Thursday, May 5, 2011

Western Pleasure and the Model Horse, Part Two

Western Pleasure and the Model Horse

by Erin Corbett


The Arabian Western Pleasure class is much the same as its stock type counterpart, with the addition of the hand gallop. That gait is not a true gallop, but rather a slightly extended canter. The headset remains the same as it is with any other gait. Arabian Western Pleasure has gone through some big changes in the last 20-30 years. Unfortunately in the model horse world, it seems that some judges have not kept up with the times. For example, Arabians no longer show in dark oil rounded skirt saddles. That hasn’t been the fashion since the eighties, but yet I hear judges marking down Arabians in light tack as recently as this month. For that reason, I highly recommend that if you are using an Arabian model for your western pleasure entry, do print out some reference photos to show the current look.

These days, arabians show in the same tack you would find at any stock show, with the exceptions that Arabians almost always show in ferruled silver romel reins, and do still use breastcollars more often. You do still see a dark oil saddle from time to time, though it will not be of the round skirt variety. Their frame is low, and sometimes behind the vertical. This is not ideal, but much like the “poll level with the withers” rule in the stock world, it is rarely enforced by the judges. The neck is low, similar to the stock type horses except with an arched neck. The reins are extremely loose on the best entries, and a winning ride will often go the entire class without once picking up contact on the reins. They do have more forward motion at all gaits than the stock horses do (for now!).

OF Arabian Western Pleasure Models:

All of the OF Plastic standing arabians are much too high in the bridle for western, even if you use the “standing in line after the class” description. The Stone Arab is one I see a lot in western pleasure, and he just doesn't work – he is in a halter pose, completely opposite from what he should look like for a pleasure class.

Stone Arabian owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
The new Breyer Weather Girl mold is trotting much too strongly for western pleasure, and her frame isn’t right for any under saddle activity at all. 

Judy Renee-Pope’s “HA Amankhar” is moving along too fast and is too high in the bridle for modern western pleasure, though he would be perfectly acceptable if you made a notation that he is showing in the seventies or eighties. 
H&H Amankhar owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
The classic Johar mold is close, but a little too high in the bridle.

AR Arabian Western Pleasure Models:

 There are several nice jogging arabian sculptures, including Wa’Diah and Sadeek by Vicky Keeling, Serenity by Ed Gonzales, and Romantz by Chris Nandell.  Sushi by Brigitte Eberl is a touch high, but at the walk she still makes a very nice picture. 
Vicky Keeling Wa'diah painted by Sheila Anderson Bishop
and owned & photographed by Erin Corbett
Muscat is not a good choice, even if you have one customized to have a happy face – he’s more moving ahead to snark at somebody than quietly walking.
Some resin arabians are too high in the bridle and/or moving too fast to be accurate western pleasure horses. 
Eberl Muscat customized and painted by Melissa Mistretta
and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
Khemosabi by Sarah Rose is an example of this – he is lovely for many performance classes, but even at the hand gallop he is too fast and too high.

If you don’t have anything moving, Jamil makes an alright entry as well. He’s standing quietly looking more sideways than up, which is good, but he is still a standing model which a lot of judges don’t prefer.
Eberl Jamil painted by Berit Anderson
and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
Morgan western pleasure is very similar to arabian western pleasure, except that they carry their heads higher and have even more forward motion than the arabians do. You will see a mix of light and dark tack at morgan shows, so either is appropriate. A combination of split and romel reins is also seen, as well as breastcollars more often than not.

OF Morgan Western Pleasure Models:

Pickings are slim here. The standing molds are out because of how high they are. Marabella is actually quite nice, as well as the G1 Morgan Stallion.
Breyer G1 Stablemate Morgan owned & photographed by Erin Corbett
AR Morgan Western Pleasure Models:

Here we have some lovely choices! Carol Williams’ Knightly Cadence makes a NICE Morgan western pleasure horse...
Knightly Cadence sculpted & painted by Carol Williams
 and owned & photographed by Erin Corbett
as does Morgen Kilbourn’s Godiva. Both look happy to be doing their jobs, and are nicely in the bridle and moving forward.
Morgen Kilbourn Godiva painted by Tom Bainbridge
and owned & photographed by Erin Corbett
Other Types:

I’m lumping a whole lot in here! Really, you can show almost any breed of horse in western pleasure, just do some googling first to see what sort of frame that breed goes in. The general rule is that if it’s in a low-ish headset and a slow walk, jog or lope you can probably show it in this class.

OF Other Breed Western Pleasure Models:

Wintersong makes a very nice draft type western pleasure horse. He is a little behind the bridle, but you can explain that away with his being about to turn. 

