Riders are applauding the National Pony Society’s (NPS) decision not to implement a “one rider, one pony” qualification rule for this year’s Olympia — the London International Horse Show.

The NPS was criticised after ruling a rider may qualify only one pony for the final, and that the rider who qualified the pony must ride it in the NPS/Baileys Horse Feeds M&M supreme ridden pony of the year final.

New NPS chief executive Peter Durrant said Olympia had threatened to end its contract with the NPS over the rule.

The rule was made a couple of years ago, before Mr Durrant took office, but was only put in place this season. But after a meeting last month, the NPS decided to allow riders to continue to qualify multiple ponies.

“Only 900 members voted on the rule. To put a rule in motion, 1,500 votes are needed, so it was not valid,” said Mr Durrant.

The “one rider, one pony” rule was introduced because some NPS members felt it was unfair that some competitors used professionals to qualify their ponies, then took over the ride.

The 2009 championship was won by home-bred New Forest Farriers Fingerprint.

His owner Shirley Young said: “Amateurs can win — we did — but professionals qualifying ponies raises the standard and keeps it competitive.”

Producer Mathew Lawrence is in favour of ditching the rule. He said: “It would restrict professionals and our careers if we could only qualify one pony.”

Rider Sam Roberts added: “The rule change was wrong. No other competition is restricted to one rider and horse in this way.”

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 (6 May, ’10)