Thursday, May 26, 2011


I didn't really think I would find anything significant when I started this project. I figured I'd find no relationship between the number of horses ridden at a trial and horse/rider falls. There are just too many other things going on, like the individual riders, the levels of competition, etc. Lo and behold, I think I actually found something. From my write up:


The question of how many horses one rider can safely compete with at a horse trial has come up repeatedly within the eventing community. This analysis is an attempt to show some of the trends and relationships that occur when a rider competes with multiple horses.

Three questions were asked:

  1. Do riders with more than one horse have more horse falls/rider falls and Did Not Complete (DNC) than riders with just one horse? The answer is no, riders with multiple horses had a smaller percentage of falls and DNCs than those with one horse. This data is skewed, since most amateurs are grouped in one population (one horse) and most professionals are grouped in the other (multiple horses), making the results inconclusive. There is no correlation between horse/rider falls and having two or more horses. However, there is a correlation between the number of horses ridden and falls when there are six or more horses with the data showing a change in the relationship at eight horses entered in a horse trial.
  1. Is there a trend between horse falls/rider falls and DNCs when the number of horses ridden increases? There is a trend from one horse ridden to seven horses ridden with decreasing percentages of falls and DNCs. With eight to twelve horses ridden at one horse trial, the results become unstable due to the small population but show a general upward trend. This suggests that there is an effect on DNCs and falls when eight or more horses are being ridden by one person in one trial.
  1. What is the percentage of horse falls/rider falls for the riders with the top average number of horses shown in a horse trial? Is there a trend within their own riding as the number of horses shown increases? The results were mixed. Some riders showed increasing numbers of DNCs and falls while others showed no effect. It appears to be individual, with riders that have the appropriate support crew and experience are able to safely handle larger strings of horses. With eight horses or more, it appears to be more likely to have a fall or DNC, and the level of the competition becomes very important.

In conclusion, there is little correlation between rider falls or horse falls and the number of horses being ridden when the rider has seven horses or less. An experienced rider with seven horses at a trial is still less likely to have a DNC or a fall on any one given ride than a less experienced rider with one horse. The experience of the rider and the level of the competition appear to be stronger indicators than the number of horses ridden. However, when there are eight or more horses, there is a relationship between the number of horses and the possibility of a given ride ending in a fall or DNC. These rides account for only 0.4% of the rides in 2010, with only five riders competing with eight or more horses at a horse trial in 2010.

Regulating the number of horses at a trial will most likely not result in a significant change in the overall number of falls. Only 0.4% of the population falls into the area where there is a correlation between falls and the number of horses being ridden. That aside, safety is paramount to the sport, and preventing any horse or rider falls is valuable. Capping the number of horses at seven or eight entered at a horse trial would have minimal effect on the events, as having eight or more horses is already a rare occurrence. This would also set a precedent and would prevent the rare occurrence from becoming more commonplace.

What the heck does all of that mean? It means that if they're riding seven horses or less, they're just as safe or safer than a rider with just one horse. Eight horses or more, there is an increase in the percentage of falls and DNCs, but that is pretty rare. Not even our most prolific pros show up with eight or more horses very often. Should we put a maximum number on horses at a horse trial? Eh, we can, and it's not a bad idea. Seven or eight horses per trial shouldn't put a major dent in anyone's training business. Other than a handful of occasions, no one will even notice. But it is a good idea in terms of stopping a trend before it can even get started.

I'm not surprised that a person can ride seven horses at one show and do it safer than little ol' me and my one horse. Just because I can't get around Rolex once doesn't mean that Phillip Dutton can't do it three times in a day. By the same logic, just because I can't safely show seven horses in one day, that's no reason to believe someone else couldn't. I don't have an army of grooms and working students to help me out, for one. And let's keep in mind, when they have a big string, they're not all going around at the FEI level. A lot of them are green beans working their way up. Skipping around Novice on a new horse isn't going to make a top of their game pro break a sweat.

In the end, pros know what they're doing. They aren't going to risk their bodies more than they have to because that's their business. It's how they pay the bills. I would support a cap of seven or eight horses more to take the pressure off of them. They won't have the pressure to slip one more horse in to get the extra miles, then can point at the USEA and say that it's not possible. It would also be a safety against less experienced pros overreaching. It would have little effect on entries, with only 154 rides being grouped in with a rider competing on a string of eight or more.

