Showing & Judging Fantasy Models
By Melody D. Snow
Mutant Unicorn customized from a Breyer Belgian by Marie Spinella-Phillips. Tack and Photo by Melody D. Snow. This photo could be improved by removing the shadow in the corner, by sliding the saddle fender up into position, and by making sure that the reins were even.
Showing Fantasy Model "horses" is a hotly debated topic. Some hobbyists feel that fantasy colors violate Breed rules and thus should be disqualified in Breed Classes. They feel that mythical equines (or other mutants) vary so much in type that conformation rules cannot be standardized and applied. Without a judging standard, it is feared that the classes would be just placed according to "the pretty horse" theory, where the prettiest, but not most correct entry, wins. They also don't believe it would be fair to have these types of creatures compete against "normal" horses.
Hobbyists wanting to show Fantasy Models feel that there are talented artists producing exceptional models, and that these models deserve a place to show, even if they aren't "real." While judging criteria can't be as objective as with models portraying real horses, these hobbyists feel guidelines can be developed. Also, and more importantly, being able to show these models is just plain fun. After all, isn't that the point of the whole hobby: to enjoy ourselves?
That said, let me declare my loyalty. I am for showing Fantasy Models. For the past several years, I have sponsored the Unicorn Woman Fantasy Challenge at Lone Star Live (Fort Worth, TX). This article is based on that experience and discussions with fellow hobbyists.
What are Fantasy Model Horses?
This model originally was an entry in the Tricked
When those against the showing of Fantasy Models say that Fantasy Models vary widely, they are correct. Fantasy models range from normal horses in "decorator" colors to mutants with added body parts that are barely recognizable as horses. Some of these "beasties" are traditional types, creatures like Unicorns, Pegasi, Pegacorns, Nightmares, Kelpies, Hippogriffs, Hippocampi, Centaurs, and Ki-rins. Others are less traditional, things like Cat-horses, Dragon-horses, or the many wild and crazy Tricked-Out Pony/Painted Pony models.
Showing Fantasy Models
As Fantasy Models classes do not qualify for North American Nationals (NAN), finding a place to show the Fantasy Model can be a challenge. Some shows have non-NAN-qualifying classes specifically for Fantasy Models. For example, Lone Star Live (see sidebar) and Hampton Roads Classic both have classes for Fantasy models.
If your local shows don't have Fantasy Classes, ask for them. Showholders add/drop classes based on interest, so let your interest be known. Better yet, offer to sponsor the new class list. That is how the Fantasy Challenge Division came to be at Lone Star Live. I decided to sponsor it! The drawback to sponsoring, especially if you also judge the classes, is you can't show your own creatures.
Dragonmule customized from a Breyer Brighty by Sue Sudekum. Pictured with unknown make Hong Kong Knight. Photo by Melody D. Snow
If you can't get Fantasy Classes added, you can sometimes still show your models. OF "Decorator" colors can frequently be shown in Collectability classes. Artist Resins/CM's can sometimes be shown in Workmanship Classes. If you can provide convincing enough documentation that what the model is representing could be done by a real horse, you can sometimes show in Other Costume. For example, you could claim that a creatively tacked unicorn was really a horse with an added horn designed for a costume parade event.
Which brings up a very important point when showing Fantasy Creatures, be sure to provide "documentation." Sure, it may be only some story you made up to describe the origin of your creature, but it can make or break an entry. One entry I judged consisted of 4 horse shoes sticky waxed to the table with an explanation card describing the "Invisible Horse" entered in the class! It received a special honorable mention gift certificate.
How to Judge
Now we get to the really hard part: judging.
The first thing to do is make sure you have a good class list as that determines what you will have to judge against what. At Lone Star Live, we started out with the following classes:
OF Fantasy Costume
Artist Resin/Custom Fantasy
Artist Resin/Custom Fantasy Costume
As time went on, it became obvious we needed to make changes. For example, we added a Repaint Only Fantasy class to allow novice artists a better chance to compete. Then, this year, we decided to separate the Equines (i.e. anything vaguely horselike) from the other creatures (the Pokémon®, dragons, etc.). Someday, it would be nice to break out the Unicorns and Pegasi into separate classes, but so far, there haven't been enough entries to do that. Media Based Creatures (Fantasy Models derived from books or movies, like Lord of the Rings) might be another class to consider at some point.
Once I get the entries on the table, I survey the whole class for condition. I feel that this is something that is objective and should be the first criteria for judging the class. Broken parts and severe scratches place the model either at the bottom of the class or completely out of the placings. Smaller imperfections typically come into play when pinning two identical models. For example, when judging between two Romance models, I will compare the quality of the decals. Frequently, one will be applied better than the other and is thus pinned higher.
I also consider presentation. Is the model clean? Does it have dust or packing fuzzies on it? If it is a tack class, is everything buckled and in the right place? Are riders presented properly? After that, I admit, I judge on what I like. However, that isn't as capricious as it sounds. I like quality workmanship. Smooth seams and a lovely shaded paint jobs catch my eye. I like balanced proportions. When I say balanced proportions, I guess I am really saying proper conformation. A centaur should look like it really was one creature, not a horse with a too small or a too large person stuffed through its neck. A Hippocampus should taper gradually from the horse to the fish part, not suddenly like a wasp. Winged horses should have wings that look like part of them, not something added on as an afterthought. The entire creature should be a harmonious, "believable" whole, no matter what it is supposed to be.
Finally, I like a realistic look. I don't favor "cartoony" renditions, though I'm flexible on color. This is purely a personal bias. Other judges may feel different.
And, that is how I judge a Fantasy Class. Condition and presentation are the first cut, frequently making the difference between pinning or disqualification. Quality workmanship, balanced proportions, and a realistic look determine the actual placings. Of course, that is how it works today. As there are no North American Model Horse Shows Association (NAMHSA) guidelines for these classes, each year I try to define it a bit better to myself. Hopefully, someday there will be official guidelines. Until then, I hope you'll join me in promoting Fantasy Models.
One Judge's Criteria for Judging a Fantasy Model:
• Quality Workmanship
• Balanced Proportions
• Realistic Look