and it’s only polite so the seller can assist you with any questions and keep an eye on her wares anyway. Stealing is not uncommon, so it keeps you honest to show your intentions. If you want to haggle, be respectful and don’t lowball too much. These people spent hundreds on their room for the weekend and need to make back that money somehow. And if they are firm on their prices, respect that as well and either take it or leave it. Most people are very friendly and reasonable, so don’t be afraid to ask!
If you come back with cash, you either did something very wrong or very right...

The Swap Meet (from 7:30 PM-11:00 PM Friday night) line is very long, usually wrapping around and down the hall way! If you want a good spot, plan to come very early (line usually starts just before 5:00 PM) and hang out in the hall for a while. Listen to the Breyerfest volunteers and staff for instructions as they let in a few small groups at a time so it’s not so crowded that people knock things over. Usually one can enter and leave freely around 10:00 PM and on. While there may not be the same things available then, there’s still a LOT to choose from, and usually you can get a good deal.
You laugh, but it really doesn't feel this far off...

The CHIN is huge. There’re only two floors (that change levels in themselves), and technically about four sections, but how it’s all put together is slightly… strange. We don’t compare it to MC Escher for nothing… Also, cell service can be nonexistent in most of the hotel no matter your provider, and indeed the property as well. It’s truly a Bermuda Triangle type of deal. You’ll find yourself quoting Labyrinth and expect the Goblin King to come bounding out from behind a vending machine. Even those who have been there for years still aren’t sure how to get to certain blocks (including the mythical 800 block). You’ll need to rely on all your senses (the smell of the pool helps to center your internal compass and the sounds of raucous laughter means the bar may be nearby, but no guarantee)

So the Labyrinth is a piece of cake, is it? Well, let's see how you deal with this little block...

In Conclusion


There is so much, much more that could be advised about, like the Model Horse Shows, Contests, Kid's Tent, local eateries and landmarks, etc. but I either don’t have the experience to explain it or this blog post would go on forever (and I’ve already written a book it seems). Mostly Breyerfest is about staying cool, having fun, taking pictures, and looking at or buying lots of pretty plastic ponies! There’s no real wrong way so long as you hit all those marks.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Beware the Reference Photo: Trusting the Eye of the Digital Age


Reference photos are by the far the most valuable tool we have as artists. They show us how a horse is actually formed, what color they are, and the details of what every muscle fiber is doing at the moment that shutter snaps...

Or does it?

Recently, I found this picture of Windemere Farm's "Bentley" kicking up his heels in the paddock, having a grand time! but something looked off.

A young Percheron stallion showing off his athleticism, wee!

If you see, his one hind leg is FULLY extended, to the extreme of it's ability without going the opposite direction that it was intended (what would be called Hyper-extension, which you *can* find in racehorses on occasion.)

Notice how there's a convex curve on the front of the front, weight-bearing leg. It's hyper-extending to the point
where the forearm's humerus and the canon bone are no longer in line with each other

But the curious thing about the picture of Bently is that while his hind leg is fully extended, his hindquarters (butt) looks to be bunching up, the stifle starting to tuck in closer to the body. Sure, Percherons only have so much range of motion and he has a certain conformation, but this just looks off... as if he was a "bad" custom of someone who didn't take into account the entire mechanics of a horse's leg from pelvis to hoof. That stifle should be further from his body at that point. It's subtle, but still doesn't look "right."

So what's going on?

In short: distortion. In the digital age we live in, cameras are more readily available available; you likely have one in your pocket right now on your cell phone. The thing about cellphones and more compact cameras is that there's not a lot of room for a lot of extra or conventional features. That's why you get the "fish-eye" effect where the edges seem stretched, so that you can fit more in the frame at a short distance (Selfies!) But there's also another problem... (watch this video!)


Also, check out Vsauce on Youtube, AWESOME videos that make you think!


The rolling shutter means that one happened on one side of the frame may not have *exactly* happened at the other side of the frame. So in the case of a millisecond event like a SWIFT, strong kick, something may not exactly add up the way it ACTUALLY happened at that point. Kinda like taking a panorama shot when someone moves, but in a much smaller frame of time.

That's how stuff like THIS happens! Ahhhh!!!

You also can kind of see that this is what's happening with Bentley's picture because of this small area here:



That little light spot looks exactly like the background sky, and yet it's over the other hock? That's because that other leg was moving too, and in its time, it moved into and out of view from behind his haunch. In short, his hind legs were moving VERY fast! SO fast, the camera couldn't keep up!

So the moral of the story is: not all reference pictures are created equal. Be careful using such a picture as an example of "Well, it happened in this picture!" Cell phone cameras in particular are notorious for not telling the whole, or even the correct story. That's a big reason of why I prefer a good SLR. It gets the whole story, the right time, the first time.

Now same could be said for using a picture as a reference for a color. Be aware of if the photo looks too warm (red) or cool (blue). People adjust saturation all the time (Guilty!) to make colors pop and sharpen contrast. Our eyes like to see images like this:

Photo by Manu Sharma of Marwari colt Tofan

But in reality, it's likely not near as dramatic

More real-to-life color, but still a BEAUTIFUL rose grey!

So be skeptical, Question what you see if it's particularly breathtaking, consider the (camera) source or the fact it may have been edited (especially from a professional photographer).