What is documentation?

Also know as explanation cards, documentation is a handy way to give the judge a little bit of extra information on your entry. It can be used in performance, breed, colour, workmanship and collectability classes. If your entry isn`t common, informative documentation can help to get your setup over the line. Judges can`t have up-to-the-minute knowledge on every single performance class or possible breed and  colour combination, so providing documentation is a subtle and polite way of letting the judge have this information at hand to help them assess your entry.



Many shows will require, or at least strongly encourage, the use of documentation with a performance setup. Why? There are so many different horse sports all across the world that it would be impossible to know the ins-and-outs of each one. In addition, documentation for more common events like show jumping or dressage allows you to provide information like the level, and the pattern/movement.

A performance setup`s goal is to be a frozen 3D moment in time, and a performance explanation should complement that. In simple terms, it should tell the judge what the horse is doing; to use showjumping as an example, is the horse cantering towards, taking off, in air over, or landing after a jump? Your explanation should be should be clear and to the point. Avoid making the judge guess what your model is doing - there are many moulds that look like they are performing one gait to one person, and a different gait to another person. It`s always much safer to just write down what you think the model is doing, rather than hope that the judge`s assessment matches yours.

Make sure that your explanation matches your model. It`s no good to say your model is approaching jump 7, if your model is actually mid-jump.

Even if the entry is, for example, a costume class - remember that in the real world, it`s not just the costume that is being judged, but the horse and rider as well. A pattern still needs to be performed, even if it`s just a canter on a circle around the judge.

If you`re not sure what goes on in a class you are trying to depict, visit Youtube and look at videos of the class. There are thousands of videos online to help you, so don`t be afraid to use your resources. Other places to get information include breed association rulebooks, show advertisements, websites, photos etc.

Some examples:

Things to avoid in your documentation

  • It`s very important that your documentation does not list the names of anyone (model, owner, tackmaker, propmaker etc), and you need to try not to `judge the entry` with emotive words. Change `Susie Creamcheese rides her fabulous dun Quarter Horse `Ima Speedy Johnson` calmly over the bridge obstacle made by Peta Propmaker in Western Arena Trail class while wearing a sparkly silver saddle set made by Tracey Tackmaker` to `Rider guides horse over the bridge obstacle in Western Arena Trail class.` All that extra junk distracts the judge from what you`re really telling them. `Judging the entry` with your explanation (the use of the word `calmly` above) is also a no-no - it`s up to the judge to decide if your horse is performing as it should be.
  • Avoid extensive histories of the event. While it`s nice, and in some cases might be slightly relevant, there`s no need to dedicate your entire explanation card to information like that. If you must include it (for unusual or uncommon events - not dressage, cross country etc), keep the information to a couple of lines.
  • Breed and Colour

    Documentation for halter entries is best used for models of an uncommon breed or an unusual colour. Not all colours are available to all breeds, as the variety of colour genes can be limited in some breeds.

    If you have, for example, a common breed like a Thoroughbred in an uncommon colour like sabino, then your documentation is used as proof that that pattern does occur in purebreds of that breed. Remember that in halter classes, judges are looking at models as if they are real horses, so fanciful breed and colour combinations (such as a pintaloosa purebred Friesian) won`t do well without some strong documentation to back up your claim.

    Common breeds in common colours don`t need documentation. A breed you could consider common would be like a household name - everyone is aware of Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Standardbreds, Clydesdales etc. Examples of uncommon breeds include Eriskay Pony, Georgian Grande, Comtois, Mangalarga Marchador, Chickasaw, etc. If you haven`t heard of it before, then documentation is a good idea! It`s up to you if you want to provide documentation or not, but it doesn`t hurt to err on the side of caution.

    What to include on breed documentation

    Visit the breed association`s website and look for the breed standard. This is the gold standard example of the breed, so be sure to include it (or a summarised version) in your documentation. If it`s not mentioned in the breed standard, then mention the colours the breed comes in as well. One or two colour pictures of the breed is very helpful for the judge.

    You might feel like you want to include some history of the breed, but unless it is essential (like the breed was founded through the crossing of two breeds together), it may be better to leave it out. Judges only have a limited time to look at each entry, so the less text they have to wade through, the better.

    What to include in colour documentation

    Similar to breed documentation, colour cards should include at least one colour photo of the breed in the colour of your model. It won`t hurt to include the breed standard as well, showing that the association does approve of that colour in its registry.

    Some examples:



    The use of workmanship documentation can vary from show to show - be sure to check with the host prior to the show if they do not want you to use workmanship.

    In this division, documentation is best used on models that have had more work done to them than just repainting - that is, models that have only been repainted won`t need the support of documentation. The judge will get the most use out of documentation when the model is not easily recognisable as the model it started out as. You can provide a photo of the original mould, if you like.

    Again, avoid naming the artist/s in your text. The judge is looking at your models as works of art, so letting the work speak for itself is the best way to present your entry to a judge.

    Some examples:



    Collectability looks at the model as a collectable, and assesses the model on a few different factors: age, rarity, desirability and condition. A model that is deemed collectable will be something that has some significance attached to it; it is an extremely old piece, or was from a very limited run, or is a very popular model. Regular runs generally aren`t good Collectability candidates, since they are usually available for an extended period of time, with no limit on their final number.

    For an extremely well-written piece on collectability classes (aimed at the US hobby), read this article by Kirsten Wellman: What is collectability and why should we care?

    Include information such as (listed in no particular order):

  • Run name and release number (e.g., Leah`s Fancy Chick, #700900)
  • Number of models made (e.g. 4400)
  • Years produced or event produced for (e.g. Breyerfest 2000)
  • Include any other information/things if you have it, such as tack and accessories if the model came in a set, a COA (certificate of authenticity), neck tag, box if it`s a vintage model, a book if it came in a set, etc.
  • Other notes of interest, such as `retains blue ribbon sticker`, `chalky`, `eye-white version`
  • Some examples: