Why measure?

We can't predict the future but we can increase our chance of success. We can't remove emotion, but we can add objectivity.

By Sam Watson / @equiratings

March 16, 2023

Images of McLain Ward, Laura Collett, Michael Jung and Daniel Deusser against a grid-paper background with ruler markings. By EquiRatings.

Who is the best horse in the world? The world champion? The relentlessly consistent performer? The new and exciting wonderkid? Or maybe we shouldn’t rule out the returning former champ? This question is the fundamental heartbeat of fan engagement in the sport. It isn’t a particularly difficult task to create the shortlist and differing opinions are both essential (for engagement) and valid. While it is both a fun and interesting conversation, it isn’t the real why behind measuring performance in equestrian sport.   

Objective insights

Part of the why is about the ability to rate and order the top 4,000 horses in the sport rather than just the top 4 horses. What the experienced and intuitive expert minds can manage is vital knowledge with nuances that no machine will compete with. But what the machine can process is a volume of information that no mind can keep up with. It can be worked around the clock to find trends and patterns in the data that experts can then build upon. The machine becomes the base of the pyramid that supports the knowledge layers on top.

The practical crunch-point for any team is around the 3rd, 4th and 5th best combinations in the squad depending on whether it is an Olympic (three) or normal (four) team selection. If there is an obvious gap between the final team position and the first reserve, then it’s not such a big problem. It’s highly unlikely that the decision will compromise the chance of success and it is probable that the person left off the team will understand why that decision was made.

When the call is close is when the objective and intelligent metrics really matter. The objectivity removes the emotion. In reality, there’s probably very little difference between the two choices and so it’s not about making the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ choice. None of us have a crystal ball and no machine can predict the future with certainty. There might be more of a difference than you think, so of course there is the possibility of a marginal gain and an increase in the chance of success if your decision is backed by evidence and science. But often we are just trying to make the best decision and ensure that the sufferer can, in time, accept this decision and be motivated to improve rather than become disillusioned or negative towards management.

This is why the metrics used must matter. They must be intelligent and meaningful. This is not the time to quote a statistic that is meaningless. ‘They finished 4th last time and you were only 6th in your last result’. Firstly, one result is not a good predictor of future performance in this sport. Secondly, what was the context of that result? Even a five-star can vary from excruciatingly competitive to lacklustre at best in terms of quality. The course difficulty also varies and these factors matter. That’s why EquiRatings designs the metrics that matter most. It’s about more than predictive performance. It’s about confidence from our clients.

Raising the bar

It’s hard to get people to look beyond selection when it comes to our data analytics services. But this next sentence is a game-changer for any athlete or professional in the area of performance management. HOW we run faster is through training, nutrition and recovery, but WHY we run faster is the stopwatch. The objective, measurable and accountable truth of our performance output is what drives the human athlete to reach new heights. Opinions and feelings will vary and fluctuate from day to day. But a true measurement of performance is a constant that will truly inspire progress.

Know where your performance is now. Know how you compare to others and know whether or not you are improving. This knowledge is not just vital feedback and validation for your training system, it is the fuel that will inspire you to the next level.

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