Will it solve world hunger and bring world peace? Not even close. There are so few rides in this category that it probably won't even make a dent in the overall statistics, but saving one horse or rider from a fall is still one fall prevented.

The full writeup is in a Word document that refuses to become a Google doc (darn charts and SPSS objects), so it has been loaded to the dear husband's website so that it can be downloaded by anyone that's geeky enough to want to see the details. It's nothing fancy, but it's an objective view of the issue. I have no say in this whatsoever, being a LL rider with no connection to any UL rider. Hopefully it will be of interest to someone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For science!

This is my mad scientist expression, complete with my evil sidekick

Today is a red letter day for geeky eventing analysts everywhere. Even though I'm pretty sure I'm actually the only one.

I have finished the data entry for my riders with multiple horses project. All 40,000+ rows of data are done, putting every ride in the US in 2010 into one spreadsheet. I have never been so happy to see the end of a list of events. So far I've learned that we have some very creative namers out there. I want to know the story behind the horse named Silent Donut. There has to be a good story behind a name like that. I also liked Dad's Empty Pockets and My Tuition.

Now that I have my database, it's time for the actual data mining to start. The question is whether or not riding multiple horses makes a rider's fall or horse's fall more likely. Of course, after spending months building this database, I'll probably check out some other trends as well. I don't have a lot of data fields, just what's posted on the USEA's official results:

Horse name
Rider name
Dressage score
XC score
Jumping score
Final placing
Number of horses ridden by the rider at the trial
Horse trial name

I want to look at this question of multiple horses a couple of different ways. Some are really simple, some are a bit more complex. I don't think just one view is going to answer the question:

1. Do riders with more than one horse have more horse falls/rider falls and DNCs (did not complete) than riders with just one horse? This is the most literal way of looking at the question, but will probably be skewed due to riders in the lower levels that are just learning the game.

2. Is there a trend between horse falls/rider falls and DNCs when the number of horses ridden increases? This will take out all of the rides where there was just one horse and look at the trend as the number of horses increase. This should give a clear picture of whether or not increasing the number of horses actually has an effect.

3. What is the percentage of horse falls/rider falls for our riders with the highest average number of horses per trial? Is there a trend within their own riding as the number of horses increases? This will probably be the top twenty examples, compared back to the overall average. These are the extreme cases that can show what is actually happening when up to 12 horses are being ridden at a trial by one person.

Does anyone think I'm missing a question or a view? Also, should I use rider names or not? This is all public information to begin with, anyone can go get this, but it feels weird to use actual names after so many years of never, ever leaving identifying information in an analysis.

I'll also do some descriptive statistics, taking a look at what the database shows, but most of it is stuff the USEA publishes already, anyway. I'm already kicking around the idea of adding past years so that I can do year over year trending, but we'll see if I can convince myself to do it. For science!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Putting the thoughtful in Thoughtful Equestrian

Sometimes I just have to stop and think. This usually means something went amiss and I have to give myself a chance to sit back, stop reacting, and think things through. I went to my schooling three-phase on Sunday, and now I think I'm ready to write it up without declaring that we will never go sanctioned or that I need to become a dressage rider.

By this point everyone knows my mare is a superstar. We take her out, point her at new things, and she tries her heart out to the best of her TB brain's abilities. Which means we've been known to frighten small children in the jumping warm up or show off her athleticism with a leap spin combo, but she's still trying hard. She goes to work and the judges seem to love her light, springy gaits. She'll jump anything from any distance, angle, or speed. The problem is that she's been such a superstar that it's jarring when she's . . . not.

Looking back, I made some silly mistakes at the show. Our dressage warm up wasn't very good. She wasn't focusing well, which is nothing new when she first comes out, but rather than trotting on a loose rein until she settled I tried getting her to focus and go to work. The result was a tense horse that never shifted to her mellow self. Our dressage test showed that tension. She went to work and held it together for the test, but you could see it through her neck that she was distracted and edgy. We got our first 8 on a twenty meter trot circle, but we also got low marks for our walk due to jigging and not stretching. It was still a 35.0 and good for third place, but my trainer and I both knew that was not her usual performance.

