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 thought 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

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