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New rules for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers are proving controversial with some showing figures.

A single set of rules has been drawn up following meetings with all the showing societies, whose own individual rules previously applied.

One major change is that a qualified animal which is the subject of a successful height objection will – along with forfeiting its ticket – be banned from competing in any other HOYS qualifier for the rest of the season.

It will also lose any other HOYS qualifications it holds and the ticket will pass down the line.

Producer Simon Reynolds told H&H: “If a horse is too big for one category, it seems bizarre not to let it into the next class where it belongs.

“This will just encourage the current trend of malicious measuring, where people try to get rid of the opposition.”

Joint Measurement Board measurer Jane Nixon said she agreed that “something needed to be done” – but the new rule “required more thought”.

“Younger animals can grow, particularly if they are measured in January, as is usual, when they are unfit and not in show condition,” she pointed out.

Another innovation is that immediate family members of judges officiating at HOYS qualifiers cannot compete at the same show on the same day.

Previously, such restrictions tended to affect only certain sections.

“It is an insult to a judge’s integrity and I am horrified,” said pony judge Di Hesford, whose daughters Sarah Walker and Vicky Hesford are both involved in showing.

But producer and judge Nigel Hollings said that, although the ruling could affect his family “quite seriously”, it was the right decision.

“On the day, it is right for a judge to have to choose between judging and competing; it’s all about perception,” he said.

“I am pleased that we now have the same rules for everyone.”

Helena Pettit, director of Grandstand Media – which runs HOYS – stressed that the changes had not been imposed from above.

“These rules have been thoroughly discussed by all the societies – they were not laid down by HOYS,” she said.

“We wanted to pull everyone together and, although there were some sticking points that needed a lot of discussion, nothing was agreed until everyone was happy.”

Ms Pettit added that the rules would be reviewed every year and any variations would only be made “with the full agreement of all the societies”.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (16 February 2012)