John Henry also makes a nice western pleasure horse, even though he is a little too high.
Breyer John Henry owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
Stage Mom/Giselle is nicely moving forward and is happy, but she is quite high in the bridle for pleasure. You could enter her as a child’s walk/jog entry and explain away some of how high she is, but (as always) your judge might not buy it.
Breyer Stage Mom owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
The Stone Palouse is one that is often used in performance, but she is not appropriate for western pleasure. Unless you get one that is heavily customized to a jog, she is trotting too strongly. There are western classes where a trot (versus a jog) may be called for (discipline rail for example), but western pleasure is not one of them.
Stone Palouses owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
The Stone TB is a pretty good entry for this class. The problem with him is his gait – he’s not exactly walking OR jogging. A sculptor friend of mine and I scrutinized him and went through pages and pages of a few of her horse movement books, and the closest thing we could find was “walk, transition to jog”. The problem with showing him as transitioning is that many judges have firm beliefs about what gait THEY think he’s doing, and will mark you down if you say something else. So he can be a risky one. If you do use him for performance, I would recommend asking the judge ahead of time what gait she thinks he’s doing, and going with that.
Stone Thoroughbred owned & photographed by Kellye Bussey
AR Other Breed Western Pleasure Models:

Many show Victrix as a stock type horse, but for the purpose of this article I am sticking with what Carol released her as – a Thoroughbred. She is one of the nicest standing models you could use in western pleasure – she has a happy look on her face and is quiet, attentive and in the bridle.
Carol Williams Victrix owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
Melanie Miller’s Jasmine is wonderful for western pleasure, ears forward or back. Mules generally have more forward motion than your average stock horse, so her lope is acceptable. She also is in a wonderful headset and frame.
Melanie Miller Jasmine painted by Tiffany Purdy
and owned & photographed by Jennifer Buxton
 Thanks for reading, and I hope some of this has been helpful to you! Thanks again to Jennifer for having me. J

And thank you, Erin, for taking the time to write all this down.  If you aren't familiar with Erin's amazing hand carved Western saddles, be sure to take a minute (or twenty!) and browse her website.  I am the proud owner of two Erin saddles and I count them among the jewels of my model horse collection!


  1. The PS TWH makes a nice western pleasure model. If you can get one with the head straightened, even better.

  2. Thank you Erin for your helpful articles!! I'm quite a newbie at this western thing -- i've done english all my life with dressage basically exclusively for the last almost 20 years, so every little bit of western knowledge i can glean is great!

    And thank you Jen for letting people guest post on your blog and get that info out there! It's so wonderful!

    I have to say, i have a commission with Erin at the moment, and i've seen several of her saddles up close, and i've never been less than impressed. I can't wait to get mine!


  3. Vicky, yeah, he does! I just expressly left spanish and gaited horses out of this article, because I don't know enough about them to say anything very helpful. You know those areas well though, you should do an article! :-p

    Jamie, thank you so much!

  4. I agree that Vicky should write an article!

    I am always happy to share this space with other hobbyists. I may know a lot, but I certainly don't know it all. Even on topics about which I am knowledgeable, it's good to get another point of view!

  5. After reading this article (and being a totally English-experience girl wanting a Western performance set-up) I found a G1 Morgan at the back of my shelf... with some tack, he went on to win Reserve at his next show! Thanks for pointing him out, or else I'd never have guessed he could make it in Pleasure. :) (I love all the guest blogger posts on here- so helpful!)

  6. I love all the guest blogger posts, too!


  7. For OF, could Oasis be used if you specified that she was in a children's walk/trot class or doing Ranch Horse Pleasure? Also, could Strapless be a western pleasure horse if you said she was doing an extended jog? Finally, does anybody know if Kripton Seni II could show in western pleasure under whatever the rules are for Spanish breeds (and if Bluegrass Bandit could work under the Gaited breed rules)? My real horse competition experience is strictly English (mostly dressage), so any extra info I can get regarding western performance is super helpful! :)

    1. The search box is your friend. I've discussed Strapless as a Western Pleasure horse in another post. That same post also talks about using Stage Mom in Ranch Horse Pleasure, and how the way you present the model affects its suitability. It's worth looking for.

      As for the other models... I'm not an OF collector, so I don't recognize names. I'm good at mold names, but individual releases? Not so much.

      It's okay to ask for help, but the best way to learn is to study your model and study the discipline. There's a lot of Western Pleasure info on the web. This really is one of the easier classes to figure out.

      Good luck!

    2. Thanks Jennifer! I've actually already done an extensive amount of info searching and research on the web to familiarize myself with western pleasure rules, but those four horses were the only OFs I couldn't find any WP info on. I just figured I'd see if anyone here knew anything about them!

      -Kelsey Roe

  8. What about Make A Wish? I know she's very over-flexed, but is that acceptable given how well peanut-rollers place in many WP classes these days?

    -Kelsey Roe

    1. Honestly, her biomechanics are so poor I'd rather not see her in performance of any kind. Depending on what else is on the table, I might have to place her, but she would never be a model I'd want to use.

  9. What makes you say that the Breyer Weather Girl's frame isn't right for any under saddle activity at all? True, her mane makes it a bit difficult to fit a saddle and rider on her, and I get that she's way too energetic for pretty much any western class, but I don't see why she wouldn't be perfectly acceptable for English performance classes. Great post!

  10. Is the Shania (Kitty Cantrell Arabian mare) resin acceptable for a WP class?

  11. Do you think the Scholarship or Ranch Mare (short mane version) would do well?