A new computerised scoring system will be used in all showing rings at next year’s Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) to avoid the embarrassing mix-ups that occurred at this year’s show (26-31 July).

Mistakes transcribing handwritten mountain and moorland conformation and riding marks meant wrong animals were called in as the top three in the small natives class and the top two in the Welsh section B and C class.

Now all rings will use a computer programme to add up marks in 2012, Hickstead has announced.

And Karen Ward, secretary of the British Show Pony Society (BSPS), has appealed to competitors to be more understanding of the pressures on voluntary stewards at shows.

“It was tragic for those ponies involved, but we try very hard not to get marks wrong,” said Mrs Ward.

“It was human error — a mistake transposing the results on to the score sheet that could happen to anyone.”

She said extra stewards were later drafted in to check scores.

In the small M&M section three marks of 42 were wrongly transcribed as 32, meaning the pony that should have won — Exmoor Tawbitts Mystic Major — and second- and third-placed Dartmoors — Stourton President and Sharpham Master Bee — were not in the original line-up.

The judges realised the mistake with the Exmoor’s marks and asked for a recount, but the Dartmoors’ owners did not find out their true placings until later.

Sarah Please, whose daughter Jessica rides Tawbitts Mystic Major, said: “Although it worked out well for us in the end, it was a terrible shame for the other competitors. Mistakes happen, but it is a huge occasion and you can’t get that time in the ring again.”

A similar mistake happened in the following class but was cleared up while the ponies were still in the ring.

Hickstead director Lizzie Bunn said a computerised marking system would be used in all rings next year.

“But it is only as good as the marks put into the system,” she warned. “Mistakes could still happen, so we shall be using extra ‘checkers’.”

This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (18 August, 2011)