I was asked about my thoughts on the "modified" division. I would like to share them and am curious as to what your thoughts are as well.
Thanks for reaching out to me about the modified division. I have a few thoughts I wanted to share: First and foremost I think it depends on what direction we want this sport to continue to evolve in. If we are looking to move the sport to a more spectator friendly, Adult Ammy oriented, sponsor-geared, easier sport... then yes, the modified division has it's place.If we are aiming to keep the challenging, forward thinking, forward riding, technical ability and boldness that has been the foundation of the sport... then I think the modified division is nothing more than managing to the lowest common denominator.
Of course there is a significant gap at some HT's between T and P, but that's where different venues come into play. In my opinion, making the transition between Training and Prelim more effective for horse/rider combinations is the exact purpose of a an educated and involved trainer/coach. That includes: choosing the venues to move-up, doing the proper homework, taking time to analyze different questions asked at different fences, and knowing what will be most appropriate for that horse and rider pair. (Ie. bending four or a straight 3) By the time you get to Prelim, you shouldn't be crossing your fingers that the horse/rider will read the question correctly. This is a dangerous sport, our job is too minimize risk as much as possible.
However, that process takes time and these days a lot of riders and coaches aren't patient. So, rush up the levels, miss at Prelim and blame the venue to being too hard. It just seems that instead of educating coaches and riders and RAISING the level of ability/awareness/adjustability we are negotiating backwards. The worst part, is that we are talking about dumbing down the levels with the pretense of making it safer for our riders. It seems to me that there may be more motivation to make the levels easier to have more people in the ribbons, more feel-good rides, a way to keep the adult ammy's buying bigger horses that really won't make it to prelim, but it's ok, because they can compete almost prelim. That's fine though because then we can have more media coverage, a few more large screens at venues and a popcorn stand at the start box.
I can't imagine how I would feel as a venue owner having to run an entire new track for this from an organizational, structural, as well as financial stand point.
Would I have a few riders that would enter it? Probably. Would I feel like I didn't quite prepare them for Prelim and this was a poor substitute... definitely. Could we have worked harder and put on our big kid panties to jump the green? Yes.
It's not an easy question but I think the answers will determine the direction of this sport in the near future. It seems to me that we should be looking at raising the level of the education of trainers, riders, and horses rather than making the questions simpler to placate them. Encourage growth.
That being said, if my entry comes with these in my competitors packet, I'm all in.