Three ponies “measured out” before the final of eventing’s national pony championships at Sansaw Horse Trials in Shropshire last weekend.

But although the trio — whose names had not been released as H&H went to press on Monday — were found to be too tall for pony eventing, as it was an unofficial measuring they were allowed to take part in the trials.

Competitors at the event were measured as a practice run ahead of next month’s European Pony Championships in Freudenberg, Germany.

Under new rules approved at the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) general assembly in April, the measuring of ponies is now compulsory at all FEI events and measurement certificates will no longer be recognised at any international competition.

The new ruling says that any pony measuring over 151cm — usually ponies must measure no taller than 149cm but there is a small allowance for shoes and the “excitement factor” (of measuring at a show or event) — will not be able to compete. Measurement will be made by two independent vets, with the lower reading the one that will be accepted.

The measuring at Sansaw, which took place during a trot-up shortly after midday last Thursday, was carried out by Bob Baskerville and Mark Lucey. Mr Baskerville admitted that ascertaining a pony’s actual height was tricky.

He told H&H: “The true height of an animal is its relaxed height. We’re not getting those conditions at Sansaw and we certainly won’t be getting them in Germany.”

British Equestrian Federation performance director Will Connell admitted that the issue of compulsory measuring was a thorny one.

He said: “Ultimately, if a pony is too big it shouldn’t compete, but I think it’s going to be a huge challenge for the FEI to come up with a workable solution.

“There is a danger that a pony could measure out one year and get in the next, but I think we’re in a period of change and we must accept it.”

Ponies have been measured at dressage training days without any controversy, although selector Jenny Ward said there was a difference between measuring in a relaxed environment and at a championships.

But the show jumping fraternity has been measuring ponies in a competitive environment at its European trials since May and selector Clare Whitaker — also a member of the FEI’s pony committee — said she had not encountered any problems.

“There’s no point in not measuring,” she reasoned. “The rules are the rules, so that’s how we’ve done it. At big shows, there are obviously more ponies to measure, but we haven’t struggled so far and under the leeway we’ve been given, a true 14.2hh should measure in.”

Eventing pony selector Ginny Keen said she welcomed the rule change.

“There has been flouting of the rules in the past and something needed to be done,” she told H&H.

But she admitted that the situation could cause more headaches for pony team selectors.

She explained: “The new rule means we cannot risk selecting ponies that might measure out because they get too excited at events.”

Find out who is in the pony eventing team >>

Find out who won the national pony championship >>