LSQ Guidelines










Live Show Quality (LSQ) Guidelines:

A Handy Reference for Identifying Authentic Competitive

Workmanship in Customs and Artist Resins


LSQ Guidelines By Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig





The primary mode of competition in our community is the live show, where models are exhibited in an up-close, personal inspection and compared against its fellows on the table to make the placings. In order to compete successfully at a live show, models are expected to be what is called “Live Show Quality” (or “LSQ”) and I’m sure you’ve come across this term when perusing sales lists or online advertisements.


However, while LSQ should be an assurance of a required standard, no such standard exists in consensus. Indeed, the past few years has seen such a boom in the participation of model horse showing, that the resultant confusion about what constitutes LSQ has become prevalent and destructive. In fact, the term is so grossly misused today, that many showers, particularly new showers, are inadvertently purchasing or creating work that falls short of the unspoken competitive standard and not finding the success they desire.


In an effort to alleviate the problem, this guideline has been compiled to identify and define all the points of LSQ for evaluation of a model during the creative process and before a purchasing decision. Furthermore, these points are based on this essential definition of LSQ:


Realism-based workmanship so skilled and thorough that close personal inspection by those expert in superior realistic workmanship are pressed to find fault in the creative or technical aspects of the piece.


Nonetheless, these definitions are wholly my own opinion, yet have served me well in both the creation and judging of successful model horses for over fifteen years. So whether you agree with them or not, these definitions do serve a relevant and useful purpose that may help you reach your goals and sharpen your insights. Also, these points are divided into two categories, The Essentials and The Optionals. The former are those points that are mandatory whereas the latter are those points that are open to debate and will depend on your own personal decisions. Furthermore, this guideline is intended to apply only to Customs or finished Artist Resins, and is not intended to apply to Original Finish or China models. It is encouraged that those heavily involved in these types of models compile LSQ guidelines tailored to such interests. And, finally, it must be mentioned that, at present, our community tolerates some contradictory standards, which have been noted for you to consider. Nevertheless, since this guideline is based on my opinion, my own perspectives are emphasized.


The Essentials

The common denominator of The Essentials is realism, because fundamentally, realism is the principal element of LSQ. Without a doubt, the more realistic the model, the more potentially LSQ it is. Topics presented are, as follows:

• Anatomy

• Sculpting

• Details

• Prepwork

• Custom Corrections

• Finishwork

• Presence

LSQ Myths

• Reserved Rights

• A Healthier Philosophy



Anatomy is the physiological structures of the equine, based on

biology, evolution and genetics that define the genus Equus. Therefore, a

model should be as anatomically truthful as possible to be LSQ (also referred to as “realism”, “viability” or partially as the “ABCs”, meaning anatomy-biomechanics-conformation). Anatomy includes all the physical structures authentic to a real horse, as follows:

  • Truthful characteristics of the skeleton, musculature and flesh

  • Factual biomechanics and physics

  • Symmetry of the body, particularly with bilateral pairs

  • Credible proportions

  • Believable treatment of hair and horn

  • Correct rendition of veins, moles, wrinkles and other such details

  • Faithfulness towards equine behavior and personality

  • Accurate secondary sex characteristics (gender differences)

  • Reliable age characteristics

  • Any other facet of sculpture that would convey a realistic depiction of the living animal

In short, if a real horse has it, so should the model, as accurately as possible. Undeniably, there is no model horse that can be truly LSQ if the sculpture itself isn’t as realistic as possible, even if all other points are superior. Nevertheless, realism is a difficult property to describe or teach since it depends wholly upon the perception of one’s “eye” and depth of one’s understanding, which is developed over time with diligent research, analysis, observation and artistic exercises. Consequently, if one isn’t aware of equine anatomy well enough to identify accuracy, it’s recommended that independent research or seeking the advice of learned participants be initiated. And beware, some pieces can be deceptively convincing, yet still be significantly flawed, so it’s good policy to objectively scrutinize each potential purchase.

Remember: Factual anatomy is the foundation of LSQ.



