While the first model horse shows were "live shows" in that the actual models were together at one location, the early ones were just play. This was to change quite dramatically as time passed.
The first organized “live show” where hobbyists brought their actual models instead of photos was held August 9, 1970, in California for IMPHSA members. Seventeen exhibitors took part, one from Arizona and the rest from California. Among the winners were Susie Figueira, Mary Ellen Hofmann and Laurie Jo Baier. Simmie came from Indiana to judge.
By this time, some hobbyists had began customizing models (repainting and remodeling them) and making tack and accessories both for themselves and to sell to other hobbyists. Many of these young entrepreneurs were still in elementary school.
The next record of a live show was August 5, 1972, in Michigan. Two more were held in Chicago in 1973 and 1974, hosted by Chicago collector Marney Walerius. This would evolve into a much larger event, the Model Horse Congress. More large shows followed in California and elsewhere.
Today, there is a huge network of highly organized live shows around the world. Many exhibitors show in both photo and live shows, while others stick to one or the other. Today's shows include children as young as five and adults in their 70s and 80s, and many are divided into categories for children, novices and experienced exhibitors to give everyone a chance to have fun.
Live shows continued to push the envelope in realism to the point where today's entries use tack and accessories that are exact miniatures of the real thing, right down to every buckle on a harness and every spring on a show cart. There are even doll riders that are meticulously dressed exactly like real show exhibitors.
There is an entire network of official live shows where horses can qualify in various classes for the North American Nationals. The competition at NAN is fierce, and it takes an exceptional model horse and presentation to place in the Top 10 or win a title at the annual NAN final.
Live shows have attracted new types of exhibitors, especially serious collectors wanting to display their finest models and professional tack makers and model horse artists who want people to see their work. Some actually make their living customising and sculpting horses, creating doll riders and making tack, Arabian horse costumes, vehicles and other accessories.