British Eventing (BE) is delaying bringing in a new rule allowing horses to be “downgraded” until 2010.

The new rule — which would allow riders to “downgrade” back to 0 points horses which had won no points in the current or preceeding two seasons — was announced in a members’ mailing at the end of November, and was due to come in next year.

But BE spokesman Liza Randall said: “There isn’t time to look at the rules for all the different series, or to examine the data and see how many members this affects. So this will come before the sport committee again next year.”

The topic has been debated hotly on forums on the BE website and on H&H online, with 89% of participants voting against the downgrading rule on a poll on the H&H online forum.

Ms Randall denied that the feedback was the main reason for delaying implementing the rule, although she said: “We don’t sit here with blinkers on — we do listen to members’ feedback.

“This rule has been on the sport committee agenda for about 18 months because we’ve had demand from members for it — in some areas there are not many open sections, balloting is a problem and people don’t want to compete hors concours. Downgrading would allow members to gain experience on schoolmasters in a competitive way.”

She added that if the rule does come in, applications to downgrade a horse were likely to be examined on a case-by-case basis. And downgraded horses may be excluded from some competitions, such as the new Grassroots Festival at Badminton.