The sports technology and data company EquiRatings has been making waves in the equestrian industry for its innovative study of competition statistics and pursuit of improved safety for horse and rider through critical performance analysis. While EquiRatings’ scope ranges from the entertaining and intriguing Eventing Podcast to compelling media graphics and medal predictions, the EquiRatings Quality Index (ERQI) has proven to positively impact the sport from a safety standpoint.
The ERQI measures cross country risk by creating profiles for horses and tracking their individual performances. Based on collected data, the horse is assigned a numeric value between 0-1 for each level of competition that indicates the likelihood of that horse completing cross country without faults. The ERQI Rating can then be used by riders and federations to objectively evaluate the degree of risk.
The ratings may fluctuate with a horse’s performance but they are easy to understand using a “traffic light” color code reflective of the numerical values assigned. A green rating (above 0.5) is satisfactory and the horse may compete at that level. An amber rating (between 0.15-.05) means the combination meets the minimum standard for the level but warns of increased risk. A red rating (less than 0.15) is insufficient and the combination does not meet the minimum standard to compete at that level.
Direct Effects of Using ERQI
The result of the ERQI since its launch in 2016 has been a decline in horse falls due to a strong correlation between low ratings and cross country penalties and falls. Eventing Ireland (EI) was the first and only national federation to utilize the ERQI during the 2016 season, targeting all national levels. They saw a 56% reduction at the national two- and three-star levels, with a staggering 66% reduction in horse falls at the national two-star level alone. EI will also start using ERQI for FEI levels this year.
“Eventing is a risk sport and we are trying to reduce that risk,” EI Chairman David O’Meara told EN. “We were very keen to use EquiRatings ERQI system to see if it had an impact and we are extremely pleased with the results — particularly in the reduction of two-star falls.”
The ERQI risk ratings serve to either confirm a horse and rider’s competence at a particular level or warn against the increased probability of elimination and is a crucial tool for organizers, officials and competitors. While only a small percentage (0.5%-1.5%) of EI members were affected by the restrictive red rating, the data presentation encouraged self-evaluation.
For example, if a competitor enters a two-star competition and is given an amber rating, the rider could compete knowing there is a higher level of risk or choose to drop down a level.
“We are giving responsibility back to the rider,” David said. “They have a choice either to enter on amber or to enter a lower class to get confidence back and improve their ERQI. It seems to have worked. The membership has welcomed this new initiative.”
EquiRatings co-founders Sam Watson and Diarm Byrne presented the ERQI Rating system at the FEI Eventing Risk Management Summit held at Tattersalls in Ireland last weekend, and earlier this month Diarm presented at the International Eventing Forum at Hartpury College in England.
“From the moment we began to use advanced programming to track risk and falls in the sport, we knew we had discovered something of huge value,” Diarm told EN.
“The results of the service in Ireland speak for themselves but it was more than just our system at play. We had the buy in from the riders, owners, event organizers and, of course, the governing body. We are changing the picture together. And that is what I expect will happen across the world in our sport over the coming the years — a joint effort, a shared responsibility around the risks in eventing. We are here to play our part in that.”
USEA Partners With EquiRatings
Following Eventing Ireland’s successful use of the ERQI system, other national federations are taking notice. At the 2016 USEA Annual Meeting and Convention in December, Sam and Diarm led one of the most popular seminars of the week. The Board of Governors then approved USEA CEO Rob Burk to receive an official proposal from EquiRatings and to begin discussions to implement their technology to improve safety in the United States. The USEA and EquiRatings have been sharing data now for several months, and the USEA will introduce new associated member services in the near future.
“At this point in time we envision our members signing into their USEA online services account and having access to a straightforward ERQI score associated with each registered horse on their profile. Additional interesting analytics are also possible and we are working with EquiRatings to look at all of the possibilities,” Rob told EN.
A partnership with EquiRatings is all part of the USEA’s broader plan to increase safety in U.S. Eventing. While the results data and incidents reports collected and maintained in the U.S. are especially detailed and efficiently stored, Rob encourages the membership to work together with the Association to make sure all data is as accurate as possible. Furthermore, combining the use of data analysis with the self-policing inspired by the ERQI will only serve to strengthen the sport.
“In order for this system to be successful we need the best possible data to be collected,” Rob said. “Although it sounds like we are stealing a quote from Homeland Security, we encourage everyone involved in the sport that if you see something, say something. Only through vigilance on the part of all of us can we ensure that we keep our horses and riders as safe as possible.
“It does the sport no good to have anyone hold back information. We encourage everyone with an interest in the sport to reach out to the Technical Delegate and/or the Ground Jury at any event in which you notice any discrepancies in how competition results are reported. You can also reach out the USEA and US Equestrian (USEF) with that information.”
Rob also explained that the USEA sees safety as a multi-layered concept. These layers include the preparation of horse and rider, preparation of safety personnel, suitability of the course, and the diligence of the officials, related Associations and Federations. “In order to lessen the risk we need to focus our efforts on each of those layers,” he said.
“Implementation of the ERQI rating system will further enable our members to be able to analyze competition data in determining whether their horse and/or they are adequately prepared to compete at a given level or competition. Obviously there are numerous factors in determining whether you or your horse are prepared to compete but the ERQI will provide us with one more tool to raise the level of safety in our sport.”
Learn more about the EquiRatings Quality Index here.
What do you think, EN? Do you think more national federations should implement the EquiRatings Quality Index in their entry systems? Weigh in below in the comments.