This was an absolutely fascinating lecture… grab a coffee and prepare to be hooked on statistics and data!
Diarmuid – Equiratings IEF Intro: In 2014 Diarmuid Byrne and event rider Sam Watson started up a data science company to specialise in equestrian sport. Equiratings is a sports technology, data and content company that manages and analyses equestrian data and provides new insights and indicators to help drive strategy.
From revolutionary safety analysis to live event content, Equiratings’ data is bringing new insights and understanding across the equestrian world. This service gained global attention with their launch of Equiratings Quality Index (ERQI) which uses predictive analysis to reduce cross country falls.
“Firstly, thank you all for being here. I’m not really sure what’s coming next, I’ve been told not to speak too fast, not to get too excited, not to talk about Mr Bass, not to bring my briefcase out here, change my coat, a long list of things that I have been told I have to do here. So, I’m going to give it my best shot. I want to tell you a little bit about what myself and Sam have been doing with Equiratings over the last 2 years, just a little less, and in that time what we’ve been able to achieve and what we would see as being useful indicators of what’s about to come over particularly the next 4 year cycle, that’s going to be a particularly crucial time for Eventing.
We’re going to look at growing the sport, what we do with data in the media, how we use that to we hope increase the interest of our sport to a new audience, and hopefully the interest and understanding of our sport to the hardcore, like the people here today. I’m going to look a little bit at safety, and what we were doing with Eventing Ireland in 2016, but with other Federations across 2017 and internationally as well, and also look at High Performance, that’s a very interesting one for us and it’s how the company began, and how we’re using data to improve performance. They’re the three key areas. I have about 20 minutes I would think and then some time for some questions. Nicole sits beside me on ERM, and is the one who before a camera goes on on ERM, every time Nicole gives me a little lecture on how people don’t want me to get too excited, and how you can’t get your message out if you shout.
I’ll tell you a little bit about how we started. It’s myself and Sam Watson who set up Equiratings. Sam… we were at school together, and then we ended up at University together. I did Law, and went on to qualify as a Lawyer. Sam was the other end of the University and did Maths, Stats, Database Building, all that stuff. I had no interest back then. He was top of his class, First Class Honours all the way through. And then decided when everyone else went off to the Investment Banks, that he wanted to go back and event. So he brought back to Eventing a skill set that was really sought after by the world. And he began to apply that type of analysis to his own performance.
So, he was a proper geek, but… he couldn’t showjump, that was his problem. He decided that he was going to go and check out what Ingrid, Andrew, William, Pippa, what they were all doing as showjumpers on their 5 year olds, on their 6 year olds, their 7 year olds, their 8 year olds, and how he could begin to work from that. Now he had a couple of real ‘mares showjumping. I can only say this, usually he’s in the room when we’re presenting so it’s really awkward, how we produced the company, but he’s not here today so I can say what I like… Don’t tweet it please, don’t print it! [Ha, as if we wouldn’t!] He had a couple of really bad showjumping rounds and that’s what spurred him on to begin to apply analysis to his own performance, he now is something like 17 from 18 clear jumping rounds at 3* and 4* level, it works, he sets himself targets, he knows exactly what he has to do going into the ring, that’s the kind of work, the beginning, the very basic type of level of work that you do with High Performance programmes.
You work with individual riders, they need to know, what’s your dressage trending average on that horse at this event, how many showjumps do you have down, how many showjumps did the rest of the field have down, how do you compare a performance at Fontainebleu vs Ballindenisk. Very important for selectors, very important for coaches, but also very important for riders, that’s how it began. Our very first event was Badminton. This is where I’m going to go next. With Media Services, this is what we do with data in the media. We didn’t have a contract, Hugh Thomas didn’t know who I was or what I was doing there. So I just started tweeting and putting stuff out there, and eventually they realised that when they were doing the commentary that there was this little nerd sitting just off to one side who kept tweeting everything before it happened about who was going to score what in dressage, so we do a lot of predictive analysis and it’s amazing, predictive analysis is what I love the most, particularly in dressage.
