There’s been much debate on the circuit and social media about the senior championships at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), namely the eligibility rules and qualification system for the newcomers, Foxhunter, talent seekers and grade C finals. Each jump-off was exciting in all four finals, but I don’t think the current qualification and class rules are working.
One ongoing debate is that six- and seven-year-olds are competing against “more experienced” horses. It’s not always fair, but it stems from a poor ruling that allows any horse who is within the correct points eligibility to compete in each class – irrespective of age or level – so of course competitors are going to target the most prestigious finals.
Therefore, we can’t complain when a nine-year-old beats a seven-year-old, but we can appeal loudly and consistently to our federation with ideas towards improving the national finals at one of the biggest shows of the year. Surely this opinion cannot fall on deaf ears? Communicate, run a poll and get feedback.
Calls for a more level playing field
From a field of 21, 15 seven-year-olds and two six-year-olds contested the newcomers final, with young future stars filling nine of the top 10 places. A six-year-old won and, despite hundreds campaigning the second rounds, the newcomers does tend to end up as a true young horse final – so why not make it one? As Britain’s prestigious six-year-old final, it would be a great target for producers and commercial buyers.
From the 24 Foxhunter starters, 14 were aged from eight to 14, just 10 were seven-year-olds. This spoils a final that has such a fantastic strike rate of previous winners going on to achieve great things. I’m all for giving horses time, but surely at the age of nine they’re already going places.
Another poor ruling allows older horses to have qualified with four double clears up to 17 months before the final (British Showjumping rule 310.6 stated the qualifying period for 2024 begins in May 2023). I’d like to see the rule amended so only double clears gained in the year of the final count, creating a more level playing field.
Or let’s rebrand this historic class as Britain’s prestigious seven-year-old final, then hold it on Saturday night before the puissance in front of a full house for better publicity and atmosphere.
The most talked about class is the talent seekers – a class with this label should not be open to accomplished horses jumping Longines world-ranking 1.45m classes or 1.50m area trials, competing for a spot against a seven-year-old, sometimes over consecutive years.
If we had six- and seven-year-old finals, a revamped version would make a super eight- and nine-year-old handicap. The previous year’s Foxhunter champion could automatically qualify, with the top 20 most consistent eight- and nine-year-olds competing in Britain at 1.40m-plus throughout the season for an exciting final.
The grade C works well; horses are established enough to qualify at mostly county shows on grass rings, and it’s a nice class for green seven- to nine-year-olds still in that grade due to low mileage.
Appalling timing for bronze and silver league finals
The timing of the bronze and silver league finals is appalling. Members invest in their hobby all year, chasing qualifiers to jump in front of empty seats at 7.30am before the show has even started. This year, despite buying tickets, friends, family and support teams couldn’t access the arena and queued outside as their loved ones competed.
There were many empty seats on the Wednesday and Thursday evenings. I understand the high costs of running a show at the NEC, but organisers should take note from Lanaken’s world breeding championships, where access is free and there’s a buzzing atmosphere.
These finals have been a hot topic this year and hopefully we can work with the powers that be to upgrade and improve the system, leading to prestigious national finals and motivating British producers to campaign and showcase stars of the future on home soil.
● Do you agree with Joe’s thoughts on the HOYS showjumping finals? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future edition of Horse & Hound magazine
- This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 26 October, 2023
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