Private driving competitors will have just one title at this year’s Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), as the Harness Horse and Pony of the Year classes combine to become the Harness Championship of the Year.
Previously, competitors with animals under and over 14.2hh could aim for a class apiece.
“We inherited the system when we took over the show in 1997, and we’ve reviewed it this year following conversations with the British Driving Society,” said Mark Wein, a director of HOYS organiser Grandstand Media. “Now, the final will follow the format of the qualifiers more closely.”
In previous years, qualifiers have not been split, but on the private driving circuit, the division comes at 13.2hh.
“This means we didn’t know how many we would end up with in each class at HOYS,” said Mr Wein.“In theory, we could end up with one pony in one class and 15 horses in the other.”
Last year’s pony champion Nigel Fuller, who won with Trehewyd Brenin Arthur, said: “It doesn’t worry me going up against horses. Animals should be judged on how good they are, regardless of whether they’re a horse or a pony. But we qualify in showing classes and I think that’s how we should be judged in the final. At HOYS it’s more like a dressage test.
“It would also be nice if there were a special award for the highest placed horse and pony.”
Of the 15 shows with HOYS harness qualifiers, Anglesey County and New Forest and Hampshire County have lost theirs to Swansea County and Edenbridge and Oxted Shows.