Do Your Model Horse Homework For Breed Assignment!

Text and photos by Traci Durrell-Khalife

Have you ever added a new model to your collection, but were unsure about its breed? Or does it seem the majority of your show string ends up being Arabians and Mustangs? Through careful breed research you may be able to make more appropriate breed assignments and diversify your herd to include other more unusual breeds, thus enabling you to spread your show horses out in different halter classes. Not only that, think of how much fun you'll have learning about different breeds!

Assigning an ID to your model is among the first steps in either photo or live showing. At a minimum, your model needs a name, a breed and a gender. You may also choose to assign it an age. This is especially important if it's young or rather old. Most adult horses, say age five to the late teens, look about the same in terms of physical development. But foals obviously look different; yearlings are less mature than two-year-olds; 25-year-olds may look rather aged with a more swayed back, less muscle tone and more prominent hip bones (think of the Breyer Old Timer). Therefore, designating an age for such a horse is helpful.

The San Domingo mold can pass as a number of light or stock breeds. Since he isn’t heavily muscled, he makes a good young stock horse.
The San Domingo mold can pass as a number of light or stock breeds. Since he isn't heavily muscled, he makes a good young stock horse.

Ample thought and research should go into determining an appropriate breed for your model. Most hobbyists, even beginners, are familiar with common horse breeds such as Quarter Horse, Arabian, Thoroughbred, Paint, and Appaloosa. But it's also beneficial to challenge yourself to learn about other, less common, breeds.

First, decide what general type your model falls into: stock, light, draft, pony or long ear. Keep in mind that some models could reasonably fall into more than one category such as a Morgan or a Welsh, for example, or be a cross between different types, such as a Quarab (Quarter Horse/Arabian).

Usually there's no single correct breed assignment. There are exceptions, however, such as the Tennessee Walker, Midnight Sun, that is very breed specific. One person might call a particular model an Anglo Arab, while another calls it a Tersk and both could be equally plausible. On the other hand, some assignments wouldn't be very convincing. The G2 Stablemates American Saddlebred, for example, could pass not only as an American Saddlebred, but also as a National Show Horse, a Hackney or a Modern American Shetland. He bears little resemblance, however, to any stock breed, warmblood or Iberian type horse.

Stablemates American Saddlebred
The G2 Stablemates American Saddlebred makes a wonderful National Show Horse or Modern American Saddlebred.



In addition to type, color is an important consideration. Breed associations have acceptable colors. Appaloosa is not listed on the registration form for Arabians. So an Appaloosa-colored Proud Arabian Mare could appropriately be called a Half Arabian, but not a purebred Arabian.

Breed assignment can be a challenge with some molds and colors. What would you call this one?

If you have a model of an acceptable, but uncommon, color for its breed, make a note on your photo back or place a card with your live show entry. Clydesdales, for example, are best known for being bay with high white stockings and a blazed or bald face, but they may also be black, brown, sorrel or roan.

If it's an historical color within a breed, but no longer recognized or in existence, again you must provide documentation or risk having your model disqualified by the judge. It's also a good idea to document any unusual breeds or very new breeds that judges may not know.



To help learn about different breeds, start with a breed encyclopedia. Look for encyclopedias that use show pictures, as those individuals are more likely to be good present-day examples. Remember, conditioning and grooming (clipping, braiding, shoeing, etc.) can transform an everyday horse into a show horse that may look quite different. Both can still be excellent examples of the breed.

An Internet image search will yield more pictures of more individuals of a given breed so you can see how backyard horses may vary in looks from show horses or how trends in breed type varied over time. There are online breed lists, which include colors. These can be handy references, but to be certain of the acceptable colors, check the breed registry's web site for the most current information.

Breyer often releases its models as portraits of specific horses or of specific breeds. You won't go wrong to stick with that breed for your own model, but you can get creative and probably find another breed (or breeds) that are equally appropriate.

Adios, for example, was made to represent a Standardbred pacer. Most harness horses in racing prime don't carry much extra weight, so assigning him an older age could be helpful. His stocky appearance also makes him suitable as a stock breed. He was later released as the Paint horse Yellow Mount. In solid colors he makes a good Quarter Horse. As Best Tango (bay with white socks), he can even pass as a Quarter Horse/Clydesdale cross.

Best Tango
Best Tango (Adios) can represent a Quarter Horse or even a Quarter Horse/Clydesdale mix.

Keep in mind that some breeds come in a variety of types. The original Quarter Horses were short and stout, called "bulldog" type. Today's Foundation Quarter Horses are mostly of working ranch type, while the modern winning halter horses are usually tall and quite muscular. Hunter Under Saddle Quarter Horses are trimmer and leggier, showing some similarity with Thoroughbreds, which could also be in their ancestry.

If the model is in an action pose, be sure its gait is consistent with the breed you designate for it.


A number of breeds are suitable for Flash, including Morgan, a pony breed or cross.


While an arena setting is always appropriate for a halter photo, a native setting can give a clue to the horse's breed. A recreated desert is ideal for an Arabian. The beach is synonymous with Chincoteagues, Abaco Barbs, and other island breeds. A Mustang would look right at home by a mountain or river. Adding a halter that's traditional for your breed also helps reinforce the image.

Phantom Wings
Phantom Wings makes a nice stock pony or Curly foal. The beach setting helps define this one as a Chincoteague Pony.

The most successful models are those who look like good representatives of their breed - including correct conformation and type, as well as being an acceptable color. With hundreds breeds to choose from, you should have an enjoyable adventure learning about some of them as you select the most appropriate one for each of your models.


Breed References

Breyer Model Horse Registry breed/color list

Oklahoma State University horse breed list

There are many excellent books available. Here are two examples of breed encyclopedias:

The Ultimate Horse Book, Elwyn Hartley Edwards, Dorling Kindersley, Inc., 1991

The Encyclopedia of Horses & Ponies, Tamsin Pickeral, Parragon Publishing, 1999