The show had a very tight time line between phases and I had about 30 minutes to change to cross country gear and high tail it back for the jumping phases. I had Fiona in the three ring happy mouth, which we had schooled in, but in the show environment she got very reactive. I had the joyous moment of realizing she was behind my hand, behind my leg, and bolting. That's about the worst place to be on an athletic TB. Once I got a jump that didn't terrify people too much, I just went into stadium. She wasn't settling, she wasn't focusing, and dodging people in warm up was just making us escalate. The stadium course was very twisting with a lot of right angle turns and a true roll back to a two stride. I knew when I walked it that we were going to be in trouble. Add to that our warm up? I was praying to not get eliminated.

Of course she jumped everything I pointed her at, but she was so reactive. She almost dropped me when she saw a jump judge, half halts had her skittering, and our steering failed after the third hard turn on the course. Completely failed. I actually had to halt on course to get her back and then trot the three strides to the next fence. Luckily that wasn't considered a refusal since I hadn't presented yet, but we did get a rail in the two stride when she completely lost her forward in the roll back. She hates a course full of tight turns and quick changes. There are some pictures of us leaving the ring. I'm petting her and talking to her, but her eyes were very worried. Poor baby.

She made it up to me on cross country. Or I made it up to her, depending on how you look at it. As soon as we opened up for a long canter in the field, she settled. The princess was a different horse, sitting light in my hands, ears pricked, and hunting for the next fence. Finally, in the last phase, she settled down and lost that tension and worried look.

So, what did I learn? It's a schooling show, that's the point of going to the things. I'm supposed to learn stuff. I learned that you don't ever put the princess to work before she's relaxed. If you do? She gets stuck that way. Better to go into dressage without picking her up than to pick her up too soon. Also, never rush dressage warm up. I cannot care if they are looking to get someone in the ring. It's not my ride time, they can wait until my girl is ready. I'm such a softie, I just went right in.

The second thing, and what I went over with my trainer today, is that we're back to hunting for the perfect jumping bit. Elevator happy mouth failed the big test, so we're going to try something else. A Dr. Bristol came up, since she's so high in front anyway that we're going to try going away from leverage. A loose ring waterford was also mentioned, since the issue is locking onto the bit and pulling. We need something she's comfortable with so she doesn't come unglued, but at the same time keeps her from locking her jaw and just doing things her way. I'll be putting her back in her hackamore this week, too, to see how she does with that rig. She has never come unglued with that, but stopping and steering are a wee bit more challenging. It's almost like I need to put her in something where she feels safe to disagree with me, but at the same time, have enough bit that I can win the argument when she does have her own opinion.

This is why I have so much gear. I can't believe I'm going to own more bits.

Peyton ate the pen to my tablet, so I can't render any of the more memorable moments of my weekend. It's really too bad, the image of the princess getting her mane pulled would have been perfect. Let's just say it took two people and I waited until the beginner lesson was out of the aisle to do it. She's lucky she's so cute all braided up.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hours in the day

Basically? There are not enough of them. I could do with about four more hours in the day. Half I'd add to the sleep schedule, and the other half would take the pressure off so it would not be so hard to get to the barn, take care of my career, and just once in a while see the dear husband. He does like to see me on occasion, funny how that works.

It's time for yet another schooling show, so time is tight while I figure out just when I'm going to get to pull the princess's mane (again) and trim up her little fetlocks and give her a bath and scrub my tack.
For a thoroughbred, she sure grows a lot of hair. I can handle the fact that she has one little vice, and that vice is hating to have her mane pulled. She steps just out of reach while I'm balanced on a water bucket or steps into me enough to make me lose my balance. She's turned and given me a shove with her nose before, too. Anything she can do to keep me from pulling on her hair. I usually have to assign someone else to hold her head while I work. She grows mane like a darn Shetland pony, so skipping the pulling really isn't an option if I want to braid. Which I always do.

On the plus side her tail is just gorgeous. There's been some debate on how to style it. I saw several braided tails at Rolex (I guess it's an Aussie thing?) and now I want to grow her tail back out and change to braiding it. She's rubbing it and I'm thinking that clipping the sides is not going to help if she's already itchy. Growing it out again will be a pain, but shouldn't take that long. We'll see if I can hold out through that part. The h/j princess in me would love to grow it out completely again and braid for fancy events, but if it's time for a trial and her tails looks like a toilet brush? I'll probably give in and trim it again. I'm so weak.