You would be shocked, riders get out all the time, “Oh, this judge marked me this way, oh, the ground was sticky today,” but generally people end up very very close to what their predicted dressage score was. When you see that happening live it’s frightening, and fun. So we began to put it out there, and we began to talk about what was going to happen, and the records of some of the horses that the commentators and the British public might know less, and add some context to that, and we got invited into the commentary box, so I was sitting with Pammy and Carl on either side of me, and that was fun for me, cos 4 or 5 years ago I would not have found myself in this position. And I think what was fun for them was that I don’t know that much about Pammy and Carl, so I don’t ask them about themselves really, and they have this little nerd beside them who gives out all the information.
So that’s where we began, at Badminton, and that grew across ERM, and by 2016 that was how possibly some of you will have seen me, the way the business works is that Sam is running the developers and behind the scenes, and then I end up front of house or on the road. The Olympics is an interesting one to look at in terms of what the opportunities are. We constantly talk about growing the sport. Since I’ve known eventing, we’ve been talking about “Let’s grow the sport”, “Let’s attract a new audience”. One of the things that’s happening is that we’re bringing in more flags [incorporating riders from more nations], I completely agree with it, I think it’s great, but it’s actually easier and quicker ways that we can grow the sport, and quicker ways that we can grow events. And one is just being able to add context to a round of showjumping.
So today we’re going to see Chris Burton. Like, possibly Chris doesn’t even know this. But people talk about Jonelle as the fastest rider in the world. Classic Moet is the fastest, or one of the fastest horses, but that’s it. Chris Burton is far and away the fastest rider in the world, and when we’re beginning to talk about it in Press Releases, when we’re talking about Chris in the Press Release about this, we have to know that we’re actually going to see this afternoon that we’re going to see the fastest event rider in the world, over all his horses, there’s an interesting stat, eight different horses, since 2012, Chris has been inside the time or the fastest round of the day, and that’s what’s brought about the win, in competition, and this is 3* and 4* level. At places where you don’t get the time. He did it at Aachen twice, 2012 he did it on Underdiscussion, going from 3rd to 1st, you’ll hear Equiratings talking constantly about a rating called F.O.D. Finishing On your Dressage score. Hugh Thomas comes back to ‘actually it’s a very simple sport, lowest score wins’, but we make it complicated by the way we sometimes talk about the scoring system. Lowest score wins.
F.O.D. is the indicator that we talk about, your ability to finish on your dressage score, a really key indicator of success, so we will track the F.O.Ds of every International rider, all the way through the grades, people will be able to do that at 1*, time is less of an issue, but finishing on your dressage score… one horse has done it at the Olympics since the change of format, there’s only La Biosthetique Sam, he’s the only horse that’s done it, he did it at London and then he repeated it at Rio. Some people, when he went over the second last fence, and he was 7.9 penalty marks in the lead, some people were celebrating, but actually we sat and prayed to God that the last fence stayed up, because he’s now done it twice. Michael is the only rider to finish on his dressage score at the Olympic Games, and now he’s done it twice. F.O.D. is a key indicator, and it brings me back to speed. Why Chris Burton stands before us. Eight horses, eight different horses, Underdiscussion at Aachen in 2012, he did it with Holstein Park Leilani in 2013 to win Aachen again, her last run, he goes inside the time, no-one else does. He got it with Jamaimo at Adelaide 4*, two people made the time, himself and Sonja Johnson, he wins. He did it at Belton this year on Nobilis, himself and Oliver Townend were the only ones to make the time, he wins. Talking about all the different horses. You can keep going. He did it at Barbury, on Polystar, first 3* event for the horse, makes the time, wins. I could go on, there’s 8 of them. You get the picture. Chris Burton, across the board, the fastest rider in the world.
Now we have a tag, now we have a name, and that’s what other sports do, consistently. They know their records, they know that, if we’re looking at the Olympic Games, let’s think about how the message went out across the Olympic Games. Did we actually champion the Champion, Michael Jung, did we actually really recognise the achievement that went on, or are we, because we’re the hardcore, perhaps even just a little bit bored that Michael’s won it again, or did we just accept that he’s won it again. But actually it’s such an incredible achievement, that that horse… and now he’s going to go back to Badminton again this year, I mean, fairytale stuff. But, he went into that competition, we would potentially have thought that the era of Michael and Sam had ended in 2012 from a Championship point of view. He’d become the Olympic Champion, the World Champion, the European Champion, yes, he went on to Burghley after that, he then broke the record at Badminton as the lowest ever finishing score achieved at Badminton, in 2016, and the by fate, not his first choice horse but he ends up back at Rio, and three people go inside the time: himself, the fastest rider in the world [Chris Burton] and Astier. Again, are we surprised? Because some people were surprised.
