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Judge: Cynthia Jameson

Here are my tips for model horse online showing.

Please note I said 'online photos showing' and not mail in.   There is a big difference between the two.  For online the judge cannot hold the photo in their hands and they view the entry from their monitor. For that reason the entrant must make a few concessions.

I was a professional horse trainer for over 40 years. At one time I held 9 different judge's cards to judge for various breed associations and clubs. I am now offically retired and getting to be a fat old lady.

Since many monitors are small under 17" you have to remember that the photos are commonly displayed at anywhere from 350 by 350 pixels up to 500 by 350 pixels. The photo appears small on those size monitors so the subject of the photo (which should be the horse) should take up most of the photo frame so that the judge can see it to judge it.   The common mistake for those new to online photo competition is to have way to much background and very a little horse in the photo.   If you summit a 450 by 450 pixel photo (3" by 3") then you would need to have only 1/4" by 1/4" (38 pixel) background between the horse and the edge of the photo displayed.   In that manner the judge can readily see the horse to judge it.   That is not to say the background is not important to your entry.   If you choose to use backdrops be sure that they cover the entire photo and not stop abruptly making their useage known to the eye of the judge.   If you use a foot board be sure the color and material used matches the backboard.   Avoid shadows on the photo.   If your model is attached to a base then use some type of loose material that blends into the foot board to hide that base.   If you use lighting or take your photos in the sunlight be sure there is no glare on the backboard and no huge shadows behind, underneath or on the horse that would detract from the overall view of the model.

If your model has its head turned to one side then take the photograph it so that it is looking towards the camera.   Otherwise it makes the entry appear to be distracted.   If you imagine yourself as the handler of your entry and the judge as just walked up to you then you need to 'present' your horse to that judge.   If you were showing a live horse you would jiggle your lead to wake him up and if your showing in open halter you would even put your hand on the offside cheek piece to push that head toward your judge in an effort that the judge can view an alert, good headed horse and hopefully remember it.

In performance classes, make sure your reins are even and the bit is in the horse's mouth. Sticky wax often comes unstuck while taking photos and a lot of good entries are ruined by having the bits hanging down on the offside just low enough you can see it in the photo.   Be sure your loping or cantering entry is on the correct lead and if not then be sure to put in your comment box why the horse if performing a counter canter.   A lot of mistakes are made by declaring your western style horse is performing a walk when it is really performing a jog.   If you are unsure as to what gait your model is performing then please post on the IMEHA Message board and ask.   If you have a model that you can not identify with a text description then put a photo of your model in the photo section of the message board and post the name of the folder so members can find it to identify it for you.   If you use a doll rider make sure it is sitting correctly in the saddle, legs are at a correct length in the stirrup, knees are in the pocket of an English saddle, rider is holding the reins correctly, any extra bight is on the correct side.   By pointing the rider's head in the correct direction it will give the illusion that the rider is aware of where their horse is headed and that they have control of their mount.   Remember that English riders should never lose direct contact with the bit, that means for snaffle and double bridles the rein should go directly back to the rider's hands in a direct line with no slack in them.   Western reins do have slack in them, enough to have a slight curve in the rein but not so much as to drape too far down.   They should be at a length that if the rider needs to pull back on the rein to stop the mount that there will be contact with the bit.

Be sure your photo is crisp and clear, not blurry.   When taking the photo be sure the background is not dark behind a dark shaded horse so that the background swallows up your entry's head or topline.   The same standard goes for light shaded horse's being lost in light colored backgrounds or white legged horse's having their legs or hooves disappear in snow.   IMEHA has a standard or criteria that judge's are asked to use.   They are as follows:

Correct structural anatomy/conformation
Breed type
Gender type
Photo quality

Judging Performance & Presentation Criteria
Correct, qualifying performance according to the rules & regulations of the stated event
Realistic footing, background, and equipment
Realistic horse and props
Correct tack and placement
Presentation (horse and props in the proper position for the class)
Photo quality

Judging Headstudy Criteria
Correct structural anatomy of head
Breed type
Gender type
Photo quality
No other part of body appears in photo but head, throat and neck
Entry should show life like eyes, quality of breeding and expression in face

Judging OF Mold Shows Criteria
Mold Quality - No Flaws Displayed in Photo
Photo quality
Decorator or Fantasy Colors should be judged equality with realistic colors
Special Runs or Rare Colors should be judged equality with regular runs
Collectibility should not be the issue in judging
Correctness of Breed Choice for the Mold

Judging CM Mold Shows Criteria
Correctness of Conformation/Color for the breed listed (did the changes ENHANCE the mold?)
Realism of Color and Breed (does this breed come in this color, and was it done realistically paint wise)
Quality of work done (attention to DETAILS - Mottling and eye whites for Appies, hooves detailed or plain - ears painted inside?
Photo quality

I follow this criteria and since I have real judge's experience I allot a mental percentage for which I give to each listed feature.   Usually I allocate a larger percentage to the first two or three followed by a smaller percentage to things like photo quality or things appearing further down on the criteria list.

A Winning Photo

Brutus Beefcake, showing correct size of horse in the photo frame.   Brutus is a customized PSISH by myself and then painted by Lisa Rivera.  Note the use of model railroad earth colored material that matches well with backdrop.   Even the attempt at using a backdrop with colors in it that compliment that darker points of the horse's color. Also note even the veining, darker patch of color of the head, bands in the mane and even the eyelashes are caught in the detail of this 350 by 227 size pixel photo.

Likes, Dislikes and Pet Peeves


  1. I like to see a lifelike detail in the entry's eyes, especially for conformation and headstudy.
  2. I normally do not go for lavished patterns on Appaloosa and Paint models but prefer hip blankets and crop out paints.
  3. I lean toward solid colors such a bay roans, anything with dun factor and pretty much any color that is well shaded.
  4. I prefer photos taken with the camera lens direct at the center of the horse's barrel. In that manner the horse will be correctly sized in the photo. Neither appearing too long or too shortlegged.

  1. Model entered with any angle that is not a side profile. Since I judge as a real judge does and only have the one view; I prefer them on side profile so I can judge the entry on structural merit that would equate to real horse conformation.
  2. Model wearing poor fitting bridles or halter in breed/conformation. If your going to use them know how they fit.
  3. Calf roping entries without correct foul or neck rope.
  4. Dark faces of horse where you can not see the facial features.
  5. Comment lines that tell rambling stories but no real reference information, such as pattern or movements description.
  6. Incorrect length of shafts or harness vehicles.
  7. Long, plain headed horses (suitcases)in headstudy.
  8. Cluttered backdrops such as leaf patterns and clouds where there are multi colors behind the horse's head or topline. It detracts for getting a straight line view. Aim for the first one third of the horse to have nothing but a solid blue or other attractive color behind the horse. The top rail of fencing should never come anywhere near the horse's head.

CPS Tempestuous is owned and shown by Belinda Krantz.  This entry is a perfect example of placing the horse in front of a fence in a manner that the background does not interfere with viewing the whole horse.

Pet Peeves

  1. Entrants who enter without reading the rules.
  2. Conga lines of the same mold but different color flooding the conformation classes.
  3. Headstudy classes that do not comply with the IMEHA Headstudy Premium Requirement.
  4. I dislike poor structured models in the same manner as I would real horse's with conformational flaws that would be passed down to foals. I've bred show champion horses for over 40 years and have knowledge of what it takes to get a good foal. I avoid certain models that are noticeably long in the topline, ones that have leg issues, coarse heads and restricted throat latches as an example.

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