Tracking the numbers to up your eventing game *H&H Plus*

  • What does “improve” mean? Pippa Roome asked eventers about their goals and then asked Diarmuid Byrne, from the data analytics company EquiRatings, for his analysis

    Equiratings’ Diarmuid Byrne says: “Most event riders’ goals focus on ‘improve’, which could be stepping up a level or achieving higher placings.

    “At EquiRatings, our philosophy is that to manage and improve performances, they must first be measured. Here, we set out some simple tools to help measure performance. That gives you a starting point to improve on.”

    Harriet Poupart, who runs Glendell Equestrian livery yard in Surrey, was given Voltaires Valentino (Inca) nearly five years ago because he was being difficult with his previous owner.

    Harriet says: “I had a bad fall at Dauntsey BE100 at the end of 2018 and then an unrelated knee operation six days later. So last year I was coming back from those two setbacks.

    “We finished in the top eight in our four BE90s in 2019 and then 15th at Munstead BE100. Normally I’m a confident and laid-back rider, I don’t overthink things. Cross-country is our strongest phase, we love it.

    “Last year I was disappointed in myself because I struggled with stepping back up to BE100. I knew I should trust Inca to get round, but my own brain was a bit annoying.

    “This year I’ll do a couple of BE90s and then move up to BE100. The first few I just want to get round confidently. If it goes well, I’d like to be competitive again; we were third at our first BE100 in 2018, so I know we can do it.

    “We both find dressage boring; jumping is a lot more fun! This year I’m going to put more time into ‘us’; I always put the livery horses first. I’m going to have more dressage lessons because when I’m with a trainer, I’m more enthusiastic. The showjumping and cross-country are our strengths, so if we can get a good dressage score, we should be fine.”

    Diarmuid says: “Harriet highlights her strong jumping phases, which are backed up in her numbers – 90% XC10 and an average of just 0.1 of a time-penalty. Their six-run dressage average (6RA) is good at 31.8, so why not  more wins?

    “If Harriet and Inca could maintain these numbers up the levels, they will get increasingly competitive, but at BE90 and BE100, about 80% of combinations jump clear cross-country and 50% keep all the poles up.

    “With this profile at these levels, tangible improvement will come from work in the dressage. The average dressage scores of a BE90 winner (26.4) and BE100 winner (26) show what it takes to triumph. Staying in the top five usually means starting at 30 so this pair are very close.

    “It will be valuable for Harriet to track her OBP10 (opposition beaten percentage) as she aims to be competitive at BE100. Harriet and Inca sit on an OBP10 of 65%. A two-mark improvement in the dressage would have a massive impact on the OBP with top-five finishes not out of reach.

    “The most important number for Harriet to track is the 6RA. Training in dressage should not come at the expense of the other phases but work with a coach – and a clear target – will see some high-placed finishes at BE100 by just maintaining their form in the other phases.”

    Harriet concludes: “Diarmuid’s analysis tallies with my thoughts that improving my dressage will make me more competitive. I feel 30 is where Inca should be in that phase, so it’s nice to hear that we can be placed with that mark.”

    ‘I got a bit too competitive’

    Lancashire-based full-time solicitor Katie Corteen has two intermediate eventers, Forgeland Tiger Tot (Totty) and Curra Oko (Millie).

    Katie says: “I’m inexperienced at intermediate and so is Millie, so two double clears at that level last year was an amazing achievement.

    “Totty is not a great showjumper so I used to get quite worked up about it, but Millie has helped me calm down. I had a nightmare at Aske last year when she tripped in tricky ground and slid into a fence, but apart from that she’s a brilliant showjumper and most of the mistakes are mine. She helps me out, so I now see that phase as one of our strengths.

    “One big disappointment last year was at Allerton where she was flying across country over a big track, but I got a bit too competitive and she tripped in the water and I had to circle.

    “Our dressage definitely needs work; she’s well behaved, but not flashy. I also need to give her more consistency across country. I’ve either gone steadily or really gone for it. I need to find a happy medium where I can let
    her go without being flat out and I need to help her out more.

    “We’ll start at open novice and then step back up to intermediate. Our aim is to get established at that level and three-star. Then a massive goal would be Blenheim’s young horse CCI4*-S.”

