Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The doll dilemma

It's a question as old as model horse performance showing itself: Are dolls an essential part of a performance entry?

The traditional answer is no.  Rider dolls have never been required, at least not on this side of the Atlantic. A poorly positioned doll will hurt your entry more than it will help. It's a lot safer - and often smarter - to leave them off.

All of this is true if you're using a big headed Breyer doll with factory boots, but come on... It's 2018. It's been more than five years since Yvonne made her debut, and the hobby is filled with excellent scale seamstresses. Good looking, good riding dolls are not a rarity. They are expensive and fiddly and oftentimes frustrating, but if you really want to be competitive at the national level, dolls are your friends.
performance entries with and without dolls at BreyerFest Live 2018
Here's why. Under my judging system the best score a doll-free entry can receive for the rider component is zero. That's not as bad as it sounds. Remember, a zero means the entry has met the class requirements, no more, no less. To paraphrase the AQHA: The entry is correct with no degree of difficulty. There are a lot of shows where entries that mark consistent zeros can - and should - win.

However, at the national level, most showers aren't content with zeros. There are going to be a lot of well dressed dolls that are getting ones and twos. There might even be a few perfectly posed riders that merit the rare plus three.

To not even try is leaving points on the table. Literally.
Lu Heater's cutting doll gets a plus three
And that's best case scenario. There are some entries that truly require a doll to make sense. If the rider is holding anything besides reins in her hands, the judge really needs to see those hands. Sticky waxing an egg and spoon to the saddle horn isn't convincing and is going to result in a negative score.
riderless Egg and Spoon
photo and entry by Erin Corbett
taken that time she accidentally left all the dolls at home
So, back to that question: Are dolls an essential part of a performance entry? My 2018 answer would be this: Dolls are not required, but a good entry with a good doll is always going to have the edge over a good entry without a doll. If you truly want to succeed at the highest levels of performance showing, you need to embrace your inner Barbie lover.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

My judging system

Before we actually judged any horses, the members of the 1990 Colorado State University Horse Judging Team spent a lot of time learning about judging systems. We were taught different systems for different disciplines, and how to mark a scorecard for each.

I've forgotten most of that.

However, I have not forgotten how to score a reining class. That is the judging system that resonated most deeply with me, and is the foundation on which I have built my own model horse performance scoring system.
photo by Corina Roberts
Here's how the AQHA describes the reining scoring system on the AQHA Reining 101 section of their website: Each rider enters the ring with a score of 70, which denotes an average performance. The judge then adds or subtracts points during the performance. With seven to eight maneuvers in each pattern, each gets a score ranging from minus 1 1/2 (extremely poor quality) to plus 1 1/2 (excellent quality). Points are given for level of difficulty and finesse, while points are taken away for loss of control of the horse or deviations from the pattern. If no points are given or taken away, that denotes a maneuver that is correct with no degree of difficulty.
Since time is always an issue and most of the scoring happens in my head, I've simplified this a bit. Every entry starts with a zero. I then add or subtract whole number values ranging from minus three (major error) to plus three (holy crap, this is amazing!). Instead of looking like this...
my judge's notes tend to look like this.
I like this system because it doesn't just penalize mistakes. It also rewards excellence. That's important to me. While I'm not willing to overlook major functional errors, I also know that mistakes are only part of the equation. Clean and correct is the starting point. Clean and correct is a zero. There's a level or two beyond that, and my judging system helps me separate the good from the amazing. Please, please show me your plus threes.

Monday, August 13, 2018

This is why

Last month, I made Tiffany a pile of peas.
Since I had a little bit of pea colored clay left over, I decided to make myself some, too. 

"This is silly," I thought, as I rolled up one little pea after another. "I am never going to need a pile of peas."

Still, I persisted. After all, it never hurts to have extras.

Today, Kylee Parks posted a picture of her brand new 1:9 scale trash can on Facebook. She asked for performance ideas, and Jennifer Scott brought me into the conversation.
I provided a picture, and then things took a weird turn.
One thing led to another, and this happened.
The response was magical.
So was Sandra's next request. 
This is why I always make extras! I really did need that pile of peas!
P.S. This is also why today's judging post hasn't made it past the draft stage. Tomorrow I promise to spend less time on raccoon pictures and more time on writing.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Friday favorites

Yesterday, Heather Malone and I met up for happy hour, and what happy hour - or two - that was! The food was great, the drinks were cold and the conversation was all about model horses. We discussed old news like NAN and BreyerFest and new news like next year's NaMoPaiMo and the Jennifer Show. We reviewed recent releases and sales pieces, and we talked about all the things that are going on in the hobby right now. It was a really great way to spend an evening. Everyone who collects model horses should have a hobby happy hour with Heather.

And now everyone kind of can.
Earlier this year, Heather and her best friend, Jackie Rossi, launched the model horse hobby's first podcast, Mares in Black.
Produced and edited by Heather's partner, Josh Wesner, Mares in Black covers all aspects of model horsedom.
The most recent episode is my favorite so far. I especially enjoyed the interviews with each of the winners of this year's Best Customs Contest. How inspiring it is to listen to artists of this caliber talk from the comfort of my own studio.
This show is the perfect soundtrack for studio time and beyond. Truly, there's nothing better than listening to two smart, funny, articulate women talk about the hobby we all love. Turn them on and break out the chips and margaritas. It's almost exactly like happy hour!
Please keep up the good work, Heather and Jackie. I'll be listening.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Almost wordless Wednesday

Alisa Bayalieva wasn't just a gifted tack maker. She was a beloved wife and mother, a poet, an enthusiastic lover of life and an incredible photographer. Today's almost wordless entry features just some of her gorgeous pictures.

P.S. Alisa's friends and family have set up a Go Fund me account to help with funeral and family expenses. Any contributions will greatly appreciated.

Alisa Bayalieva

Today I am mourning the loss of one of the model horse hobby's brightest stars, Alisa Bayalieva.
Alisa burst onto the hobby scene via social media four years ago. 
Her Facebook and Instagram accounts were filled with amazing photos of gorgeous tack. 
Again and again, I found myself wondering, "Who is this Russian girl and how did she get so good?"
Oh, she was so good.
It seemed like there was nothing she couldn't make...
and all of it...
was so good.
She was also incredibly generous. She passionately promoted her fellow Russian tack makers and donated to live shows, including the Jennifer Show, across the globe.
She also donated two halters to NaMoPaiMo this year, and they were among the most desired prizes. Coincidentally, they were also the two things I most wanted to keep for myself!
All of Alisa's tack arrived beautifully packaged...
and usually accompanied by Russian candy. It was such a treat receiving boxes from Alisa.
She was a class act. 
I'd like to offer my deepest sympathy to Alisa's husband and daughter, as well as the Russia hobby community at large. 
Godspeed, Alisa. You are already missed.