Ike and his math teacher – photo by Alison

So, I declared to Ms. C (my trainer) that my goal for 2013 is to qualify for and compete at the USDF Region 1 Great American Insurance Group Championships at Training Level. The GAIGs are about as lofty a goal that I will set. National acclaim or the Olympics are just not in the cards.

Countries study the war tactics of their enemy. In business, you must know your competition in order to establish what your market share will be. So the science geek in me decided to analyze the Region 1 GAIG results at Training Level for the past 11 years. [For full disclosure, I have a background in biochemistry, analytical chemistry and environmental science and engineering… yeah, science geek about sums it up.] This analysis will have no bearing on our performance, but at least I know what I’m up against as I head down this road to Lexington, VA in October 2013.

When you look at the home state of the eight top riders from 2001-2010 (I couldn’t easily find the 2011 information), 22.5% of the riders were from Virginia. Only North Carolina had a higher percentage at 25%; New Jersey tied with Virginia and the rest were from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, and Florida. Virginia riders fair well, so we have that in our favor.

From the online results from 2001-2007, I determined that the average age of the Champion horse was just shy of 9 years and the Reserve Champion horse was almost 6 years old. The oldest horse’s age was 12 and the youngest was 4. Ike will be 5 on April 30th next year, so he will be “of age.” Thank goodness there is no mention of the age of the rider.

I also did some calculations for the scores for the first through eighth places; I looked at the average score for each placing as well as the maximum and minimum.  Here are the averages for each of the placements:

Champion – 69.4%          Reserve Champion – 67.6%          Third – 66.5%          Fourth – 65.8%

Fifth – 65.3%                    Sixth – 64.6%                                    Seventh – 64.1%     Eighth – 63.8%

I’m sure we all look at those scores and think, “Hmm, no big deal.  I can do that in my sleep.”  But then you remember that the final score is the average of two judges who see two different angles.  That straight halt might get you an 8.5 from the judge at C, but then that pesky judge at B/E sees that trailing hind leg and nails you with a 5.0.  Drat, there goes that average plummeting downward.

And of course, I plotted the scores from each year to look for trends (to expedite insertion to the post, I took a photo of the graph rather than trying to figure out how to insert the graph from Excel):


It is interesting to note how the scores fluctuate each year – my “clever” hypothesis is that it is all based on the judges. In 2006 the year with the lowest overall scores, Janet Brown-Foy and Anne Gribbons were two of the judges at the championship. You’d better bring your A+++ game if you are riding centerline with them presiding. Some years, there is a clear Champion with the champion’s score 3-4% higher than the reserve. In other years, it is fractions of a percent that separate the placings. There were also an amazing number of identical scores in the placings, but only in 2009 was there a tie noted for third place. In other years, there must have been a certain score that differentiated the placings for the identical scores.

The years analyzed represent 4 different tests used to determine the champion. Last year was the first year that Test 3 was used. Test 4 was used for the other years, but remember that the tests are rewritten every four years. There did not appear to be any bias from the test year. While it might appear that the change in 2011 to Test 3 lowered scores, the average of the top 8 scores in 2011 was 64.525% which was higher than 2002 (62.525%), 2006 (62.476%), and 2008 (63.525%). The year 2005 had the highest average for the top 8 scores at 68.99% with eighth place achieving a 67.885%. Now that was a tough year and hopefully all those horses and riders have moved up the levels.

So there is it. I now know what the numbers tell me, but that is really just part of the equation. There is my health, Ike’s health, weather, time, traveling to shows, truck and trailer issues, more time, money, more money, and even more money, and a dash of good luck. Those factors are harder to quantify and express in charts. I guess I could chart the money spent, but let’s face it, I really don’t want to. Guess we will just have to take that first step down the road and see where it takes us!

p.s. Ike and I attempted a ride today, but we were both so distracted by the constant buzzing of the horse flies that we abandoned our efforts after 20 minutes and fled to the safety of the barn.