The format and venue for the six-year-old national show jumping qualifiers and final are changing this year to encourage more careful production of horses towards the London 2012 Olympics.

“We wanted to make a change because we have a number of really good six-year-olds that don’t come through to be good seven-year-olds,” said BSJA chief executive Jacky Wood.

The national six-year-old championship traditionally had nine qualifying rounds, with a final at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) against the clock. But as of this year, youngsters will be required to jump treble clears [with the horses who achieve this sharing first place] at only four qualifiers. Horses will jump outdoors at the final at this year’s easibed BSJA/Scope Festival of Show Jumping (24-30 August).

“We discussed this for three months before making the decision,” said Ms Wood. “We feel there’s too much jumping, travelling and pressure on young horses and that they go against the clock too early.”

She added that a “prestigious” amateur championship would run in place of the six-year-old final at HOYS.

HOYS organiser Mark Wein told H&H the move offered opportunities to different riders, a comment echoed by Scope organiser Peter Gillespie who said: “An amateur championship at HOYS is more exciting for BSJA members and opens up HOYS to different people and horses.

“The new format [for the six-year-olds] is better for the horses because they were doing too much travelling for too many qualifiers and galloping like mad too often. The prize-fund will also be bigger.”

But although Laura Renwick, whose ride Beluga won the HOYS final last year, agreed that reducing the number of qualifiers was a good move, she said the venue change was a “real shame” and it would lose prestige.

More details of the amateur championship and format for the six-year-old final will be released early next month.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (24 January, ’08). Find out what Geoff Billington think of the changes in the current issue.