Modified level added to Fair Hill offerings!

It’s a challenging dilemma for riders – they are fairly successful at the Training level and thinking about moving up. But there’s still some fear that the Preliminary level will be too fast, too high, or just generally too much for the horse, rider, or both. Recognizing this problem, the U.S. Eventing Association took the time in 2016 to approve a bridge level called Modified that sits in between the traditional Training and Preliminary levels. While COVID-19 negatively impacted competition attendance at all levels, events including a Modified competition are finally back on the upswing.

The goal of the Modified level is to “bridge the gap between the upper and lower levels and provide a stepping stone to help riders better prepare for their move up,” according to USEA staff writer Jessica Duffy. Local rider Lillian Heard Wood thinks about it as a bridge for technicality rather than speed or height. “I like to use it as a way to challenge my horses with slightly more technical questions without the larger size of the Preliminary level,” says Lillian. Most importantly, Lillian feels that it was a necessary addition to the USEA format because it protects riders from pushing themselves or their horses “beyond what is safe or valuable.”

Although there is no requirement for riders to compete at the Modified level (they are still allowed to move directly from Training to Preliminary), Lillian thinks Modified serves as a valuable assessment tool. She has often competed at Modified to decide if a horse is ready to advance, and if it “feels hard,” she will stay at that level and compete in more Modified trials before moving up. Other riders have used it to work on the fitness, stamina, and confidence of their horses in a more challenging setting.

If you are looking for a more moderate way to progress through these two levels, Modified could be the match for you! Lillian’s advice to riders thinking about making the move is “to make sure you have a good instructor that knows the different levels and what extra challenges you might face moving up so they can help you prepare so you are not trying new things at the show. You can school and practice every potential Modified question before you get there.” Whether a rider wants a bridge for technicality, confidence, speed, or height, or just additional practice for fitness and stamina, Modified meets those requirements. Riders now have an option to train at the Modified level instead of making the large move between Training and Preliminary when not completely prepared for the gap.

In 2023, Fair Hill International is hosting two USEA/USEF Recognized Horse Trials that include a Modified level: May 20-21st and August 12-13th. If you are interested in competing, please check us out at, follow us on InstagramTwitter, and TikTok at @fairhillint and like us on Facebook.