The commentary teams were surprised. Astier, Piaf d’Bneville, they’re the only people to ever make the time at Chatsworth, over a thousand runs at Chatsworth and one horse ever made the time, Astier Nicholas, and then one more horse did it, two people have done it, Chris Burton did it this year, and Astier did it in 2012. It’s not a surprise, the trends are there, the predictive analysis is reasonably easy on that sort of thing, but Michael and Sam were the third ones to do it, to go inside the time. But let’s go into the cross-country, from a High Performance point of view we were looking at it and saying that the dressage is marking maybe 4-5 marks ahead of where we expected it to be, we were feeding this information into the relevant parties, we were able to trend the expected score of the whole field, the expected score of all your riders, how those scores are matching up to what is actually happening on the ground. We were then able to use that information to compare how did Rio mark compared to WEG 2014 mark, how did London mark, and you begin to build a comparative ability which hasn’t been available to us in the sport before, and that’s also important as I mentioned earlier when you want to compare Fountainbleu, with Belton, with Ballindenisk, with Barbury.
Anyway, let’s go to the middle of the cross-country phase, cos this for me is an opportunity missed in our sport. We talk about records all the time, we had an opportunity, and this by the way is not the fault of the commentators, some times we like to pick holes in our commentators in eventing, but they just don’t have access to the information yet that they need to be able to get these stories across, there was a time, and remember that you are the hardcore [fans], imagine you don’t know this world, and you’ve just tuned into the Olympics and you are looking for that context, you are looking for that reason to change channel or why you want to be involved with it.
There was a time on course where Sandra Auffarth had just had her 20 penalties removed, and again you remember where you were, you were sitting there, oh my God, okay, what does that mean? But actually it meant that the Germans were now back in pole position for a Gold, even though they had one rider in the thirties, we’d thought all of them would be much closer in the 30s until we saw that that dressage mark was plus four, plus five. So then we saw, Sandra has her 20 penalties taken away, firstly we don’t even know what that means in the room, there’s absolutely nobody else who knows what it means, and what it meant was that Ingrid and Jonelle were on course at the same time, Ingrid was a little bit up on her time, Jonelle was a little bit down on her time, but they were on exactly the same score, if Ingrid could go inside the time, the Germans would go back into Gold medal position, if she didn’t the Kiwis maintained their advantage going into the showjumping. We didn’t get that story out.
When Ingrid had her run-out, or her problem coming out of the water, everyone said “it’s a pity, it looked like it was going to be a good round”, but we never were able to convey that excitement, that needed to come across, and it isn’t the commentators’ fault, it’s just the information isn’t being fed to them at that time, they haven’t had access to it up to now. That’s what data does to this sport, it offers you the opportunity to create that context, create that excitement.
You then go to the showjumping, Mark Todd on a horse that hadn’t had a showjump down for two years up to Barbury, and then Leonidas has that blip at Barbury, and we’re hoping it’s a blip, and you’ve got a fence in hand to win Gold. Talking about back to back Olympic champions, Michael Jung becomes a back to back Olympic champion, some people knew that, picked it up, but the only other back to back Olympic champion was in the field… sorry, no, not the other, there were two others but there was one more in the field, Mark Todd had done it with Charisma, and then you can go all the way back to 1928 and 1932 when a Hungarian did it, Charles Pahud de Mortages.
So Mark Todd is now going in to jump for team gold, with a fence in hand, and as the fences fall, the first one’s okay, second one – now team Silver, third one – Bronze, fourth one – gone, but did we get that excitement out? Because if you’re not an eventing fanatic, that was a moment, that was a moment to watch that round where you went “I can get on board with this, this is massive massive excitement, it’s a massive opportunity for the sport”. They’re the kind of things we do, the kind of things we are doing with ERM, with a lot of the major international events here and in the U.S. and hopefully more of the 4*s, but it’s about trying to create excitement, trying to create engagement, it’s not something that you would traditionally use for statistics, but actually when you apply it to the sport that we love you see how much sense and excitement it brings. Safety.
