Showing model horses is a fun and challenging hobby. There's always something new and interesting to learn. The biggest challenge in our hobby, though, is finding enough skilled judges to judge shows. Region X has a great solution: Schooling shows! These shows are clinics for teaching judging, and they're a lot of fun - I'd love to see them spread around the country.
At a schooling show, you get to learn from an experienced judge, and everyone judges every class. Participants judge at the same time and once everyone has finished recording their placings, everyone places ribbons for their top three or four models. After that's done, the experienced judge judge asks for a volunteer to explain his/her placings so we can all learn from her point of view. Then the experience judge places the class the way she sees it and explains why she's picking what she does.
[Models in Pony Breed class, being placed by participants]
There's no criticism of how anyone has judged, but as the day goes on, we've all learned that each person has a bias toward certain aspects of judging and we've all broadened what we're looking at on the table. For instance, early in the day, one person tended to look mainly for rubs and yellowing (condition issues) as a basis for her placings, while another participant used mainly mold conformation, and another got a lot of information from the model's tag (was the breed correct, and the horse's color correct for the breed?). As we heard from each person through the day, we all began incorporating all of those things better, as well as simply learning to see details we may have been missing earlier.
[Robin Briscoe discusses models in the European Warmbloods class]
Along with everyone bringing models for the classes, each participant brings markers to indicate their placings. They could be regular ribbons, or they could be absolutely anything that either is color-coded according to standard placings, or has a placing number on them, 1st - 4th. At the recent show, one person brought commercial ribbons, a couple made lovely neck sashes, one printed custom stickers, one used color coded tongue depressors, one printed card-stock placing markers with her own artwork on them, one used color-coded candy, and one used poker chips. It's not expected that participants will want to keep and display ribbons from schooling shows, so feel free to use anything that visually indicates 1st - 4th.
Schooling shows usually only have about a dozen classes, since each class takes a lot longer than a regular show, and everyone is encouraged to ask questions and share their observations. They are usually themed. Theming can be breed, collectability, performance, even color. Each has things to teach us that help us judge - and show - better.
I hope you'll take this to your local show group and encourage them to hold a schooling show. We need more judges, and it's a great way for everyone to learn and gain confidence!