Monday, November 4, 2019

The mile high club

With the advent of big destination shows, more and more model horse hobbyists have started looking beyond their region when planning their show seasons. In the months leading up to the Jennifer Show, I published three guest posts about the ins and outs of air travel with model horses. Michigan hobbyist, Meghan Namaste put all that information to use when planning her trip to Colorado. Here's the story of traveling to the Jennifer Show. Thank you so much, Meghan!

Joining The Mile-High Model Horses Club 

by Meghan Namaste

The Jennifer Show represented a lot of firsts for me. First “destination” show, first time in Colorado, first time flying with horses and my first time flying alone. 
I had only flown a few times prior with my mom, and everything hadn’t always gone smoothly. Needless to say, I had a lot of anxiety about bringing my show string on a plane. I even considered shipping some of the horses I was particularly worried about (drastic customs with tinfoil filler and metal rods in them), but I really dislike shipping models to shows, not to mention the associated cost. After doing research and asking those who’d done it all before lots of questions, I decided to give it a go and take my entire (abbreviated) show string in my carry-on bags. 
I live on an old Air Force base, so the local airport is five minutes away. However, the local airport is tiny. We literally have two choices, Delta and American, and we fly out on dinky, Fischer-Price-looking planes. Due to this, I knew I could not bring an over-sized carry-on, it simply would not fit in the small overhead bins (my regulation carry-on barely fits). I also would not be checking a bag, since I could not get a direct flight (again, due to our dinky airport), and checking a bag just gives me the heebie-jeebies in general. So, my packing had to be extra compact. I also wanted to be prepared should my bag be selected for extra screening, and of course safety was paramount. So, I took a trip to Wal-Mart and picked up some small plastic totes in various shapes and sizes. 
I was fortunate enough to already own the perfect travel tote for micros, courtesy of my bestie and hobby wife, Kate Springer, and that gave me the idea to pack the larger models in a similar way. The totes would provide some extra protection from all the jostling, and within the totes I could simply place the models in bubble wrap bags and/or pony pouches. I wanted to avoid any complicated wrapping in case I was asked to unpack them for screening. Now it was a matter of figuring out what all I could fit in my bags. I started by establishing how many models I could fit in each tote. Then I could simply play Tetris with the totes themselves and find the best possible combination.  
Even though I had practiced ahead of time, it was still surprisingly stressful trying to pack my bags. As a shower used to driving to shows and being able to take several large tubs of horses, there is simply no way to prepare mentally for the space restrictions imposed upon you when flying. In the end I bumped a couple medallions simply because I couldn’t fit them safely anywhere, but all the horses I had wanted to bring (twenty one micros, two Traditionals, seven Classics/Little Bits/SMs) plus five medallions made it into my bags. I didn’t have room for much else, so my toiletries, clothes and computer cords formed a border around the totes in my bag. I brought barely enough clothes for the long weekend and wore my bulkiest clothes on the plane (pro tip: wear the jeans, pack the leggings). When I was done, I could open up my carry-on and set it upright, and nothing would fall out the side, everything was so jam-packed in there. 
I’m happy to report that all my obsessive over-preparing paid off, and the trip went smoothly. 
My two biggest worries were going through security, and having my stuff gate-checked (that was another reason for the totes, because if the worst did happen, I could easily pull out the totes with the models and have them gate check the bag with just my computer, clothes and other stuff in it). Security was a non-issue both times. Leaving the Marquette airport, they didn’t give the horses a second look. In Denver on my way back, one of my bags was held back (funnily enough, not the one with my drastic custom mule that I had been fretting about, but the other bag with all the micros and minis). I just waited, and it was passed down the line. I was asked if there was anything sharp or fragile, and I said yes, fragile. Nothing had to be unpacked, and the guy even commented on how cool it was. I mentioned I had been at a model horse show, and that I was sure it had looked super weird on the scan. He replied it had, laughed and sent me on my way. 

As for gate checking, another non-issue. I credit this to my paying for Priority Boarding ($15 extra per flight so $60 total), and flying with a different airline than I have in the past (Delta is way less overzealous about taking people’s bags than American, in my limited experience).  

So, would I fly with horses again? Yes, definitely. It was really comforting to have them all with me, instead of worrying about shipping them across the country. I didn’t have a ton of models I wanted to take anyway, so it really made the most sense and I’m glad I faced my fear and tried it. For anyone on the fence about future travels, it really wasn’t that scary! Some tips on how I made it work: 

-Have a backup plan. If you’re really nervous about going through security, have a friend or family member hang back until you know for sure all your ponies make it through. Chances are everything will be fine, but it really helped my anxiety to know that I had someone waiting in the wings in case someone decided that my dressage mule might be doubling as a drug mule.  

-Get there extra early, just in case they do decide to do additional screening. Give yourself plenty of time so you don’t have to feel panicked if they hold back your stuff. 

-Don’t get so focused on your models that you forget to abide by all the other rules and regulations (no liquids over the minimum, liquids and gels in a plastic baggie, take out any food and electronics, etc.). Mistakes do happen, but you are much more likely to be “randomly” selected for additional screening if you’re “that person” who’s unclear on the protocol and holding up the line.  

-Packing horses in totes is a good idea, especially if you don’t have a hard-sided suitcase. Even if you’re confident your bag won’t get gate-checked, you still have to put it in the overhead bin and it will get shoved, slammed, and otherwise jostled. On my return flight, someone overloaded the bin that my bag was in, and then repeatedly tried to slam the door shut. No one broke. Packing Skills – 1 Inconsiderate People- 0 

-You can’t go wrong packing light. For my show string, I went with quality over quantity, and was pleased with the results. But more importantly, I took what was manageable for me as an inexperienced traveler on my own. 
After all the stress and worry leading up to it, my trip to and from The Jennifer Show was totally chill, and I realized I’m capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for. Model horses and real horses have made me bolder, more assertive and unafraid to set lofty goals for myself. Though the challenges are many and I do get knocked down, these wonderful animals and this hobby always keep me coming back for more. 


  1. Awesome crawsome!! Thanks for sharing, that was great.

  2. I had many of the same firsts as Meghan and thanks to all the blog posts and tips from people who've done it before, I had no trouble at all flying to and from the Jennifer Show. I wholeheartedly agree with Meghan. This hobby brought me so much in terms of confidence and fearlessness.