If you have been in the hobby a little while you will be familiar with the idea of details, but if you are new, there may be several things you want to know. We shall attempt to deal with them by considering what kind of details a real horse or pony has, and how this is translated to the model world.
Naming Your Model
The first part of a real or model horse's details is its name. If your model has a name already, there's no need at all to change it. However, if you are choosing a name there are a few conventions to be borne in mind.
It is best to avoid giving your model the name and details of a real horse, because this can be confusing. For example, some people like to have their models as the offspring of real horses, and might choose a real horse as their model's sire because they like the horse, but they might not like your model of it! Is their horse's sire the real horse or the model? Similarly, you might wish to keep your model 'alive' after the real horse is dead, which is also confusing for other people. Therefore, if you like a famous real horse very much, and want a portrait model of it, it's best to change the name a little so it's not exactly the same as that of the real horse. You might also have your model as a son or daughter of the real horse in question (more about parents for your models in a minute). The only exception to this would be if you wanted to give your model the same name and details as your own real horse or pony, as he or she is unlikely to be very famous and so won't confuse anybody.
A further aspect of naming is the question of prefixes and suffixes. What are they? In the real horse world, if your stud is called Happyland Stud, the horses you breed can be called Happyland Eric, Happyland Beauty and so on, and you are using Happyland as your prefix. However, if you buy Eric instead of breeding him yourself , you can call him Eric of Happyland, and in this case you're using Happyland as a suffix. That said, horses bought like this usually don't get a suffix but instead keep the prefix they already have, so for example, if Happyland Beauty is sold to the Merrydale Stud, she keeps the same name but her foal bred at Merrydale is called Merrydale Minnie or whatever. Many people in the model world follow these practices, while others like to give their own prefix to all their horses whether they bred them or not. This is perfectly allowable but less realistic. An important point, again to avoid confusion, is not to give your stud a prefix which is already in use for either real or model horses.
Another thing to bear in mind if you wish to be realistic is that in the real horse world, some breeds or types, such as native ponies, show ponies and heavy horses, nearly always have prefixes, while others, such as Arabs and Thoroughbreds, hardly ever do. With regards to Arabs, many of these have Arabic names: a dictionary or reference book may help if you want to get into these, but just remember the golden rule that 'Ibn' or 'Ben' means 'son of', whilst 'Bint' means 'daughter of'. That way you won't end up with a model whose name is the wrong gender! The letters EAO after an Arab's name are not part of its name, but indicate that it was bred by the Egyptian Agricultural Organisation.
Finally, in the real horse world, some breeds registers have rules regarding acceptable punctuation in names, while others dictate that horses born in a certain year must have a name beginning with a particular letter. Some model horse owners (especially those with an interest in breeding) also like to follow these rules, but this is purely a matter of personal choice.
There is no rule that you must show your model as the same gender which it is sold as, but some models translate to the opposite sex more successfully than others! For example, the Beswick Arab Xayal is modelled on a real Arab colt, but can be used quite successfully as a mare. On the other hand, the Breyer Proud Arab Stallion and Mare are very sex-specific types, and will get nowhere in shows if shown as the opposite sex unless reworked quite drastically! Of course, many makes such as Magpies aren't sex-specific at all.
All real horses and ponies will have a breed or type. There are of course many which are really just 'horse' and you're quite free to have models which are too, but a you may find they are short of show classes to enter, particularly in-hand classes. That's why many more models are pure-bred, or at least of known breeding. What breed your model is will of course depend on what it looks like! If you're not sure, study the photos in books until you find something suitable. Again, you don't have to stick with the breed that the model was sold as, but do keep it as something believable. For example the Breyer Trakehner (reissued under various names) was sold (obviously!) as a Trakehner, but it can be used very successfully as a Thoroughbred/Hunter type.
The breed of your model will also be governed to some extent by its colour. Colour is the one part of your model's details which you don't have to decide, because there it is, being that colour! Do check with the reference books before you decide on a breed, because there are some colours which are not permitted to certain breeds in the real horse world. For example, Arabs are never palomino, dun, roan, piebald or skewbald, so if you have an Arab-type model in one of those colours it would be better to make it a part-bred Arab. Dales ponies are never chestnut,
Once you've chosen the breed, this will in turn govern the height. Because so many different makes and scales of model horse are collected there is no real way of working out your horse's height from its actual model height. Instead, you choose a height appropriate to its breed or type - so, back to your reference book to find out the official maximum and minimum heights for the breed, because if you go outside them, again your model may be marked down in shows.