    Diarmuid says: “Katie should first look at setting a clear target for intermediate and three-star. She mentions getting established here for both horse and rider. Before considering Blenheim (there will always be another CCI4*-S), think about what words like ‘experience’ and ‘consistency’ would actually look like.

    “An OBP10 of 50% means that, over 10 runs, they are finishing mid-division. As this OBP moves into the 60s and 70s, they are starting to tick the experience and consistency boxes.

    “Millie’s SJ10 of 3.2 tells us the pair averaged less than one rail per event across their past 10 outings. In reality, they have clear rounds and some with two or more rails down. Being able to regain composure after a pole down will happen naturally as the confidence grows.

    “Millie’s 6RA (35.2) only needs work if the aim is top placings. Finishing on this score will still put them in the top 10 in lots of intermediates.

    “Their area to focus on is the cross-country. Follow XC10 for jumping clears and TS (true speed) for time. There is no quick fix. Getting experience, working with a coach and walking tracks with another rider will all help.”

    Katie concludes: “I’m pleased that Diarmuid said I don’t need to improve the dressage to be competitive as Millie isn’t a big, flashy mover, so I can’t see that we can improve a lot in that phase. Overall this has reiterated what I want from this year, to become more established and consistent before moving up.”

    ‘An uncharacteristic three showjumps down’

    Professional event rider Alicia Hawker runs a 10-horse yard near Malmesbury and Charles RR (Charlie) is her top horse.

    Alicia says: “My main achievement last year with Charlie was taking the under-25 prizes at Badminton and Burghley and finishing 16th at my first Burghley.

    “Our only real disappointment was an uncharacteristic three showjumps down at Badminton. I had been trying the bit I use for cross-country – a Waterford Cheltenham gag – for showjumping and while it works beautifully across country and was good for showjumping at my prep events, it wasn’t so successful after a 12-minute cross-country course. At Burghley, I put Charlie in a Myler pelham with an elastic curb and went with his freshness for a better round.

    “The cross-country is our strength. Charlie used to be strong. He’s super-talented, but it’s a case of making sure you get his brain.

    “We’ve made a huge improvement in the flatwork, but it’s still our weakness and it’s the same thing of getting him more rideable.

    “This year I want to better my five-star results. At Badminton I definitely want to improve on my showjumping and I also know Charlie is capable of going in the time, so I want to get closer to that.”

    Diarmuid says: “Eventing’s different levels present different challenges when setting objectives. Dressage is critical to top placings at BE90 and BE100 but at five-star, where the cross-country clear rate is 50%, a clear round cross-country is the major difference.

    “At every level, dressage is improving – by about 0.5 of a mark every year for the past 10 years – and in recent years, we have seen time-penalties increase at CCI5*.

    “For that reason, in terms of where Alicia could make a competitive gain, we are going to focus on time (what we call true speed).

    “Charlie’s current TS is 9.2 time-penalties. For context, over the past five years less than 10% of combinations at five-star made the time and this drops to 5% when looking at Badminton and Burghley. True speed is calculated from your six fastest rounds in your last 10 (we know you won’t be pushing for time on every run).

    “Speed is rarely a magic button, but lowering the TS number before the big days gives you the confidence it is there when needed.

    “The average finishing score of 10-15th position at Badminton and Burghley is 49. A dressage test in the mid to high 30s and a potential pole could still let you hit the target, but time has to be kept to a minimum. TS lets you measure and improve this.”

    Alicia concludes: “The information about time-penalties was interesting – losing nine marks in the dressage would be quite an ask, but I don’t think it’s out of reach to lose those penalties from cross-country time. With our first Burghley done, I can go to Badminton ready to have more of a crack at it.”DIARMUID says: “The five simple metrics are designed for everyone. You can work out your OBP, XC10 and SJ10 with as few as three competitions.

    “For any of these metrics, you can use only a given horse’s runs or you can use all horses. You can look at only BE100 events, or only 2019 runs, or you can include all levels and multiple seasons. It depends what you want to measure and improve.

    “You know yourself, you know your horse, you know your past performance. If you want to improve, know your numbers, improve digit by digit, and repeat. You’ve got this.”

    Ref Horse & Hound; 12 March 2020