A radical rule change has been proposed by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) following its discovery that many ponies competing at elite level are, in fact, horses.

The FEI Pony Riders’ committee last month notified all national federations of its recommendation to abolish the FEI official measurement certificate for ponies. If accepted, a likely rule change (from 1 January 2007) will require all ponies to be measured on site at FEI competitions.

“This is quite a radical step,” said FEI secretary general Michael Stone. He added that any over-height pony would be “sent home”. He continued: “I’m not sure it will be something all federations will be in favour of, but we have to have integrity.”

While the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) told H&H it is urging a debate, the general feeling among disciplines is that a move towards measuring at competitions is “unworkable”.

Mr Stone said a random and confidential survey of 17 show jumping and dressage ponies was conducted by independent vets at this year’s European Pony Championships in Saumur, France. He said the move followed about 25 complaints from competitors about ponies’ heights.

Their concerns seemed justified when more than half the surveyed ponies, all with the requisite FEI height certificates, measured up to 10cm above the maximum 148cm height allowed (149cm with shoes). Eventing ponies were not measured due to a timetable change.

Mr Stone said the proposed rule change would be put to the FEI bureau in November, following consultation with all national federations closing on 30 October.

“We’re not saying anyone has been corrupt,” he said. “We investigated this following complaints and found a significant number of ponies are too big, so we’re going to stop it.”

Read this news report in full, including the views of the BEF, BSJA, BE, BD and the JMB on the plans, in today’s Horse & Hound