European Eventing Championships blog: with dressage, it’s all in the numbers

  • So, we’re at the close of the dressage here at the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships. As a stats geek, I love this phase — I admit, I wrote down every single individual judges’ mark for the top tests. How sad is that?

    The ground jury here of Marilyn Payne, Christian Landolt and Christina Klingspor have in fact been remarkably aligned — riders’ final marks are rarely more than 4 or 5% apart at the most.  The thing to remember is that a 10% difference is only a single mark different throughout the test, so to be so close is a credit to them.

    Scoreboards like the one above where two judges are 3 points apart have been very rare. I watched 6 consecutive tests in front of that board this morning and spotted 6 instances where marks were 2 points apart and 2 where they were 3 points apart. Judges see different things from different positions and, of course, these are provisional marks, so there could be a button-pushing error.

    Even at events where there are greater discrepancies in marks, I don’t think it necessarily matters so long as each judge holds their own standard. More interesting is often to look at each judge’s relative order across the horses.

    That does throw up some fascinating facts — Ludwig Svennerstal (3rd overall) was 2nd for 2 judges and 6th for 1; William Fox-Pitt (2nd overall) was 3rd for 2 judges and 2nd for the other. While 1 judge had Tina Cook in 8th, another put her 20th — and yet, those scores are only 4% apart. Similary, Italy’s Stefano Fioravanti was 25th for 1, 8th for another, with only 3.6% difference. That just proves how tight the marks are — apart from for the super-human leader, Michael Jung, who is more than 5% ahead of the field.

    Did Jung deserve his score?

    The big question about the numbers today is did Michael Jung deserve his leading mark of 28.6 (80.93%) on Halunke FBW? For me, the answer is yes. He looked like he was doing a whole different sport to everyone up until then, much more closely related to the pure dressage we saw last week in Herning at their European Championships. It’s the first time I’ve seen Halunke FBW in the flesh and I was massively impressed.

    Can the leaders hold their places tomorrow? Who knows. All the riders say the cross-country should be influential, though William pointed out tonight there are a couple of places where the long routes are tempting, being only a second or two slower than the tougher direct lines.

    It’ll be interesting to see what tactics teams employ — the results could hinge on how tight that 10min 30sec optimum time proves. How many times have we seen pairs make unlikely mistakes through the pressure of the clock?

    Frankly, I just can’t wait to see what happens next.

    Report on today’s action

    Log back on tomorrow for more from the European Eventing Championships and don’t forget to buy H&H next Thursday (5 September) for our 10-page magazine report, with full analysis and comments from ground jury member Christian Landolt, former European champion Ian Stark and British team member Tina Cook. 

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