Spot height checks were sprung on 20 animals at the Coloured Horse and Pony Society (CHAPS) UK Championship Show (3-5 September). And, of those, just one appeared to measure more than 3cm above height.

Only entrants who had qualified for the Saturday evening performance, and whose Joint Measurement Board (JMB) certificates showed them to be close to the maximum in a height restricted class, were chosen.

Chairman Caroline Hamilton told H&H: “There are height issues in all showing societies.

“There was some bad feeling [among competitors] — no one knew it was coming so it was a shock to some. We were not trying to catch anyone out, but rather trying to instil confidence in the measurement system.”

CHAPS was following procedures set up by British Showjumping (BS) in 2008.

For the past two years, a BS vet and steward have been attending shows at random and measuring ponies.

Pam Rose of BS said: “Because we are measuring at a show and without the benefit of a measuring pad [a level, undercover area inspected by a JMB official], we use the FEI measurement protocol, which allows 3cm.”

She said the system has been successful with few ponies turning out to be overheight.

Ms Hamilton said CHAPS also allowed a 3cm margin of error as animals at the show might be “keyed up”.

The entry measured as being more than 3cm too tall was allowed to compete in the evening final.

And CHAPS still has to decide whether to suggest that animal and others who measured within the 3cm leeway are remeasured by the JMB.

Surrey rider Emma Rhodes was competing 17.1hh Miss Molly IV at the show for the first time.

She said: “I was not involved, but it was discussed a lot. Some of the ponies you see at shows like this are enormous, so I think it’s a great idea.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (16 September, ’10)