Friday, July 29, 2011

Live Show Documentation, Part One

Live Show Documentation, Part One

By Teresa Buzzell

First, thanks to Jennifer who told me she’d LOVE it if I wrote something about documentation…so she wouldn’t have to! But still, thanks to her for letting me put words to electronic format about something I feel rather passionate about. This will be a multiple part series. I did mention I was passionate about it.

Documentation… part 1 – The How-to-Do-It-Yourself Part

When I started in the model horse hobby, documentation as we know it really didn’t exist. Only the odd things had any and even then, it would be just a 3” x 5” card with a hastily written note. 
Trail entry by June Westenbarger, circa 2000
As the years have gone by, documentation has gotten more sophisticated and expected, even for those events that are the most common. NAMHSA only requires collectiblity documentation at NAN and suggests it for the other divisions as necessary. Other shows do the same or at the very least, suggest it for those less obvious entries. It’s been proven that the correct documentation can help you win, the incorrect can help you lose and it’s still one of those showing things that people have a problem with.
Trail Entry by Jennifer Buxton, Blue Skies Live 2011
In the interest of full disclosure, my model friends consider me rather overly organized. I am that shower who always has tags, extra pens, an extra classlist, a typed list of classes with their entries in them, etc etc. This organization kick really only extends to those things I want it to – the fridge frequently has science experiments inhabiting it. This blog will cover how to create documentation, how to find it, how to organize it and how to store it. We’ll get into the more specific things – halter vs collectiblity vs performance too. I do not expect anyone to do what I do 100% exactly – please adapt and change things to meet your needs and personal organization criteria. This is just what has proven to work for me.
In Hand Trail entry by Teresa Buzzell
How to Create Documentation – the Guts:
There are several ways you can get documentation. You can purchase ready-made documentation. You can copy others’ documentation. You can beg a friend to do yours when they do theirs. Or, you can make your own. Personally, I create my own, customizing the documentation for my horse(s), my tack and my props.  Yes, I am a graphic designer and have access to some excellent layout programs but you don’t need to have my skills to do your own documentation.
First, I check the rulebook and descriptions of what I need to document. Only then do I go searching for photos. Not only do I want to find photos that show the horse but I want to see what’s used in the class and what is expected of the “look” of the horse. Google Images is the BEST help for image surfing. Addition, subtraction and substitution of breeds and disciplines can be very useful in your search so take the time and experiment with your search phrases.
Results for "AQHA trail horse"
On search results, you’ll see that you have a few photos that are not what you’re looking for. Check out the other photos – perhaps that trail photo of the horse working the gate is something else that you’re looking for. Don’t be scared to keep looking through all the pages. While you may find what you’re looking for on page 3, you can sometimes find other things on page 30 that you need too. I have found some of the best images when looking for something else!
Unusual results in a search for "Saddleseat"
Now, if it’s something really rather hard to find, you may need to dig a little deeper. Do a normal Google search for the event. If that doesn’t work, try Googling for horse show photographers and mention the breed in your search box. Often, you can find the more specific examples on their sites. You may have to spend a little bit of time going through the class results but if you find the photo you need (or other photos you didn’t realize you needed), it’s time well spent.

Should you be worried that your photos match your entry exactly? No. More on this later…I promise.

I can’t emphasize enough that this documentation search is really a search for you to learn how the event works or how the breed can vary. Try to find some local real horse shows that include the events you are want to learn about. Many are free for spectators and can hold a wealth of knowledge and opportunity for you to take your own photos. Just grab a friend and go! Watching a few classes should give you a feel for what a good entry looks like and how things can go wrong. If you can’t find something live, check out the videos on YouTube. The living, breathing, moving thing is the best to learn from.
A helpful hint – don’t just do your photo search once and never search again. Wait 4 – 6 months, or some day when the weather is crappy and you are sick/bored/etc and search again. The Internet is a living, breathing beast of an information highway. Sites are being updated all the time. That search that gave you problems before, you may hit pay dirt on now.

