Live Show Etiquette









From the Horse’s
Live Show Etiquette:

A Handbook for a Happier Experience


Acknowledgements to the Contributors
I would like to thank all the generous folks who offered their terrific insights and suggestions for this Handbook. Because of you wonderful souls on Fallen Leaves, Model Horse Blab, the RESS Member List, the Minkiewicz Studios Painter’s Program List and those in many personal messages to me, this wisdom can be shared freely in our community to help make our live shows a welcoming place for everyone. Thank you!

By Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig




The live show is our core activity, being both the competitive outlet and the social center of the community. And happily, the boom of model horse showers has caused the number of live shows to grow exponentially. Indeed, rarely a weekend goes by that doesn’t have a live show somewhere in the country!


However, what failed to develop alongside this boom was a formalized understanding of appropriate conduct, which has proven to be a problematic oversight. In fact, many young showers and newcomers have no idea about norms and unspoken courtesies, and so may innocently put themselves or others in unfortunate circumstances. And while most people are friendly and gracious in our little slice of the world, some do tend to become abrasive or unpleasant, sometimes repeatedly. And, truth be told, we all have our own moments of weakness, particularly when emotions run high. Nevertheless, because live shows are a vital link, a cohesive resource offering practical suggestions is needed to promote untarnished enjoyment for all participants.


As a result, this Handbook was compiled with the generous insights and suggestions from your fellow showers, hosts and judges alike, experienced and new. Every insight contained here is directly from your peers, making the entire Handbook based on practical experience and tested protocol, and can therefore be a useful guide for attending any live show. I encourage you to think carefully about the suggestions presented and take to heart the spirit of the Handbook. We are each a benefactor of the model horse world, and so have a vested interest in the atmosphere of our most affirming and thrilling group activity.


For clarity, this Handbook is divided into several sections, each addressing a specific facet of a live show. And since many of us have to wear many hats throughout our showing involvement or need to be aware of such matters eventually, it’s a good idea to read all the sections to understand the full spectrum of appropriate etiquette. These sections are:

  • Hospitality

  • Sportsmanship

  • Suggestions for Newcomers

  • Showers

  • Judges

  • Show Hosts

  • Staff

  • Other Attendees

  • Making Complaints

  • Be a Thoughtful Participant

  • Closing Thoughts

  • Recommended Resources


Absolutely, we are passionate about our model horses and know that our activity has a lot of good things to offer anyone interested in horses. But it can be easy to forget that each of us started out as beginners or as children, without a clue as to what it’s all about or not having familiar faces greeting you. So the truth is that as we develop as showers, we become obligated to help those in our midst who may be new to this activity. And it’s important to remember there is a difference between young showers and new showers, as the latter may often be adults who are discovering this activity for the first time, or re-discovering it after a period of absence. So while each type of “newbie” often requires slightly different needs and strategies, they both deserve attentive care and thoughtfulness.


Without a doubt, we are each a good will ambassador for the model horse world and since our newbies are our future, they should be actively welcomed by everyone at a live show in meaningful ways. It’s important that newcomers feel embraced and part of a supportive network and that they receive the guidance and insights needed to help them develop and succeed. In a way, the live show is our communal “house” and good hospitality shown to newbies encourages them to join and enrich our whole family.


But hospitality does not extend just to newbies, but also to each other, at every show. It’s important to be gracious and affable to fellow attendees, no matter how many times you’ve crossed paths, and to foster an atmosphere of happiness and learning for everyone present.


Remember that the hospitality we offer each other at every live show accumulates and builds a cohesive and friendly community that benefits not only you, but everyone else as well.


So some things each of us can do to offer good hospitality are, as follows:

  • For hosts, encourage ambassadorship by various strategies, such as:

    • Identifying new, young, shy, awkward or inexperienced showers before the show (perhaps by having a special box on the entry form these folks can check) and then assign each of them to an interested, friendly, experienced shower who is willing to serve as a "show buddy" (and perhaps have a special prize or award for such generous people). It’s also a good idea to situate the tables of these people near their show buddies to encourage comfort zones and familiarity. This beautiful idea can do wonders for all involved.

