I am really excited to see AQHA has finally provided a stepping stone to introduce new horses and riders to the over fences classes. With the new proposed Rookie division for 2018 with fences at 2' set on 11 ft canter stride distances more new riders and horses will be able to get started safely and have fun. Under the current system, fences heights are a minimum of 2'6" and are set on 12 ft distances. These heights combined with a requirement for a 12 ft. canter stride make it impossible to start a new horse or rider out competing at AQHA Shows. Our riders have to find USEF Hunter Jumper Shows to get experience jumping fences which are offered at crossrails and 2' and the USEF course designers don't set distances at 12 ft until the horses are jumping fences heights close to 3'. Even at the AQHA Level 1 and Select Amateur classes currently many of the horses struggle to run down the jump lines to try to "get the correct number of strides" between the jumps when they are set at the 12' canter stride distance with fence heights at 2'6".
The horses who show in the Hunter Under Saddle Classes at our AQHA Shows are trained to canter with a lower or level head at a very slow canter, so the transition to the over fences classes which require a gallop on a 12 ft stride is almost impossible for our Hunter Under Saddle Horses. I would like to see both the 2' and 2'6" classes to be able to use distances between jumps to be set under the 12ft distances at the course designer's discretion considering the experience of the horses and riders at the show.