What other details does a real horse have? It has an age, or more specifically, a year in which it was foaled. The snag about giving a model a year in which it was foaled is that it will grow older every year and eventually reach an age where, realistically, it has to be dead. Some people avoid this by giving each model a fixed age, which never increases. This makes things simple and is all right if your only interest is in showing horses. However, if you are also interested in breeding, fixed ages are impractical for two reasons. Firstly, a model with a fixed age of say, seven, can never have offspring older than two or three, which means that it can never have grandchildren at all, and so cannot have much influence on your stud or the model horse world in general. (On the other hand, some models which do get older have founded dynasties now in their fifth or sixth model generation!) Moreover, we haven't yet dealt with pedigrees, but when we do you'll see that many people like to have their models as sons or daughters of real horses. This is impossible for a non-ageing model, as it will eventually get to the point where its real mother and father were dead before it was born! Because of these two reasons, you can probably get more out of your model if you give it a fixed foaling date and let it age naturally. It will still have many years of active life in shows, as we all know real horses who go on competing well into their teens, but it will have the chance of a full breeding life as well. The problem of what to do when the horse eventually 'dies' is often solved by giving the old model the details of a favourite son or daughter of that model. A further disadvantage to fixed age models is that some model societies require descent from real horses for registration, and so fixed-age models are effectively banned from competing in these societies? shows and events.
A problem which might be caused by horses growing up like this is that a foal model would be used for one year only, before being replaced by an adult model fitting the same details. This is generally avoided by giving the foal model new details every year, each time being a foal you have bred that year. This may mean that not every foal you breed will have a foal model, and similarly not every foal model may get used every year, but on the whole things will work out.
Parents and Pedigrees
As mentioned a few times already, many people like to give their models parents, which are real horses. They are often interested in the real breed, admire horses of that particular real bloodline, and would love to own and breed the real thing if they could. If you want to choose real parents, do try to pick ones which were alive at the relevant time and hopefully capable of producing a foal of the chosen colour. If you don't know where to start in choosing real parents, try writing to a model collector who is interested in that breed; they may well be able to help you. Good sources are stud adverts in real horse magazines, catalogues from real horse shows (those from breed shows usually give the age, colour, and sire/dam of each exhibit), and stud books and other publications from the relevant breed society. You will have to pay for the latter, of course (how much depends on the breed), but if you are interested in that breed it may well be worth it. By contrast, some breed societies might be willing to give you old show catalogues for only the price of the postage. If you have access to it, the Internet can also be an extremely useful source of pedigree information.
There are people who feel that choosing real parents is unrealistic. A real mare, they argue, was either having a real foal, possibly by a different stallion, in the year she is supposed to have had your model, or else she was probably being ridden and competing in ridden and performance events. Either way, to choose her as the dam is not feasible; the only solution is to have imaginary parents for your models. You must make up your own mind about this, but do bear in mind that models with imaginary parents are not accepted by some societies. Certainly, it cannot be totally realistic to have a real mare as the dam of a model horse; on the other hand, if one is prepared to use a little imagination there, it can make for a more realistic world within the model hobby itself.
A model can, of course, have other models as parents, but they in turn will be descended from either real horses or imaginary ones, and so if you care strongly either way, find out which before you buy a model that comes with details. (A standard notation has evolved to show which category a model's ancestors fall into: (M) after a name indicates the horse in question is/was a model, (R) or ® means it is real, and (I) that it is imaginary.) It is unpopular to change the details of a model if you have bought it on the understanding that a set of details should be kept with it; please respect the wishes of the person who sold it to you. Also if you are making up a set of details and want to use someone else's model as a parent, always ask them first. Most people are happy to oblige and in fact some hobbyists issue lists of available sires and dams.
As you will have gathered, if someone is breeding their models, the offspring may or may not get a model as a foal and even as a youngster it may have to wait some years before a suitable adult body is found. In the meantime it is a Details Only or DO; it can enter postal shows but obviously little else! Some breeders may have an excess of DO's and be willing to let you have some for the price of an SASE, although this is less likely now than in the past.
Keeping a Stud Book
Hopefully your model is now established with some details and ready to go. Once you have decided on the details it's a good idea to note them down somewhere permanent. Most people have a ring binder or lever arch file in which each horse has a separate sheet of paper. This gives plenty of room on the sheet to note the horse's details and also its subsequent show placings, breeding career etc. Details such as name, breed, sex, height, year foaled and parents should also be neatly written on the back of your showing photos along with details of what make and mould the model is, whether reworked and by whom.
British Organisation for Pedigree Assignment and Research (BOPAR) - This is a club for people with a specific interest in model horse breeding and pedigree assignment. For further information, please email the BECF 'contact us' page.
Picture shows: Whitestones HezaGood'un - OF Breyer Cutting Horse & Calf - Tack made & owned by J.Radwanski