Sculpted areas should duplicate the look of what they’re representing as convincingly as possible, such as flesh, horn, hair, bone, sinew, etc. However, some artistic leeway can be afforded to hair since it’s so open to artistic interpretation, although sculpted hair should always be convincingly and skillfully rendered. Furthermore, sculpting should be consistent in skill, texture and style; harmony and uniformity are essential. Inappropriate bumps, lumps or other incongruities are undesirable, and indeed, the artist shouldn’t have “dropped the ball” with any aspect of sculpting or appear to have fudged areas or “winged it”. And for Customs, it’s paramount that altered areas be consistent in style, skill and texture to the untouched original plastic areas and so smoothly executed that it’s indistinguishable where the original ends and customization begins. Truly, a good customizer is a good mimic, and the more minimal the custom, the more important is mimicry. And, finally, the overall piece must be skillfully designed to avoid any awkwardness or oddness that would “stop the eye” and inhibit a credible and beautiful duplication of a real horse. So, in short, all sculptural

work should appear confident, skilled and deliberate, as though the artist

meant every step.

Remember: LSQ sculpting or customizing must always be a realistic

and artistic asset to the overall piece, never a liability.



The “devil is in the details” and they do count for LSQ, absolutely. Details include ligaments, tendons, veins, nerves, capillaries, whisker bumps/moles, chestnuts, ergots, wrinkles, eyelashes, shoes, clenches or any other aspect of a real horse the artist saw fit to instill in the sculpture. Overall, the details should be truthful, precise, skillful, convincing and reveal the artist’s powers of keen observation. Details can be poorly done however, and often are, such as the following:

  • Shoe jobs that are incorrect, such as those that exhibit unawareness of the farrier arts, glue-on shoes of the wrong size and shape or those that are not flush with the bottom of the hoof

  • Nails located on the wrong parts of the hoof wall, being at the quarters rather than towards the toe

  • Veins, capillaries or nerves that do not follow the anatomical blueprint or don’t appear fleshy

  • Wrinkles that are hard looking and contrived rather than appearing fleshy and soft

  • Whisker bumps located on the wrong areas of the face

  • Chestnuts of the wrong texture or located in the wrong position

Remember: If a real horse has specific details, so must the LSQ model.




Prepwork is the initial treatment of the model to provide the “canvas” for painting, and should be meticulous and thoughtful. All surface imperfections caused by the molding process or the initial stages of sculpting should be removed so as to appear they never existed in the first place. However, evaluating prepwork can often be based on a gradient, meaning that your own levels of tolerance can be a factor. Nevertheless, it’s a good rule of thumb that the better the prepwork, the more LSQ the model, and so should lack these issues, as follows:

  • Mold flashing: These are raised or depressed rims or edges that outline areas of the body where the mold pieces met to cast the piece.

  • Seals: On plastic Customs, this is the manufacturer identification stamp, often found on the inner thigh or groin. However, on Artist Resins, all identifying information, such as signatures, dates, titles, numbering, etc., should remain intact.

  • Pinholes: Small pits the size of a pinhead, or smaller, often caused by a molding process that lacks adequate use of a vacuum chamber.

  • Divots: Like pinholes, but larger, sometimes up to the size of a pea.

  • Pits: Like divots, but larger.

  • Bubbles: Air bubbles that have only partially erupted from the surface, and can be small or rather large.

  • Gouges, Scratches or Scrapes: Areas that suffered careless sculpting or damage from the casting or cleaning process.

  • Sandpaper marks: Little scratches where inappropriate rough sandpaper was used for prepping.

  • Pilling: Small bits of material in places of detail or complexity (usually manes and tails), that aren’t consistent to the surrounding areas. They are either caused by careless sculpting that neglected to smooth them out or by problematic casting that compromised the mold.

  • Pock marks: Areas that bear a patterned bubbled texture, often caused by problems during the casting process or primer that rippled because of faulty application.

  • Mismatched seams: When different mold parts do not meet evenly along their seams, one side of the sculpture will be collapsed inwards or protrude upwards along the seam. Also, when different mold parts “slip” past each other, causing asymmetries, often most obvious in the face. And the more askew the mold seam, the worse the problems.

  • Channels: A strip of the surface that lies deeper than the surrounding area, sometimes following a mold seam. Not to be confused with intended fleshy qualities.

  • Ripples: Sometimes an artist will hurriedly coat the original in gesso, which leaves grooves, ridges or ripples on the surface that are reproduced when cast. Not to be confused with intended fleshy or coat qualities.

