Point-to-point racing has a long history and has changed over the years as society itself has changed. The essentials of point-to-point are: that it is over fences; that it is intended for hunting horses; that the riders should be amateurs; and that professional trainers are not permitted. (The situation concerning professionalism is different in Ireland. But, then, so are most things).
Until not too long ago, most riders in a point-to-point race would be farmers giving themselves a break and putting their horses through their paces, and members of hunts. That has changed, because most farms no longer have horses, and fox-hunting is now banned, and today the majority of steeds will be from livery stables.
To be allowed to compete in a point-to-point, a horse must either be a regular hunter or a thoroughbred and, if the horse is a hunter, the owner is required to have a Hunter Certificate from the Hunt Master. Riders also need a certificate from a Hunt Secretary – in their case, a Riders Qualification Certificate.
Point-to-point is closely related to early steeplechasing. The term “steeplechase” is now usually used only to describe a normal type of National Hunt “over-the-sticks” event, but originally it meant racing from church steeple to church steeple. The first known example was in Ireland in 1752 when a Mr Blake challenged a Mr O’Callaghan to a race across country over about four and a half miles from one church to another, jumping whatever stone walls, hedges and ditches they might encounter on the way. Point-to-point is, similarly, racing from one point to another. The minimum distance is 3 miles; some races are longer than this.
In 1913, the relationship of point-to-point racing and hunting at that time was clear because a number of local hunts came together to form the Master of Hounds Point‐to‐Point Association. The Jockey Club now administers the rules for this form racing.