    • Hook up new, young or shy showers with “pen pals” before the show and try to arrange their tables near each other at the show, too. This really helps to build confidence and a feeling of being welcome.

    • Encourage newbies to volunteer at your show. You get the needed help and they get to meet people and also learn about live shows from the “inside out”. As a suggestion, it’s a good idea to put newbies to work at socially-oriented jobs such as selling raffle tickets, organizing the awards and keeping them ready for the judges, helping to hand out catered lunches, handing out surveys and collecting them, etc.

    • If you have a get-together planned for your show, it’s a great idea to actively introduce newbies around.

    • If possible, it’s a nice idea to designate a staff person to be a newbie “liaison” to help and offer guidance.

    • Refer new showers to your NAMHSA Regional list and Regional Representative, or any other person or online source you believe could be a valuable asset to them. It might also be a good idea to have a flyer ready for them that provides all this information for later reference.

  • Experienced showers should avoid cliquish behavior at a live show, and reach out to newbies at every opportunity. Indeed, newbies should never feel ignored or unwelcome. You can start dialogues and relationships with such techniques as follows:

    • Actively introduce yourself to newbies in an approachable, friendly manner and become that friendly, familiar face every person loves to see.

    • Engage newbies in your circle and introduce them around.

    • Place a sign on your table, "If you're new to model horses, say hello!" and also put this on your nametag.

    • Offer friendly mentoring and advice when asked.

    • Invite newbies to activities or get-togethers you may be attending, so they feel welcome and included.

    • Satisfy their curiosity with useful answers delivered in a friendly way. Remember that newbies are eager and able to learn, and should not be treated dismissively.

    • Always be respectful and thoughtful to newbies. They should never be ignored or patronized at any time.

    • Enthusiastically congratulate newbies on any successes and achievements, and help them achieve more success, too.

    • Encourage good sportsmanship with all newbies, so they don’t inadvertently do something embarrassing.

    • While this is a hot potato, it may be a good idea to discreetly and diplomatically inform newbies about any problematic people who might be in the hall. Practically speaking, no matter how many great people may be present, inevitably there’s always a couple who may not be so fun to be around. So by gently alerting newbies, they can choose to avoid an unexpected unpleasant situation that might upset them.


Good sportsmanship is the glue that holds a competitive activity together and allows it to grow by maximizing an inclusive, welcoming environment. So it cannot be emphasized enough that good sportsmanship is essential and expected from all attendees, at all times, in all situations. Truly, a live show should be the place where you put your best foot forward and allow the best of your character to shine through, so friendships can form and learning can be nurtured. So always remember, good sportsmanship is the primary code of conduct expected of show attendees to promote and also to practice. And it’s important to keep in mind that good sportsmanship applies to social settings outside of the live show environment as well, such as at parties, online discussions and large expos. People will form an opinion of you as you behave, so it’s really the best policy to be courteous in all social situations.


It’s an attendee’s obligation to nurture a positive, welcoming and supportive atmosphere for everyone. There is no excuse for bad sportsmanship and it has no place in our community. Bad sportsmanship should be treated with zero-tolerance and be promptly reported to the host and dealt with accordingly.


The truth is that a live show is not all about you. Yes, you have come for your own personal reasons, but the room is also full of other people who expect to have a good time, too. And so to forget the true spirit of the day is the epitome of bad manners at a live show. Always remember that there is no ribbon, trophy or need to be “right” that is worth a bad experience for you, and for those around you. There’s no faster way to become an unwelcome person than to exhibit bad sportsmanship, because people remember who diminished their experience and word gets around very quickly. So please, think twice about your conduct, even when your emotions are running high.


Some Examples of General Bad Sportsmanship to avoid altogether are:


  • Do not speak derogatorily of someone or his/her models. Negativity feeds on itself and ruins the experience for everyone. Always keep such opinions to yourself.

  • Do not appear to be speaking about someone in an unfriendly manner or make him/her uncomfortable with thoughtless or exclusionary behavior. You should endeavor to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable because that’s your obligation to your fellow participants.

  • Treating people with hostility, disrespect or unkindness for any reason. There is no excuse for it.

