"And in this ring, showing in the novice halter class is Emily Andruczyk with her horse ..."

No, it's not the World Championship Horse Show in Kentucky. It is the Plastic Pony Parade in Brodheadsville. And there was a lot of make-believe cantering, trotting and high-stepping showing going on.

A few weeks ago, 23 model horse collectors gathered at Chestnuthill Township Park for a model horse show. It was the dream-child of a 15-year-old model horse collector, LeeAnn Bachman of Kunkletown.

Bachman has been collecting horse models ever since she can remember,

"I never liked dolls. I always played with animals and love horses," she says.

She attended her first model horse show last October. It was held in Harrisburg at the Farm Show building and was for 4-H members only. Bachman took 10 model horses and "showed" all of them. Eight out of 10 placed.

"I was hooked," she says of the experience.

Next, she competed at a show in Leesport and then a series of three held in Bloomsburg. She earned her first Reserve Championship in halter, two Grand and Reserve Champions in halter. At the end of the series, she brought home the trophy for overall Grand Championship of the series, impressive for a novice.

It was at the Leesport show that she learned it had been put together by a young girl like herself and she thought, "Hey, I could do that."

What is a model horse show?

Model horse showing is a hobby built around the collection of scale model horses with all the attributes of live horse shows. Model horse shows consist primarily of two divisions: halter and performance. Halter can be further broken down into smaller divisions based on material to equalize the different fields of craftsmanship.

Let's do a show

First LeeAnn had to find a venue and a date. She found one she could afford which was the Chestnuthill Township Park building in Brodheadsville. She contacted the North American Model Horse Show Association to get name cards for the entrants. If a shower wins, this would allow them to show at Nationals, which are being held in Lexington, Kentucky, this year.

Next, LeeAnn created a website, poconosmodelhorseshowweebly.com, with tabs for entry information. She contacted Breyer, one of the largest makers of model horses, and asked if it would sponsor the event. It did, posting LeeAnn's "Plastic Pony Parade in the Poconos" on its website.

"Then I waited for entries," says LeeAnn.

She was thrilled when she received the first two but ended up doing some more waiting. She handed out fliers at the shows she attended and the spots she had available quickly filled up.

LeeAnn made all her own ribbons. With 88 classes and ribbons for first through eighth places, that's 640 ribbons. She made 10 rosettes for Grand Champions and Reserve Champions.

"My parents and I did a lot of cutting and glueing," she says.

Divisions

The divisions were divided into Novice, Open and Fun.

"Novice showers are defined as under 12 years of age. Open divisions are not limited in any way. I also had a separate fun class division open to all showers. Novice showers were not given NAN cards. The novice division, however, had a separate raffle in addition to the one for Lionesse, the exclusive model Breyer donated," says LeeAnn.

Halter division evaluates how a model represents the actual breed of horse. The divisions and judging criteria are derived from their real-life counterparts.

The performance division focuses more on the model, its pose, and its suitability to real-life tasks, with various classes. LeeAnn's novice halter division had 19 classes, and performance had 12, for a total of 31 novice classes.

The open section has three divisions. There also are fun classes.

"I didn't have a collectability division simply because of limited space, funds and judges. I would have loved to do one, as they're not very common in Region 9, but there are just too many factors that need to be accounted for, unfortunately," says LeeAnn.

Who enters Model Horse Shows?

Kira Christopher, 13, from South Canaan, has been collecting model horses for about seven years. She brought about 50 of her models to the Plastic Pony Parade show but has over 100.

"I really like them," says the beginner equestrian.

Her mom, Amy Christopher, has been collecting since she was about 6 years old. She rode horses a lot as a kid.

"We own many miniature horses now," says Amy, who owns about 500 collectible horses. She buys and sells them.

The Christophers go to about eight to 10 model horse shows a year.

"I enjoy seeing my fellow hobbyists and to see other models and it's a challenge to see how realistic we can set them up. People get very creative. Everyone we meet at the shows are all really nice," says Amy.

One of the main reasons she believes people become collectors and go to model horse shows is, "People who can't do it with real horses can get to show. It can get very competitive."

Jennifer Danza of Nanticoke is an artist who is also a "horse doctor."

"I repair and restore the collectibles. I began collecting when I was a little girl. I had a favorite and from all the handling, it got very scratched. It became my first repair job," says Danza.

