All eyes will be upon the inaugural ridden part-bred pony of the year class on the final day of the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS, 8-12 October). This is open to Welsh and Arab part-bred ponies and has proved immensely popular. The 14 qualifying rounds have involved a total of 423 ponies — averaging 30.2 at each show.

Cheshire County — the first qualifier — boasted 58 entries and was won by Rotherwood Rainmaker. He has since bowed out due to a judge connection at the final, allowing runner-up Balfour Toreador to qualify.

The class is defined by breeding rather than a specific type. Judges must assess exhibits on individual merit — conformation, quality, movement and, most importantly, performance. Joanne Griffin, who judged the last round at the Cherif championships, summed up the brief as looking for“a quality riding pony that went about its job”.

The class has highlighted the important contribution of Welsh and Arab blood in British pony breeding. It has also encouraged new people and ponies into top-class showing and — thanks to no upper age limit — allowed riders to continue showing their much-loved ponies for longer.

Jerome Harforth qualified the only stallion in the final — Willowcroft Regal Bronze (pictured above), an Australian import 10 years ago. He said that this “exciting new class has created a pathway to HOYS for stallions like ‘Skippy’”.

The final has also offered a number of HOYS regulars an extra class and, if successful, another route into the pony supreme. Glen Allen and Millpond Look So Cheeky may have gone into the record books when collecting their ticket at my North of England show, having previously competed in the coloured, show hunter pony (SHP) and working hunter pony sections at Birmingham. Four former HOYS show pony winners — Broadgrove Showman, Colbeach Duet, Dance All Night and Archwood Romeo Giggle — are also in the catalogue.

With such an eclectic mix of ponies, judges Pat Monaghan and Angela Calvert will certainly have their work cut out — although Angela (née Massarella) can reflect on the day, 46 years ago, when she won the show pony of the year title with her own part-bred Welsh Greenacres Twilight.

What’s in a name?

The Kellythorpes Leading Breeder award will be presented during the Friday evening performance. Having won by 120 points in 2013, can Anne Smalley’s Barkway Stud make it three in a row?

Many stud prefixes have become household names, but are those breeders who choose not to use a prefix undeservedly getting less recognition? I believe one such private breeder is Jackie Thompson, who has bred and been involved with some of the biggest winners in recent years. She bought Pearly King (with Jo MacInnes) and The Philanderer as youngsters — both supreme at HOYS — and the 2010 Cuddy champion Catwalk.

Her principal breeding line goes back to Tabitha Of Lennel via her foundation mare Whalton Tortoiseshell. Persian Blue produced the 2006 reserve champion, Top Cat. Another mare, Kitty Kelley — named after the American biographer and herself a finalist — is represented this time by the Grimshaws’ SHP yearling Moluccas Royal Anise. In the horse section is Skyfall, named by Jackie after the Bond film as he is out of Pussy Galore.

Under saddle, Dance All Night, bred by Jackie out of Whalton Rumba, could shake up the form in the show ponies on only her third seasonal outing. Now six, the Kilvington Scoundrel mare won the 148cm class on her previous HOYS appearance in 2012.

This column was originally published in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 2 October, 2014