  • Keep in mind that when you sign the entry form, you agree to all the stipulated rules, codes and regulations of the show. And when you attend a live show, you agree to behave according to the accepted norms of behavior of the greater community. If you choose not to abide by them, you may be asked to leave without a refund, as is appropriate. If this happens, you are expected to leave quickly and quietly.

  • Never belittle, demean or patronize anyone at the show, particularly newbies.

  • Never use profanity or other “colorful” language at a live show, at any time. Foul language is inappropriate for the necessary environment at a live show.

  • Never intentionally ignore someone in need of help or insight.

  • If you have an amazing collection of show horses, do not behave in a smug, self-righteous or superior fashion. Snobbish elitism has no place at a live show.

  • Some showers are known to consistently win, but it’s inappropriate to express arrogance or prima donna behavior, at any time. We are a community of like-minded folks, and should all be treated with equal respect and regard. Leave your ego at home.

  • When a class is announced as “closed” and you missed it, do not demand the class be reopened just for you. Simply concentrate on the next class.

Some Examples of Bad Sportsmanship Related to Judging to avoid altogether are:

  • Spouting snide, unkind commentary regarding the judge, host, staff, show or placings, to anyone. This includes catty remarks, proclamations of another’s stupidity, negative grumblings or any other disagreeable behavior.

  • Standing around an exhibitor or show table, gawking and rudely commenting on the models in the presence of others, or even the owners.

  • Confronting the judge before, during or after the class, declaring that you are an expert, and that the class should have been placed your way.

  • Accosting the judge for any reason, and loudly declaring that a model is a “disaster” and thusly should never have placed.

  • Being rude if a judge encounters something he/she doesn’t know. Remember, no judge can know everything in all of horsedom, and while good judges know a lot, eventually they encounter unfamiliar information. So if you do have something constructive or educational to offer, do so only to the judge, in a polite, gracious and discreet manner, at the appropriate time.

  • Making a judge feel bad. Remember, he/she is volunteering the time and energy so you can show.

  • Grumbling about judges behind their backs.

  • Becoming crabby and ill tempered as a display of disapproval.

  • Speaking disparagingly about trivial or personal things regarding the judge or anyone else, for that matter.

  • Throwing a tantrum, spouting such complaints as, “The judge must hate me!” or “The judge must be blind!” etc.

  • Creating a scene, overt or behind the scenes, with crying, complaining or emotional behavior. If you’re unable to emotionally cope with the situation, it’s best to discreetly and diplomatically leave the premises.

  • Loudly packing up and leaving, making a great show of your indignation. Instead, if you feel compelled to leave, do so discreetly, graciously, quietly and politely.

  • Standing off to the side of a class, even within earshot of the judge, and griping about the placings and how poorly you expect all the judge’s placings to be.

  • Speaking of how you would place the class within earshot of the judge.

  • Sitting at your exhibitor table and grousing, being a Negative Nelly, because you are unhappy with the placings.

  • Arguing with a judge, for any reason, whether or not the judge is right. This includes cornering a judge who didn't place your entry as you expected, and thus possibly delaying the show.

  • Discussing the models, positive or negative, on the show table within earshot of the judge.

  • Complaining about a placing when you placed your model in the wrong class. If you were in doubt, you should have politely asked the judge or host beforehand.

  • “Getting in anyone’s face” about a showing issue. This includes threatened or real damage to person or property. Aggressive confrontation is absolutely unacceptable.

  • Switching ribbons between models once they have been placed is unacceptable, whether the model(s) belong to you, or to someone else. If a ribbon was accidentally moved, ask the judge for the correct placement if you are unsure where it goes.

  • Bribing or otherwise influencing the judge, host or anyone affiliated with show is unacceptable and those responsible should be reported.

  • Forgetting to have fun and forgetting to help others to have fun!

Suggestions for Newcomers

Sometimes shows don’t have an organized means to welcome you, making your first experience potentially bewildering. But even though a live show can be quite intimidating, it’s important to take a pro-active approach nonetheless. Undeniably, becoming part of the community is dependent on showing an interest in the activity, not being afraid to socialize and ask questions, getting involved with groups that share your interests, or even volunteering to help where needed.


