Disgruntled show jumping owners and riders have organised a petition in a bid to reinstate the six-year-old final at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

Concerns over competitors with young horses chasing qualifiers and second rounds around the UK without respite, and the opinion that some horses showing potential were disappearing by the age of seven, prompted the BSJA to change the qualifying format (news, 24 January).

As well as reducing the number of qualifiers, the BSJA has introduced a treble-clear system instead of double clear points. The final will be held outdoors at the BSJA/Scope Festival of Show Jumping instead of at HOYS.

But competitors are campaigning for the changes to be dropped.

Pennie Cornish, who has produced many horses to international status, started the petition last week at Addington. With 200 signatures already, the document is rapidly gaining support.

“The BSJA is forever encouraging owners to keep young horses for international level and a HOYS final was a great incentive,” she said. “With the double clears in the old format, horses weren’t raced against the clock and consistency was the key. This is a backward step.”

Reigning H&H Foxhunter champion Simon Nicholson has signed up. He said: “The HOYS atmosphere is a great learning curve for every young horse.”

Shirley Light, whose stallion Unbelievable Darco won the Foxhunter final as a five-year-old, added: “If they can’t go against the clock at the end of their six-year-old year, they aren’t going to be any good.”

After the last premier show at The Hand Equestrian (21-23 March), the petition will be handed to the BSJA.

BSJA chief executive Jacky Wood said concerns about talent disappearing remained, but added: “If details of the petition are sent to us before our UK development meeting on 18 February, we will discuss it again then.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (7 February, ’08)