So last week in my model horse series, I told you how I got into the hobby and became obsessed with little plastic horses. This week, I’m going to explain a bit about a huge part of the model horse showing and collecting hobby – original finish halter. That doesn’t make sense now, but it will soon!
What does Original Finish mean?
Models come in all shapes and sizes. Some are sculpted and painted by individuals, but most are factory produced by companies like Breyer and Peter Stone. The horses that are molded in the factory and painted by the factory are “Original Finish” (commonly referred to as OF) because they sport their original shape and paint from the factory.
What is Halter showing?
Most people in the model horse hobby primarily show halter, because all you need is the horse! Unlike the elaborate set-ups I showed last week, halter is just your model standing on the table with a bunch of other models. Where OF models are concerned, there are two kinds of halter classes – Breed and Collectibility.
For breed halter, let’s step outside of models and pretend we’re watching a dog show on TV. You remember how the announcer always repeats that the dogs are judged against the breed standard and the dog closest to the breed standard is the winner? That’s how model horse breed halter is judged.
Like dog shows, models are put into groups based on the type of horse. At larger shows you may get specific breed classes, like Quarter Horse, but usually the breeds are in groups like stock horses, spanish, draft, etc. In addition to breaking the class down into breed type, they are also separated by gender and age. Foals show in their own class, stallions show in their own class and mares/geldings usually show together.
Unlike real horse shows, we aren’t exactly prancing models around the table to see how nicely they move… so how is this thing judged? Each model horse judge has their own opinion about judging, but in my experience it boils down to:
- Documentation: You can find some pretty rare breeds on the internet, but a winning model breed entry will have a printed out card of information with pictures that shows why your model looks like the particular breed of horse you’ve picked out (and just because Breyer says it’s a Hanoverian doesn’t mean you have to show that model as a Hanoverian).
- Conformation: Is the model put together like a cow or like the breed it’s supposed to be? Are all the legs even, is the back too long? Believe me, people agonize over model conformation a lot.
- Condition: How is the paint job holding up on the model? Is he in mint condition or missing a leg? Is he covered in dust and scratches or absolutely pristine? Judges also consider factory flaws like overspray, lint in the paint, and bent legs.
- Wow Factor: A stunning paint job with amazing details on a modern horse by a popular sculptor often will nudge out a plain jane model that’s a few years older and something everyone has seen a million times.
Once you’ve showed your plastic OF model in a breed halter class, it doesn’t have to be done for the day! The other halter division OFs get to participate in is collectibility.
Instead of being based on breed standards, this class is judged on the rarity of your model. If your experience of model horses is seeing Breyers on the shelves of our local tack store, you may not realize that some of these plastic ponies are worth thousands of dollars.
I’ve never been an expert in this area, but here’s my stab at the scale of collectible models.
- Regular Run: This is a model that Breyer has made forever and ever… like Misty or Mon Gamin or Secretariat. There are a lot of Mistys in the world.
- Special Run: Special runs are just that… more special aka limited than regular ones. A good example of this is Breyerfest models which are created in small batches to sell at the event only. For collectibility purposes, the lower the run the more valuable the horse is.
- Mint Condition Vintage Models: If you own a horse that was of a smaller run from the 70’s and it’s in perfect condition, that’s pretty darn rare. Remember all the Breyers you broke the legs on as a small child? The kids that left them on a shelf to be pretty could cash out very big today depending on what mold and color the horse is.
- Volunteer and Prize Models: These are like super special runs. A handful of horse shows in the country will hand out models to the winners, so the lucky winner of the day may have won a model that is one out of six or ten. Judges and volunteers often get rare models for their hard work as well!
- One of a Kind: In the model world, especially Breyer, it doesn’t get more rare than a one of a kind horse. Usually these are artists proofs, test horses, or live auction horses from Breyerfest or other special events.
When showing collectibility, it is important that your model is in perfect condition. The minute it gets a tiny scratch the value goes down tremendously. Also, you need that ever so important documentation to tell the judge just how rare your horse is! When showing, you can’t expect every judge to recognize a rare model so it’s best to back up your horse with facts and any documentation that it came with.
For me personally, OF halter showing never quite did it for me. I didn’t buy many fancy OF models so collectibility was out, and it’s hard to place in the breed classes with my more run of the mill collection. Tried and true OF people often have hundreds and hundreds of models, and I just didn’t have the shelf space!
Next week, we’ll look into the fascinating world of customs and artist resins… stay tuned!
Also, don’t forget about the giveaway of a little pack of Novice Live Show Quality or Photo Show Quality prizes. Use the widget below to enter for your chance to win these fabulous prizes (and maybe some other surprises)!