Monday, August 8, 2011

Showing 101: Model Halter vs. Real Halter, Pt. 3

Color is a constant issue in model horse showing. Unlike horse breeders, Stone, Breyer, and independent artists aren’t restricted in any way as to color. We don’t have to worry about those silly genetics. We can just pick something pretty and run with it! As a result, it falls to the shower to research a breed that matches the body type of the model and comes in the same color.

Breed books are an okay start, but they have an unfortunate tendency to be unspecific unclear, and inaccurate. Luckily, hobbyist Leslie Kathman has created a handy-dandy guide just for this purpose. Beyond that, there’s good ol’ Google Image Search, which is where you’ll eventually end up anyway trying to find photos for documentation.

As I mentioned on Monday, colors are often eliminated from a breed’s gene pool over time. Sometimes the color gradually withers away as a side effect of selecting for unrelated characteristics. Other times, the color is bred out intentionally because the color is considered undesirable. Registries will often take this one step further by not allowing horses that are the “wrong” color to be registered or approved. This is the case with the Friesian registry, which does not approve non-black animals for breeding.

The AQHA used to have a similar rule denying papers to foals with “excessive white markings.” Colonels Smokin Gun (Gunner) was one such foal:

If he’d been born on the wrong farm a few decades earlier, Gunner would have been just another overly white foal to quietly “disappear.” Instead, he was registered with the APHA, despite coming from two QH parents.

That was until a few year ago, when the AQHA passed the following:
A horse having white markings with underlying light skin beyond any one of the following described lines shall be eligible for registration by AQHA only if it is parentage verified through DNA typing the offspring, its sire and its dam. Breeders should be aware that the American Quarter Horse, while long recognized, identified and promoted as a solid-colored horse, can and does occasionally produce offspring with overo paint characteristics. Such markings are uncharacteristic of the breed and are considered to be undesirable traits.
In other words, they are happy to take your money in exchange for papers as long as you keep your pintos out of their halter classes.

And in the model world, chaos ensued.

On the one hand, we’ve always allowed unusual colors like chestnut Friesians, as long as they had appropriate documentation. Now, we have a rule that says they’re allowed but at the same time says they’re undesirable. What’s a model horse judge to do?

There isn’t a tidy answer for this problem and different judges have interpreted this rule in their own way. At this time, pinto QHs appear on a regular basis in at live shows. Disqualification is always a risk, but never a certainty.

Just speaking for myself, I don't like them. I know its sounds hypocritical given my post from Monday and my allowance of other “undesirable” colors such as cremello QHs and chestnuts Friesians. However, we already have a separate class for pinto stock horses: the Paint class. In my opinion, a pinto shown in the Quarter Horse class is in the wrong class.

The primary reason you see pintos shown in the QH class has nothing to do with registry rules: the shower is trying to move their horse into a sometimes less competitive class. With few exceptions, the pintos seen in QH classes are minimally marked. The Paint class, for better or worse, frequently rewards loudly marked horses, putting these models at a disadvantage (which is also why you probably won’t see someone trying to show a solid-colored horse as a breeding stock paint.) This is especially true for custom-finish divisions, where workmanship and finish play a larger part in breed classes. Just as the louder patterns dominate in the paint class, these minimal marked models get a leg up against solid-colored models.

Is it fair either way? Not really. I’ve repainted minimally marked customs and resins to make them more competitive. Same body, same base color, but the pattern made all the difference. One of my current best show horses couldn’t win a NAN card until I extended his pattern. My advice is to keep this bias in mind when you decide whom to bring to a show.

I'll get back into horsey privates on Thursday.

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