Point-to-pointers will no longer have to go hunting to be eligible to race from this autumn.

The qualification rule is to be dropped from the 2016/17 season, but all those involved are determined to retain the link between hunting and pointing, and to ensure hunts do not lose out as a result of the change.

Currently, the rules state that horses must have hunted four times a season before they can be given a hunter certificate and allowed to run in point-to-points.

But the Masters Of Foxhounds Association (MFHA) revealed the rule change last week (24 May), citing that they are aware the current rule “is not adhered to”.

“The optimistic ‘guessometer’ would suggest that about 50% of horses that run in point-to-points have ever been out hunting,” said MFHA director Tim Easby.

“Whatever the reasons for not qualifying — and it is widely accepted that some horses benefit from hunting — some do not and some are downright dangerous.

“However, what is important is that whatever is put in place retains the link to hunts and hunting and is both safe and workable.”

Members of both the hunting and point-to-pointing worlds have stressed the importance of retaining close links.

Measures are in place to ensure that the long-standing connection between hunting and point-to-pointing is not lost, and that hunts do not lose out financially.

For a horse to be eligible to run in point-to-points, his owner (or lead syndicate member) must be a “bona fide” member of a recognised hunt.

A hunter certificate must also be signed by an approved signatory of a recognised hunt — but the horse does not need to have hunted for this to be done.

Area rates — the price at which hunts previously had to set their point-to-point subscriptions — will also be scrapped from the 2016-17 season to be replaced by guidelines.

British Horseracing Authority fees will continue as before, independent of the MFHA arrangements.

For more information and reaction to the news, see tomorrow’s Horse & Hound (2 June)