I mentioned that we started on High Performance, so we started tracking Sam’s showjumping, or inability to do it. And we moved that after we had developed a High Performance rating, we moved that to use a similar type of analysis in the bottom part of the sport, we used it to predict falls across country. Falls, horse falls in particular, are where the fatalities come from, and this is where it gets very serious for the sport. We’re consistently shocked and surprised and devastated by fatalities in the sport, as a sport there will be more, there will be a number between now and Tokyo 2020, and we have to be prepared for that, we have to know as a sport that we did everything we could do to prevent them.
This doesn’t fall on one person or one group, this isn’t something that the FEI can say “let’s use this tomorrow” or at British Eventing or Eventing Ireland or the USEA or whoever it is, there isn’t one single person that can solve this, it’s very much a joint effort, so I’m not coming in here that Equiratings have all the answers, we don’t, but we have a tool that can be used to assist in the understanding of how and why these falls happen, and how we can begin to prevent them.
In Ireland we use what we call our ERQI system, which stands for Equiratings Quality Index, and it’s a measurement, a number, a numerical value between 0 and 1, and it applies to the horse, not the rider, and it applies on every level. So, let’s take Sam, Michael’s Sam not my Sam, La Bibliotheque Sam. His ERQI at 1* level would be 0.999999 and probably pretty close to that on 2* but it would be 0.9998 because there’s a difference in risk between the two, and so on and so on as we go up the levels it would drop slightly. But the rating attaches to the horse.
But when you aren’t talking about a horse at that level, you’re talking about a horse that potentially might have one clear round in 6, 7 attempts, and that’s not the worst of them by the way, when we begin to dig into the data you’ll find that there’s horses falling and there’s horses in this country and in the U.S. and in Ireland who have no more than 2 clear rounds in 15 or 20 attempts. And when they become horse falls, don’t be surprised. Like, this is predictive analysis, but also it’s common sense. Like, we have to be able to track these. It doesn’t fall on just a qualification score, it’s not just about MER, the difference in our system and what we found is that an MER gets you qualified but there’s huge reasons why a horse can suddenly drop off in form, and we see a very predictable pattern, of 20, 20, RF, HF. Shocked at the amount of times you see that happen. 20, 20, HF, RF. And you also see the decisions that people make. You’ll see 20, 20, 20 at 2* and a step up to 3* and then the fall happens. So many people that aren’t able to appreciate the risk or certainly don’t appreciate the risk.
It puts the sport in a very delicate position, a very difficult position for a huge amount of people. If you’re a Course Designer at Rolex 2015 you can find yourself in a situation where you’ve got Michael Jung or you’ve got Lauren Kieffer and Veronica or whoever it may be, arrive and you want to challenge them, and the eyes of the world are on your event again and you want to be able to present a good picture of the sport, and a safe picture from a Course Designer point of view, you don’t want those horse falls. How you build a course that caters for that person, and also caters for the person in the same field that decided that they are going to go to their first 4* off the back of R, E, 20, HF in the last 4 runs, at 3* level, and then decide to step up to 4*. Now if that’s the HF at Rolex… like, is that predictable or is it not? Is that a HF that can be prevented, or is that something that we deem as a sport as acceptable risk, that couldn’t be stopped?
There’s always going to be a risk in Eventing, we know that, but there’s levels, there’s an acceptable level that we as a sport have to face up to. Don’t be surprised by the HFs. Don’t be surprised by the fatalities. It’s a little bit bleak, and it’s a little bit harsh to say it that way, but this is what we’re seeing around the world. A huge level of responsibility that needs to be passed back to riders, to decision makers, in entries, where you go “Uh, why would you step up off the back of that form?” What we try to do… our clients are Federations. And there will be some people I know in the audience who would think “You can’t predict cross country falls using a mathematical equation, because equestrian is an art in that sense”. I get that, so when I was trying to pitch this theory around the world, first time I met with some of the key decision makers, and we didn’t have any proof of concept back then. I didn’t give this presentation, I didn’t write down all the facts and stats, I sat with them and I wrote down 10 names, they were the lowest 10 names on our ERQI system for that event, and we watched the event together. And these are major international events at the highest levels, not just here, around the world. And 9 out of the 10 names didn’t complete the XC clear. So they had 20s, 40s, falls or Rs. And then you think, you can do that once… No, you can do that then at an event overseas, at a 3*, and you’ll see the same at 2*, it becomes a very predictable pattern.
