News that the National Pony Society’s (NPS) mountain and moorland supreme ridden pony of the year championship will no longer be held at Olympia has caused concern across the native pony showing world.

Last month, organisers chose the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) to run the qualifiers and ridden M&M final at the London horse show from 2011.

But the NPS hopes to run a championship at another venue so there will be two supremes.
NPS chief executive Peter Durrant told H&H: “It is not our choice to leave Olympia after 21 years but we’ll make the best of it.

“The NPS M&M supreme championship is our competition and we are using this as an opportunity to improve it at another prestigious venue.”

Both societies were asked to apply formally to run the classes.

But an Olympia spokesman said: “The organising committee unanimously backed the BSPS presentation, as it would evolve the competition.”

Now some riders are concerned that the final will no longer be the showcase for British native breeds.

Norfolk-based producer Debbie Harrison, who competed in the 2009 final, said: “I’m worried about the qualifiers. Will they still be at all the breed shows? The NPS ensured there was at least one pony of each breed at Olympia. I hope the BSPS does the same.”

And she was also concerned that, being a show pony society, the BSPS would not promote “true to type” natives.

Others were worried about expense. The NPS only requests that the rider is a member to compete in its classes; its adult membership costs £35 a year.

But the BSPS requires a £30 pony registration and both the rider and owner must be members, at £42 each.

Exmoor producer Jackie Churchill of Cheltenham said: “The expense of registering owner, riders and ponies puts me off the BSPS.”

But M&M specialist Sam Roberts pointed out: “The BSPS Heritage Championships are always well run and supported — as long as they keep Olympia as a showcase for the breeds, it’s another place for us to promote our ponies.”

Live scoring may be introduced to the championship to make it more exciting for spectators, said BSPS secretary Karen Ward, and qualifiers will be held around the country.

She told H&H: “Many of our judges are also on the NPS panel and have enormous knowledge of breeds and conformation.”

For tickets to Olympia call the box office on 0871 230 5574 or visit www.olympiahorseshow.com

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (4 November, ’10)