A suggestion from H&H forum users about the new horse “downgrading” rule is being considered by British Eventing’s (BE) sport committee.

BE proposed introducing a rule allowing experienced horses to have their points reduced back to zero to increase their use as schoolmasters in November last year.

But following negative feedback from members — including a survey on the H&H forum in which 89% of users voted against the rule — the governing body decided to delay the rule change until 2010.

The rule is now in place for 2010, but the criteria have been tightened up to prevent people “pot hunting”.

To downgrade, horses must not have won points in the current or preceeding two calendar years and they will not be able to qualify for regional finals or the Grassroots Championship. Each application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Although some members still remain opposed to any downgrading, H&H forum users have given more positive feedback to the new criteria than last year.

But they are calling for qualifications for regional finals for the Grassroots Championships to be passed down the line if a downgraded horse fills a qualifying spot.

When this suggestion was put to her, BE sport manager (events) Debbie Marfell said: ““We’re considering the implications of this — it is going before the sport committee.”

Fewer open classes?

The other concern still frequently appearing on the H&H forum is that downgrading might lead to a drop in open classes, which will still be needed for horses with recent points and those only temporarily dropping down a level.

Event horse owner and H&H forum member Ian Parris said: “They have covered some of my reservations by stopping the downgraded horses going pot hunting in a major way as they can’t qualify for any championships.

“But the biggest problem I foresee is downgrading cutting the demand for open classes even more, so people who still want to run in open sections will find it even more difficult.”

But BE sport manager (events) Debbie Marfell said: “We don’t anticipate a huge influx of downgraded horses or a huge effect on open classes, but we will have to monitor how many we get.”

And advanced event rider Sarah-Jane Brown, another H&H forum member, said: “There are surely not going to be that many decent horses that haven’t won points in the current or preceding two seasons, so I don’t think it will affect a huge number of horses or the number of open classes.

“It will give horses that have been injured and out of action for a few years a chance to come back to competition at a less demanding level.”

Personal experience

Several H&H forum users have spoken up in favour of the new rule, having personal experience of where it could be useful.

Among them is Felicity White, who said: “We sold a horse [Potted Shrimp] with one point, and he is now with a 13-year-old Pony Club girl. She’s likely to compete at BE in the future, but would be unable to do intro or BE100 competitively if he still had this one point. He got that point in 2007, so as of next year he could lose it through downgrading, which would be fab for her.”