She remembers when her passion for horses began.

"I was 6 years old when my neighbors got an appaloosa. I fell head over heels in love. I even got to ride it and became an avid equestrian. Then I got my first model horse when I was 9. It was an appaloosa named Princess."

It began a lifelong passion. Her other passion is art and she is a professional illustrator. She worked as an illustrator for "Field and Stream" and several other publications.

As a collector of model horses, she competed at model shows.

"It can get boring while waiting for your class to show. I needed to do something, so I brought my paints, glues and my horses that needed repairing to work on as I waited. People started coming up to me and asking if I could repair their horses. I thought why not? So now I go to about four or five shows a year and always bring my 'doctor' kit. I think I enjoy that as much as showing," she says.

McKenzie Smith, 17, from Millersburg, started riding lessons at 13 and soon found herself collecting model horses at 14.

"I love the rarity of some. I'm hoping to someday own Jazz Fusion, a paint. There were only 350 of them made. It would be an addition to my Congo line. And he's real pretty," she says.

Smith just "etched" her first model. It was a dun mustang and she etched it into an Appaloosa. She's very pleased with her first attempt and plans to do more.

Emily Andruczyk, 13, came all the way from Orchard Park, New York. Her grandfather, Paul Andruczyk, found the show online when he went to the Breyer website. Paul, his wife, Irene, and Emily drove five and a half hours to come to the show.

"She really wanted to come and we really wanted her to be here, so, we're making it a whole weekend," says Paul.

Emily brought with her 10 of her best model horses to show and won four ribbons.

She began collecting when she was six years old. She had no interest in dolls or princesses.

"Just animals. And I think I've always had horses. I just love horses. I can't have a real one but I do take riding lessons," she says.

She really enjoyed her first show and knows she'll be doing more in the future.

"All of us had a great time getting our 'hooves' wet when it comes to a model horse show. We're looking forward to the next show in Brockport, New York," says Paul.

Future model horse shows

LeeAnn was very happy with the first Plastic Pony Parade and intends for it to become an annual event because she received lots of positive feedback, like this email from a first-time shower, Madison Gildner, of Aquashicola:

"The Plastic Pony Parade in the Poconos was my first show and I had the best time. I got to meet so many new, awesome collectors, including yourself. This was definitely an amazing experience and I will continue collecting and showing model horses. I am proud to say that my Gypsy Vanner placed first and received a NAN card in the OF Carriage Breed class. I was extremely pleased by the help and politeness of the more experienced showers and judges. I hope to return next year and have an amazing time showing in Region 9."

When LeeAnn is not showing and adding to her model horse collection, she is busy with her school work as a ninth-grade student of Commonwealth Connections Academy (cyberschool). She and her mom and dad, Judy and Gary, like spending family time geocaching together.

"We encourage LeeAnn to pursue whatever she shows an interest in. We want her to expand her horizons," says Judy.

The Bachman home is like a horse stable, minus the feeding, mucking and smell. A bookcase in the living room stables LeeAnn's collection of smaller scale model horses of Stablemates (4 inches) and Mini Whinnies (1.5 inches). An upstairs spare bedroom has been converted to a stable for her Traditional size (12 inches) and Ponies (7 inches).

"When I started collecting seriously I was amazed, and still am, at the knowledge some collectors have about these horses. I'm proud to consider myself one of them. I like to be able to walk around at shows and point out certain models from other people's show strings, and tell you right there on the spot who the model is, the mold, scale, number made, etc. It's fun to know all of the information about the models, and even more fun when I can help new collectors learn about the horses too. I also love models for the reason that most people collect I love horses. I can't own one of my own, so this is my 'horsey-outlet.' More specific, I collect mainly plastics because they're much cheaper than, say, ARs or chinas, but still loaded with detail. I'm fascinated by how much detail can be packed into such a small piece, yet improvement is made every time a new mold is released."

As for having her first show under her saddle and judging it to be a success, she thinks the best thing about it was "Walking out at the end of the day knowing everyone had fun."

To contact LeeAnn, email her at geohorse@ptd.net. To learn more about model horse shows visit websites: www.namhsa or www.breyerhorses.com or www.internationalmodelequinehobbyistsassociation.com.