Putting Stuff on Paper

I use my computer to create most of my documentation. With the use of the Adobe Creative Suite software, I can recreate patterns/tests, edit photos and cut and paste parts of the rule books into my documents with a lot of ease and speed. Then I can pretty it all up to my liking. However, you don’t need to be an expert to do this. Use what you have and use what you know – be it Publisher or Word or even hand written if you wish!
In progress documentation
First and foremost, let me get on my designer soap box. Keep your fonts reasonably sized – from 8pt to 13 pt. Text is not only hard to read when it’s too small but it’s also hard to read when it’s too big. Also, single line spacing is fine – too much between the lines is also hard to read. Don’t go overboard on the bold, italics or all cap text – again, it makes it hard to read. When resizing your photos, don’t go over the original photo size – the pixilation is rarely helpful to your cause. And, do not distort your photo when resizing it. No horse looks better with a longer back than natural!

According to the rules for NAN, documentation must be this:
“Explanation cards should be limited to 3" x 5" in size; additional documentation is limited to one 8.5" x 11" sheet.”

My interpretation is this: “don’t go over an 8.5” x 11” sheet”. So, unless it’s somewhat information or photo heavy, all of my documentation is all 5” x 7”-ish or smaller. It fits roughly two to a page on the print outs and fits into my storage system. Plus, I find it’s just the right amount of space to use – not too long and potentially time consuming to read and not so short as to leave out any answers to the mental questions a judge may have.
For those things I have that are information or photo heavy, I still fill only a 8.5” x 11” sheet. But, just because there’s more room does not mean that you can throw out all the other layout guidelines. You want to make your documentation inviting to read by the judge, not a crowded mess that loses their interest half way through.

Otherwise, the format is really up to you. I make sure there’s a header (class title/breed name), a photo, the explanation text and the source where the text came from cited at the bottom. I like to cite where I get my information. I believe it gives the documentation more legitimacy. Sometimes, it’s hard to do that when you use several different sources or if you go off a description that’s not in a rule book but I like to include it whenever possible.
More documentation by Teresa
Once you’re done – spell check it and make sure your grammar is decent. No, you aren’t judged on it. But, it’s my opinion that if you make sloppy mistakes on your documentation, it’ll carry over into your entry. And yes, this is experience talking!

What to do with it at the end of the day…Storage

My documentation is contained entirely within a binder, with tabs for each section and a pouch with an extra pen and 3x5 cards. I take it to every show I go to and if I lost it, I could replace most of it within a matter of 10 minutes as it’s all on the computer. I have it in sections -  halter, color references, collectability, English performance, Western performance and other performance. Within each section, breeds and events are alphabetized and the collectiblity information is also alpha by manufacturer and then by size.

I use the photo sleeves that contain 2 to 3 spots per sheet for each of my pieces of documentation. Yes, they were easier to find at one time but you can often find them in the scrapbooking section or online. (Again, Google is your friend!) I just try to cut it all out as neatly as possible so it fits into each sleeve. If it’s for the same class, but tailored to an obstacle (such as jumpers or trail class), I just put them all together in one section of the sleeve.
Teresa's binder
The beauty of this system is that it works well. Everything is at my fingertips when I need it quickly. If I have a few extra minutes, I can find whatever documentation I need and set it by the horse it goes with. Then, when I’m done, I can shove it back into the binder and it’s kept safe for the next time I need it. 

Next up – Halter documentation!


  1. That organization is beautiful. I don't live show or do performance nearly enough to warrant such a binder, but Teresa... you are an organized woman after my own heart! Thanks for the guest blogging.

  2. very helpful, thanks!!! i will have to go search for those photo sleeve things...i have been looking for a way to store all the info about my horses (name, how much i paid, who i got it from etc) i have a binder, and just normal pocket things, but the pockets are too big for the binder and i think they need more spaves for smaller bits of paper...

  3. woops! that was meant to say spaces at the end of that comment!!!

  4. I love how Basil showed up in the screenshot of the search for "saddleseat"! :D

  5. This series of How-To Articles has helped me to reevaluate many things with my showing experience. I am working diligently to redo all my documentation cards, performance presentation cards and my collectibility cards. The experience has opened my eyes and I hope to really blow the judges away when I get the opportunity to show once again. Thank you for having these articles available for us to use to better ourselves and our showing experiences. For The Win ladies!

  6. Thank you very much for sharing your organisation system. I find it so frustrating to organise all my show cards, but I'm excited to try this method out! Very informative aswell.

  7. I'm late to this, but it seems Teresa is advocating stealing other people's photographs for use in our documentation. She doesn't mention making sure that the images are copyright-free or usable for free with attribution or the like. How about a follow-up article to clarify this? Thanks!

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  9. I'm really having Truable my documentation, and also collectibility documentation