So in Eventing Ireland in the first year we impacted 1.5% of entries. What we did was we applied that rating to every horse and we said to the Federation “What level of risk are you willing to take?” and if your level of risk was below a certain amount, they said “That will be a point, let’s make it a number”. If they have no clear rounds based on their ERQI system, if their rating was 0.1, they have a 10% chance of completing clearly at 2*. But if their ERQI might be 0.3 at 1* and it might be 0.6 at 100, same horse, just different ratings showing the different levels… that rider wants to go 2*. They’ve got a 10% chance of completing without penalties, but they’re qualified. There’s a 30% chance at 1*, but they’re qualified, obviously, they’ve got their 2* qualification. And then a 60% at 100. At what point is the Federation saying “We actually can’t let you enter the 2*”. A 10% chance of competing clearly, versus… just do the 1*!
That’s exactly how Eventing Ireland used the ERQI system in 2016, and what it did was, it began to get riders to think, ‘Okay, we’re being tracked, all our performances are being tracked, positive and negative’, so if it’s just MERs, some people have 3 MERs from 3 runs, some people have 3 MERs from 23 runs, they’re qualified the same at the moment. The ERQI system would obviously catch that. How did the riders react? Not badly at all, because we’re talking about a very tiny minority of the sport. 1.5% was what we impacted, and we didn’t stop them competing, we just asked them to compete at the level below. At a level where the risk is deemed more acceptable.
In 2016 falls in Ireland at 2* level fell by 66% by impacting just 1.5% of the population that competed there. It works. It’s not going to be simple, it’s not the only answer, and it’s not just a case of Equiratings have this algorithm, put it around the world, bring it to BE, bring it to the USEA. We work with Federations all the time, so it’s not a case that it can just happen tomorrow, there is… complications in terms of, do we put it into an entry system, do we use it as a guide, a strategy on how we manage our risk. There’s lots of things to discuss.
So we’re very supportive of the Federations, we don’t for a second think that we have the only answer, but we know that we do have a very powerful indicator to work with. We know we have a very strong starting point in terms of how we manage in the sport over the next few years. You can take that all the way up to the top levels.
The Olympics, a lot of riders went in there with a 50-50 chance, with an ERQI of less than 0.5 going into that Championship. 15 of the 65 horses went in the Olympics on a 0.5 or less ERQI, one clear round. It goes all the way through. If you want to present a good image of the sport, be able to control the people that we’re putting on the screens at the top level. Don’t ask them not to compete, but know that you’re able to stand over people that compete, know that if there are horse falls happening, that they couldn’t have been prevented. So, that’s essentially what we do in Safety. It’s a lot of analysis going on, a lot of behind the scenes work, in a very sensitive area. A lot of confidential work goes on, because of that sensitivity around it, but we shouldn’t be afraid as a sport to recognise where we are.
We are going to be meeting at the Risk Management Summit in Tattersalls in Ireland next week and the FEI are taking this seriously. 2020 we see a big format change, we go to 3 from 3 counting scores and we go to more flags. That’s also going to be a big challenge in terms of safety, no doubt. But it’s one that we can overcome. We hope to work with the FEI very much on it, it’s maths. And that is probably the most exciting thing that we’re working on and we’re looking forward to working on with the Federations over the next couple of years.
We have a thing called the HPR. High Performance Rating. What makes that very interesting is it allows you to bring about those comparisons, it allows you to look at dressage judging. I know we’ve got some dressage judges here today which possibly don’t believe in the rating or being able to do it, but a HPR takes into account what happens at this competition.
As I was saying in Rio it was plus a certain amount, it also allows you to analyse the courses, so what did we expect the cross country jumping to look like, versus what happened? You begin to bring in a lot of the things that we have felt until now can’t be analysed. Different brand. How do you compare WEG 2014 with London 2012 for example. And there’s an ability with numbers, being able to track large quantities of numbers, to iron out quite a lot of the noise, to be able to take away the noise of “well, you did your test on Friday afternoon versus Thursday morning”, whether or not it makes any difference. I had a conversation over breakfast this morning, which assured me that it doesn’t make any difference.
