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A disagreement over a controversial new hat safety rule has resulted in Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) hunter qualifiers classes no longer being run by Sports Horse Breeding of Great Britain (SHB(GB)).

All of this year’s qualifiers will now be run by British Show Horse Association (BSHA) and will only be open to its members.

The argument has come after SHB(GB) introduced a new rule for 2014 making it compulsory for all of its competitors to wear a skull cap or hat with safety harness at all times while mounted.

“The decision has been made following overwhelming requests from competitors and exhibitors to retain personal choice regarding headwear,” said a statement from HOYS.

“There are strong links to traditional attire and this has been expressed passionately by those who compete in these classes.

“A meeting was held between HOYS and SHB(GB) to discuss the conflict. Unfortunately, a compromise was unable to be reached.”

SHB(GB) has announced that it called an emergency council meeting as a result of the announcement by HOYS.

A statement from the society said: “HOYS has become involved in our internal policies and procedures concerning the running of HOYS Ridden Hunter qualifying classes and have subsequently transferred the administration to another society.

“This has caused a lot of heartache about a rule by which Horse of the Year Show’s own admission is likely to be enforced by legislation in the near future.

“SHB(GB) has the full backing of the Royal International Horse Show and already has the support of a significant number of affiliated shows throughout the country.”