Rider responsibility considered key to eventing’s future *H&H Plus*

  • Equiratings has developed a cross-country performance index to help riders take more responsibility for their own safety and in turn help ensure the future of the sport. H&H reports from the FEI eventing risk management seminar where the system was explained...

    Shifting more responsibility onto riders to help them make better decisions about where to run their horses is part of ongoing work to improve eventing safety.

    The equestrian data analytics company founders Diarmuid Byrne and Sam Watson presented their cross-country performance index (XCPI) at the FEI risk management seminar on 25 January.

     It is a progression of the EquiRatings Quality Index (ERQI), which is currently used by some national federations and features a “traffic light” system that allows riders to enter or blocks them from an event, based on a horse’s past performances.

    The idea is it adds rider responsibility as another level of protection to competitors and the sport, alongside the minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) and rider athlete categories. This latest work aims to simplify the ERQI, which is highly detailed, but can be tricky to understand.

    The system previously treated each event individually, for example, how it considered Badminton 2014 would be different to Badminton 2015, whereas now each level of competition is treated the same.

    This is to help increase riders’ understanding and the transparency of the system with only a small sacrifice to the percentage accuracy.

    The performance index looks at competitors’ past performances and gives a score for each of three outcomes based on the level of the event.

    A clear will always be a positive, a single fault — 20 penalties at a five-star, for example — may still improve a competitor’s rating at a lower level; multiple problems or a fall would be a negative; and there is also a neutral outcome, should a rider choose to retire even if they have jumped clear up until that point.

    “This is the USP of the rating — we are not just going to say ‘What have you done well?’ We are looking at the balance between how many good outcomes you are having, and how many negative outcomes,” said Sam.

    “A couple of problems is not a problem. We will all make mistakes and the aim is that we learn from them. It’s for when we see examples of people making lots and lots of mistakes, and still trying to go on to the next level.”

    He added the aim is to change the mindset of the minority in the sport who achieve one MER and move up a level, regardless of whether a horse is ready, rather than a blanket increase in necessary qualifications for everyone.

    Sam stressed that the margins they are looking at are very small, as thankfully the likelihood of a horse fall is low.

    “We constantly have to challenge ourselves as to what kind of difference we expect this could have or has the potential to have,” added Diarmuid.

    “What we can see is that using a small sample of results can be a lot better for helping us get a picture of where a horse is performing, rather than a single result.”

    He gave the example of an MER being a single point in time, whereas if someone was looking at buying a horse they would want to know how he is performing over on longer period.

    “This tool and our messaging is absolutely not trying to say we don’t want our horses to make mistakes. We all accept that there’s a huge amount of learning than happens when a horse or rider makes a mistake,” he said.

    He added it is about trying to target the small group of competitors where there is just one clear in their last string of competitions, where that is not just a blip, but is highlighting a different issue.

    “Rather than having to constantly communicate risk as a negative thing, when we talk performance, let’s try to give ourselves a framework, a tool that allows us to talk about performance and risk as a positive thing,” said Diarmuid, adding this could involve riders talking about improving their XCPIs and ways of celebrating those with outstanding scores.

    “[Let’s] give ourselves tools to promote really positive cross-country riding. Rather than worrying about the end [result or MER], which we are doing as an unintended consequence now, [this will encourage riders to] aspire to be better.

    “Riders [should] want a better XCPI, so enter potentially at a level that can improve that, rather than the current situation [a minority are in] of possibly feeling there is a space left on the lorry, knowing the horse isn’t really ready but he is qualified, so let’s see what happens.”

    FEI eventing committee chairman David O’Connor added that rider responsibility is key to the future of the whole sport.

    “My not finishing a marathon isn’t going to stop the top marathon runner from doing their sport,” he said. “Whereas [the actions of ] this bottom group, this 3% — whatever the number is — can have an impact on the sport [of eventing] as a whole.”

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