Making eventing safer: new tool to help riders assess their form accurately

  • A HOTLY anticipated new tool to improve cross-country safety is available for riders to use for the first time.

    EquiRatings’ Horse Form Index (HFI), developed with the FEI, has now been launched publicly, meaning that riders and owners can use it.

    EquiRatings founder Sam Watson told the FEI eventing risk management forum (22 January) that the aim is to give riders another way to help them gauge their performance when planning their next event.

    “It is about getting people to look at their performance objectively,” said Sam.

    It works by calculating horses’ most recent performances, giving a A++ (current maximum of A at CCI5*-L and A+ at CCI4*-L, owing to the sample size being too small at these levels) to E assessment grade for each level at three-star and above. This grade is accompanied by a description, from “excellent” to “significantly low (unsuitable for this level of competition)”, to help riders make informed choices.

    “In the language we are using, we would like this to become something that people start thinking about – not just saying, ‘Am I qualified’ but ‘What’s my level of form?’”

    He added that it will give some people a new objective, which is to improve their rating at the level they are at.

    It does not replace minimum eligibility requirements (MERs), but is a way of helping riders understand how prepared they are. The HFI will also be available for officials at competitions, through the FEI entry system, and national federations will be able to view HFI ratings when entering horses.

    Development of the HFI, which builds on EquiRatings’ extensive research and previous form indexes, was initially presented at the 2021 FEI eventing risk management forum. The completed index was revealed at this year’s forum and it is readily available for any rider to use on the FEI website.

    Sam said he has been using the HFI himself, for a horse he is thinking of taking to Badminton.

    “I should have this horse in the C category by the time we go, with one more run, but currently he would be in the D category,” said Sam, adding that the result surprised him. “That has just raised my awareness. I think a lot of this horse – he has been to the European Championships and jumped clear, but it made me think he isn’t as experienced potentially as I was maybe thinking. It just got me thinking that this spring is important, do not take that cross-country for granted, even though you think he is a good cross-country horse, try and get ourselves better prepared and push those ratings up.”

    He said getting the wording right has been really important, as that is what turns stats and data into language people can understand, which is what ultimately makes the tool useful.

    “When someone is on the fence about making a decision, as they often are [on whether] this horse is ready for the next level or not, they now have an objective tool to help them make the decision,” said Sam.

    “We have talked in the past about trainers and it can be a difficult conversation when you’re being employed by an athlete to give that advice.

    “They could nearly use this rating as a benchmark to help them have those difficult conversations.”

    For more information on how to view your rating, visit: inside.fei.org/fei/disc/eventing/risk-management/hfi

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