The bottom line is you cannot sit back and wait for people to come to you. Rather, you need to actively socialize; so build up the nerve, take the risk, and jump in. Introduce yourself to others and let them know you’re a newcomer. While you may be hesitant, remember, people may be hesitant to approach you too!


Here are some suggested tools to help you mingle (which are also very handy for shy folks too):

  • Take advantage of the Internet since it offers several tools:

  • Join your Regional NAMHSA list and other model horse mailing lists, such as Fallen Leaves and Model Horse Blab, and introduce yourself as a newcomer. Read the various threads and become familiar with what’s going on and be sure to engage in conversations in a friendly, polite and fun way so people will want to meet you. Absolutely avoid “lurking” on lists since no one can get to know you if you don’t participate.

  • On the online lists, find out if anyone will be at a show you plan to attend and arrange to meet them there, if possible. Perhaps they also have the time to show you around and even share lunch.

  • Go to any and all local model horse activities you learn about online and actively mingle.

  • Contact your NAMHSA Regional Representative and introduce yourself and see if he/she can help you ease into the local model horse community.

  • Find out if there’s a local model horse club in your area, and join. Also attend the meetings and gatherings, and perhaps volunteer to help with club logistics.

  • If you’re interested in customizing, sculpting or painting, join lists and associations that specialize in our model horse arts, such as the Realistic Equine Scupture Society (RESS).

  • Before a show, it’s important to contact the host and introduce yourself, and be sure to mention that you’re new to the experience. Ask questions, ask for tips and insights, and just get a dialogue going.

  • Volunteer to help with a show! This is one of the best ways to learn about the live show experience, meet people, and make a positive impact that people will happily remember. You can sell raffle tickets, hand out packets and information, help distribute any catered lunches, assist as a ring steward, help keep the awards organized, assist the judges when they need it, etc. Really, there’s so much to be done at a live show, your assistance will always be welcomed and remembered!

  • If the show has a get-together before or after the competition - go to it and actively socialize.

  • Find other new local showers and get to know them.

    • When at the show, try some of these handy ice-breaking techniques:

      • People love to talk about their show string, so when you stroll among the exhibitor tables, compliment the owners on their lovely models and ask questions about them like, “Who created this piece?” or “What do you show it as?” or “Has it done well for you”? or “Which is your favorite and why?” Then be sure to tell them you’re a newcomer too.

      • Remember that the common denominator with everyone in the hall is horses! So you really aren’t in a room full of people who may have no common interest with you; in fact, the situation is quite the opposite! So take advantage of this when trying to start a conversation by asking a question about anything related to horses or model horses. You’ll soon discover that model horse folks love to chat about such topics at the drop of a hat. Such questions could be, “How long have you been showing?” or “Do you know of other good shows in the area?” or “Do you know the best place to buy Breyers or Stone Horses locally?” or “Do you know of any local clubs I can join?” or “Do you have horses?” or “What’s your favorite breed and color?”

      • Put some horse-related magazines and paraphernalia on the corner of your table to attract people to you. This way you’ll instantly have something to talk about.

      • Put a sign on your exhibitor table, or write it on your nametag, that says, “I’m new to model horses – please stop by and say hello”.

      • If artists are present whose work you admire, go ogle their work. Compliment them and ask questions about their inspirations, their techniques and future plans. And if you’re also taking your first steps into the creative side of horse modeling, ask him/her for pointers or critiques. Start a dialogue on ideas, concepts and motivations and you’ll find most artists get quite chatty about such subjects.

      • If you notice someone who is doing particularly well that day, ask them questions that will get him/her talking about their insights, goals and how success was achieved. You’ll find that many showers enjoy talking about such subjects and have a lot of helpful information to offer you.

      • If you have a question about placings, it’s OK to ask the judge when he/she has a free moment. It’s a great way to learn and gain insights.

      • A Note of Caution: Be mindful of people’s time and focus. It’s important not to impose on those who are busy showing, so wait until people have a free minute before you approach them. And be sure to circulate in the hall and refrain from latching onto one or two people all day. Not only is this a bit of an imposition, but you lose out on meeting other folks, too. And while most people are very helpful and friendly, if you happen to come across some who are not, do not take it personally.

©2005 S.Minkiewicz-Breunig


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LSQ Guidelines by Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig

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