A bareback showjumping challenge in memory of popular rider Russell Pearson, who was killed in a car accident in August, has attracted a phenomenal response.

Buckinghamshire venue Bury Farm has been inundated with riders wishing to compete — minus a saddle — for the evening, with a total of 120 entries received so far. The unaffiliated class will be the show’s highlight on 27 February and will take place at 8pm.

“Russell was a great personality and supporter of Bury Farm. He was one of those people who had such an infectious personality. He was nice and honest,” said show director Gareth Jenkins. “We were shocked following his death and wanted to do something at Bury Farm in memory of him.

“It seemed fitting to hold the bareback class in his memory. Three years ago, when we held the initial bareback challenge, I decided I would have a go — having not ridden for ten years — and he lent me a horse. That was the type of person he was.”

Gareth told Horse & Hound that the reaction to the class had exceeded expectations and that posts on Facebook had received more than 1,000 likes.

“The first year we held the challenge we had 20 entries, last year it was 32 — this year it has attracted a mammoth 120 entries,” he said. “We will only be able to accept 45, five of which will be wildcard entries.”

Online entries are being accepted until 18 February, with a ballot taking place on 19 February — entries will be pulled from a hat.

Admission is free for spectators and so to is entry to the class, although a deposit is required to secure a place.

“There will also be a finger buffet, although I am not sure how long the food will last,” added Gareth.

“The course will be round eight fences at 90cm. I think the course may be tougher this year, however, as there were some very good people in 2015. It is against the clock so the fastest clear wins.”

The class promises to provide plenty of entertainment. All riders are required to stop for a drink — water or something stronger if they wish — halfway round. “And this year no spillage is allowed,” said Gareth. Competitors have also been asked to wear something red.

The bareback challenge will be broadcast via CanterBanter TV and the class’ total prize-fund amounts to £1,500 — with £500 of that going to the winner.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Gareth is once again going “saddle less”. He has so far raised an impressive £700 for Herfordshire Air Ambulance through his Just Giving page.

“Penny Cornish has been great and lent me ‘Bert’ to ride. Although he has been renamed Greenacres Red Bull by my colleagues because of my love of the energy drink,” he said.

“I have been training at Penny’s and doing some jumping without stirrups but it is all about raising money for a great cause and remembering Russell.”