Again, we’re not ever gonna claim that we have the answer to these questions, but we have a tool that allows us to investigate it for the first time. We’re finally gonna be able to look at some of the new talent that’s coming through the sport, there’s one guy coming in, if you want a name… well there’s some great ones here, if you go back to that F.O.D. indicator, you’ve got Tom McEwen for example, you saw Tom and Toledo this morning, that horse’s showjumping record is the one. We watched them doing dressage, but Toledo as a showjumper is what will make that pair at the moment on our ratings certainly one to be highly… oh God, I can’t call this with Selectors in the room, but certainly be right up there in terms of current early calls on people that you’d be looking at for Strzegom, and people that would go there with a good chance of putting it up to other European people.
We’ve a long way to go before we face that. And then look, we’ve got such an exciting year ahead. Who’s going to win Badminton? Interesting. Michael’s going back there, but I think we could potentially be looking at a year of Astier Nicholas. I think Piaf d’Bneville is potentially, whether he goes to Rolex or whether he goes to Badminton, I think he’s potentially the one. I can do the other ones if you ask me, but I’m ready to take questions, be they Performance, be they Safety, be they Fun Stats.
Thank you for one final opportunity while I have a chance to say it, I know there’s lots of Media in the room, and Pippa, the Gaitpost, E-venting, Twittereventing, Equine Hour, we’ve got huge support from the equestrian media and we don’t have any marketing budget, you know, we are very much a start-up me and Sam, and we’ve been working away trying to secure contracts from a small sport.
If it was just about the money we would have gone showjumping, so we really appreciate the support we’ve gotten from the eventing community, and from the Eventing media, it really means a lot to be able to help us get the messages out, and when you’re back and it’s like the event riders, you’re stuck in the middle of January, and it’s cold and bleak and you’re trying to plan fo the year, it makes a huge difference to have the support of all the people here and the mainstream media so thank you very much”.
Q: You said if you were in it for the money you’d go showjumping but I think in the room everyone here is interested in how we increase the level of investment in the sport, you know, the grooms were talking about wanting better facilities, that comes from attracting more money to the sport, but what’s your vision for how Equiratings can help that?
A: How we can help attract more money into the sport. Well, I certainly think we can look at this on a kind of a micro and a macro level. And I don’t want to take too long on it, but on a micro level if you look at events, being able to attract new sponsors by being able to offer them something in terms of, how might we get this event into the mainstream media? So what went into the mainstream media twice or 3 or 4 times this year was: Michael’s lowest ever finishing score at Badminton, it was the spat around the Olympics being the lowest and also the toughest ever Olympics. We get that we need to get events out of just Horse and Hound, no disrespect Pippa, but we need to also be able to get The Independent and The Times, and we need to get people back reading about Eventing, and that’s when a sponsor decides to say “actually there is a value to me from being associated with Blenheim or Barbury or Bicton or wherever”. I think micro level you begin to increase the information on competitors, help the advertisers, help people bring money into it, I think that’s a starting point, there’s lots. If we work out a magic formula to get money in we’ll certainly let you know, but we’re here to help in that regard, I think we have a tool that can allow us to begin that journey.
Q: Thank you, very interesting. I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, and say, if we’re trying to improve safety, how can we not turn it into not just a dressage event?
A: I completely agree that, firstly, we will never be able to stop all the falls in the sport, and you will never be able to de-risk the sport enough for it not to be interesting, but we have to ask ourselves as a sport, is the reason that we’re not a dressage event because we are happy to see a rider who has no clear rounds in ten be a horse fall. That’s not us as a dressage event. There will be run outs. Pierre Michelet’s cross country record. People were surprised that Rio was tough in terms of penalties, actually, his three Championship courses, 41% completions, 42%, and then Rio was on 40%. 20s are fun, run outs are fun, excitement like that is fun Ingrid going for gold, Germans being on the gold medal position and not, I think we’d all agree that Rio was one of the most exciting cross country days that we’ve had in a long time, but actually, the falls weren’t that bad, and the people that did fall were the people that were on the low ERQIs, they were there – people who were 50-50 going in, one went clear. It’s certainly not our desire to take out excitement, take out fun, but we have to be serious about addressing horse falls and if people are coming in with 1, 2 clear rounds in 10, well, as a Federation, and as a sport, and as riders, we have to be able to say “We can’t allow for this, we can’t stand all this.” So I think it’s a joint effort. It’s certainly not that Equiratings has arrived on the scene and is trying to ruin the fun, it’s about trying to manage it alongside a Federation, and alongside sport, to come up with a way where we can keep the excitement but keep it safe and keep it realistically in the Olympics and on TV.
