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WEG 2014 is fast approaching, and wonder of wonders, the US already has made their six selections for team and individuals. For the first time in a long time, we are leaving several pairs at home that certainly deserved to head to Normandy. At the same time, every single pair that did get named deserves to go as well. Our bench is finally getting deeper and the selectors can now select among a wider range of strengths and weaknesses, and bring along an alternate or two that absolutely can step up to the plate.
Now that the team is selected, how do they compare? We can discuss qualitative factors all day long, but today I’m going to look at the quantitative side. To do so, I am using data from CCI4* results only. If the horse has not yet completed a 4*, then I use the horse’s best CCI3* score instead.
The following list shows the best final CCI4* scores achieved by the US pairs:
Buck Davidson / Ballynoecastle RM — 51.7 at Rolex 2014
Phillip Dutton / Trading Aces — 57.5 at Rolex 2014
Sinead Halpin / Manoir de Carneville — 48.3 at Burghley 2012
Boyd Martin / Shamwari — 48.8 at Luhmuhlen 2014
Kim Severson / Fernhill Fearless — 59.7 at Rolex 2014
Lynn Symansky / Donner — 54.8 at Rolex 2013
For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that the four best scores are selected for the team, with Kim and Phillip acting as individuals. One score is dropped from each team’s final four scores.
If each pair achieves or exceeds their personal best final score at a CCI4*, then the US would finish with a 148.8, using Sinead, Boyd, and Buck’s scores. The following shows where the US would place in the 2006 and 2010 WEGs, the only two short-format Games thus far.
1 USA (2014) 148.8
2 Germany 156.0
3 Great Britain 180.0
4 Australia 197.3
5 USA (2006) 198.1
1 Great Britain 139.4
2 USA (2014) 148.8
3 Canada 151.5
4 New Zealand 154.8
5 USA (2010) 160.3
The US is kicking butt and taking names (save those pesky Brits) in past WEGs. How do they compare to the riders of today? Not all the teams have named lists yet, but many of the most competitive countries have. I took the three best CCI4* scores from each of the other countries to compare with our team score.
1 Germany 118.7
2 New Zealand 122.8
3 Great Britain 134.4
4 USA 148.8
5 Australia 150.0
Unfortunately, this puts the US solidly in fourth, even if our riders equal their personal best final score.
The nice thing about eventing is that each performance is independent from one another. A rider that has a bad dressage test will not necessarily have a lot of rails or have a rough cross country run. Barring fatigue, the phases do not affect one another. What if each of our riders equal or surpass not just their personal best final score, but their personal best in every phase?
For this exercise, I used the horse’s personal best CCI4* score for each phase, regardless if this was with another rider. Buck, Sinead, and Lynn have been the exclusive rider for their mounts at the 4* level, but both Trading Aces and Shamwari have attempted or completed CCI4* levels with other riders. I believe that since Boyd and Phillip have had very little saddle time with their respective mounts, their dressage scores can drop to that achieved by the horse with others in the saddle.
Using the personal best phase for Sinead, Boyd, and Buck, we get a team score of 126.2. This would put us solidly in first for both 2006 and 2010 WEGs, but still would place only third compared to the best CCI4* scores of the current team selections from other countries. And don’t forget, there are still a few countries who have yet to announce lists and teams.
The upshot of this analysis is that it takes into account only four star experience and ignores experience at three stars. It’s obvious that the US depth is increasing, but many of our partnerships are still very young and haven’t grown into the dressage potential they ultimately should have. Right now, three of these pairs have only one four star together, and therefore only one data point to analyze. Phillip, Boyd, and Kim will very likely all drop their dressage scores by significant amounts in the next two months. And while Germany may currently look unbeatable, it’s hardly likely to be a dressage show. Michael Jung can score a 33.0 all day, but the rest of the German team has to finish too, something they failed to do in 2010.
At this point, it’s anyone’s ball game.