A prize of £1,000 – the richest on the circuit – is on offer to the supreme in-hand champion at this year’s Royal Show in a final that will see a clash between the four champions from the heavy horse, light horse, mountain and moorland and riding pony sections.

Each of these horses will have already won £500 for heading their individual sections, and will be judged on a points system, with score cards held up to the audience “skating style”.

The championship will provide an intriguing challenge for the judges – it is highly unusual for heavies to come up against light horses for judging in this way.

Chief horse steward Guy Hurst explains: “We’ve revamped the in-hand championship both to make it more attractive to competitors and increase interest for the audience. We hope that the search for a champion of champions from four top horses will create a suitable climax to the classes.”

If the format is judged to be successful, the Royal Show organiser, the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE), plans to introduce supremeridden and driven championships in 2004.

The show will award the Cuddy in-hand HOYS qualifier and breeders’ prizes as in previous years, and will include a new qualifier for the Simpson Refractories Mountain and Moorland Ridden Championship.

The Royal’s long standing support of breeding classes will be further developed this year with the transfer of the finals of the BEF Young Horse Evaluation series from HOYS to the Royal.

This year’s show will run from Sunday to Wednesday with the opening day dedicated to children’s classes, from lead-rein ponies to junior show jumping.

The show jumping section returns to national classes this year after the jubilee CSIC tour, but the organisers hope that a £21,000 prize-fund, with £6,000 on offer for the international trial alone, will tempt the leading British riders.

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (10 April), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.