Q: You said that you have had a lot of support from the media and that’s good, but I am wondering why do you think this hasn’t been done before when you look at how long have long statistics [?inaudible] have been going in say football and other sports do you think it’s because we sometimes give the impression of being a slightly backwards looking sport that it hasn’t been done before, and have you encountered any of that?
A: I think one of the main reasons… and I wouldn’t discount it (and I can only really say this because he’s not in the room) but Sam Watson genuinely is a genius. He is a massively talented data analyist who’s been able to do this. There’s people in the room here who will have dealt with data before and will have dealt with computers, and trying to match data with equestrian sports is really not an easy thing to do, and it’s taken him (who is, you know, a First Class Honours student, should be an Investment Banker, pretty much 10 years to be able to code the analysis of this type, if you just take your data set, to be able to extract value from it takes a long long time, and I think genuinely we have a talent on our hands in him that hasn’t been available to people to a lot of the other people who would have tried to do this.
Q: [I think this was from Jennie Loriston-Clarke] Have there ever been any statistics on how often a horse runs at a major event? Years ago you used to have Badminton and Burghley and you used to just run your horse about 6 times a year at the most. Often they’re competing every weekend, and are falls caused because they are sore somewhere, and stiff in the back? I saw one in Australia, they were swimming the horse to get it through the Vets’ Inspection. Well, hardly surprising the thing fell on the cross country. Has there been any statistics on that?
A: Can we link it to the amount of runs? To answer quickly, there isn’t a direct correlation that we have seen that would be the only thing. We do also work in Endurance sports and actually rest periods in Endurance is a really key indicator of successful outcomes there, rest periods in Eventing… the levels are very important. How frequently you run at the different levels. It’s probably not going to be as hard running at the CIC or CCI, or 4* versus 1*. In terms of how the ERQIs are created, they do take into account negative performance. So if you have 5 positive performances now yes, they might be over 5 weeks, and then you have a fall, we wouldn’t catch that. But what happens with more and more performance you get more and more of a data footprint to work on, so if you’ve in those 5 runs got a 20, a R and another 20, you’ve built up a bigger data bank to be able to help us predict that. I think lately, just staying with statistics with the number of runs, it hasn’t proved yet to be something that we would use as a straight indicator. But I think certainly we can have another look to see if there’s anything that’s there. The beauty of the system is that you can actually check these things once you have an idea.
Q: Really fascinating, thank you very much. I heard you talking about the Federation, and audiences, and commentators using the insights. I am really interested to understand how riders are tapping into the knowledge that you are providing.
A: Often, through the Federations. Often through High Performance programmes, is one of the key areas. We also in 2017 are opening up Performance Reports for Horses, what that allows us to do is to be able to do is to have an offering of B to C as it’s known, to be able to operate directly with riders, with owners, and to be able to offer the public an opportunity to work with us. As a company, just so you know why we didn’t do it in 2015 and 2016, was that it’s so hard to survive in a small sport by trying to gather lots of €100 cheques. The key is to try and find 1 or 2 Federations that we can then feed all those Performance Reports through, and to be able to work with. Up until now it has been just 2 of us running the company, then it moved to 3 and then 4, but we are only able to grow slowly, and even just the logistics of individual riders, that’s what made it difficult. We think we’ve solved that for 2017, so we do hope that we’ll have Performance Reports on every horse that you can purchase from us (at a good discount price!) We do hope to be able to offer people on a non High Performance programme the opportunity to be able to get analysis on their horses. It’s a lot more valuable if it’s International horses because you get a much greater level of data, a bigger data footprint as we would say, but even on National horses, depending on the deal that we have with the Federation, and t will usually work through your Federation, so if you were Irish, I see Clare Abbott’s here, Clare would be able to get a Performance Report on her horses through Eventing Ireland, which would include all her National data too. And before you all rush to annoy BE we have approached them, we have worked with them very successfully on a number of ventures, and I have no doubt there will be more in the future, and I expect it’s something that will be opened up both here (in Britain) and in the U.S. in future.
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