  • Razor Swirls: Sometimes the casting medium behaves strangely, leaving razor thin, swirling grooves randomly over the model.

  • Missing parts: Sometimes areas do not cast properly and end up missing on the cast, such as ear tips, hoof parts, mane/tail tendril ends, nostril rims, etc. They need to be recreated so as to be unseen, sturdy and match the original intent.

  • Tear-outs: When a mold is damaged internally, an accidental fill at the site of the damage will occur in the castings. These tears usually happen in complicated, tight areas of the sculpture and when cast, often manifest themselves as uncharacteristic pools or blocks of resin.

  • Imprinted remnants: Sometimes accidental artifacts are left on the model, which can get reproduced when cast. Such things include fingerprints, pet hair, dollops of unintended clay or other foreign matter.

  • Primer flaws: Primer should be appropriate for the material and be applied smoothly and evenly. Primer flaws include drips, ripples, bubbles, pock marking, wrinkling or anything other than what is smooth and even.

  • Reinforcement wires: These are often used for resin casting in the legs or hair tendrils and sometimes protrude through the resin surface. If they are not filled over, they can leave an inconsistent patch of smoothness, surrounded by a thin ridge where it meets the resin.

  • Sprue: A channel through which resin flowed to fill the mold during the casting process. Left intact, they appear as resin sticks or branches radiating from the casting and are usually removed in rough cleaning (those castings that are not rough cleaned are called “raw castings”). The most common sprue is on the belly, and is usually seen as a coin sized circular area, if removed in rough cleaning. But a sprue can be used in additional areas, and be particularly deceptive on manes or tails with complex tendril design, so take care to know the original intent of these areas before prepping.

  • Cracks: Cracks are partial breaks and can occur around areas of fill or those that are particularly delicate or vulnerable, often around pressure points or areas of load stress. Those that are repaired should be done so as to be unseen, sturdy and match the original intent.

  • Breaks: Breaks are when a piece of the model becomes detached from the rest of the body. Those that are repaired should be done so as to be unseen, sturdy and match the original intent.

  • Lifting: Lifting occurs when the fill material releases its hold on the model’s surface and raises up, either just a little bit or a lot, sometimes in large chunks. This can occur with improper preparation of the model’s surface or improper care or storage. Lifting requires repair by an experienced person skilled in such matters, and those that are repaired should be done so as to be unseen, sturdy and match the original intent.

  • Bloating: If a plastic model is allowed to get hot, the plastic will soften and the air inside can expand, causing it to bloat up. Can be directly linked to lifting.

  • Style: Each artist has a unique sculptural technique so it’s essential to be aware of it to determine what was intended and what was an “oops”. On Artist Resins and minimal Customs, it’s important to remain faithful to that technique because inconsistent surfaces created by thoughtless prepping are undesirable. Remember, good prep work is invisible, melting into the style and technique of the sculpting. Consequently, it’s good policy to choose pieces that are compatible with your own creative techniques and collecting sensibilities, rather than changing it to suit your own, particularly on Artist Resins. Much of an artist’s methodology is closely entwined with the interpretative accuracy and quality of the final product, so alteration of that tends to diminish the piece, often dramatically. In any case, artistic technique can include such things, as follows:

    • The surface texture characteristic of an artist’s interpretation. For example, some models have a rougher surface whereas others are mirror-smooth.

    • The sculpting approach typical of an artist’s methods. For instance, some artists have a “slashier” or “blobbier” sculpting approach while others have a more blended style.

    • The degree to which the artist interprets clinical biology into

      sculpture. For example, some interpretations are sharply delineated or “skinned” looking while others are softer and more naturalistic.

    • The level of observation infused into the artistic intent. To illustrate, some artists infuse a high degree of precise detail into their work while others choose a more generalized, almost impressionistic, interpretation.

  • Judgment Calls: There comes a time where careless sculpting technique or interpretation will require a judgment call on your part to let it remain untouched or be corrected. Granted, the issue isn’t a pressing one with plastic Customs, but can become a real ethical question when regarding Artist Resins. Nonetheless, it’s very important to not confuse carelessness with artistic style because you risk an injustice if you do.

Remember: If a real horse doesn’t have it, neither should the LSQ

model, yet keep in mind artistic interpretation and style.




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LSQ Guidelines by Sarah Minkiewicz-Breunig

Musetta Resin