Has Dressage Become Too Influential In Eventing and if so, how could this be addressed?
An ongoing theme of discussion for perhaps the past almost 20 years has been the perceived increasing influence of dressage in eventing final/overall scores/positions. Another theme is that this started to occur due to the change from long format to short format and the subsequent drift to Warmblood types. There may well be some element of truth in both these themes, although interestingly, there has been relatively little evidence presented to demonstrate the influence of dressage in eventing final scores.
Eventing legend Lucinda Green has written very clearly and sensibly on the topic of dressage influence.
Dr Heather Cameron-Whytock and her team of researchers published data earlier this year showing that “for every 10 additional dressage penalties, the risk of falls increased,” and “that combinations that get 70 or more penalties are almost four times more likely to have a fall than combinations that score less than 70.”
So does dressage need looking at? Does it have too much influence? Are dressage horses being taught to jump XC rather than XC horses being taught to do dressage as Lucinda suggests? Could simple changes be made to re-establish the influence of XC and reduce the risk of XC falls?
To explore this in a very simple and preliminary way, I looked at the results from Burghley CCI5*S 2023.
If we first look at the final position of the top ten (FIgure 1), we can see that the 2nd horse was 25th after the dressage and the 3rd was 21st. Other horses in the top 10 were 27th, 37th, 43rd and 16th after the dressage. On average horses changed 13 places between dressage and end XC and 0 places between XC and end SJ. So XC can and does often have a big influence on the placing. However, we can also see that the Dressage penalties are greater than the XC and SJ combined! (Figure 2).
What’s interesting is if we take the lowest dressage score and set that to “0” and subtract that score from all the others, we would end up with average dressage and average XC penalties for Burghley this year being similar (Figure 3). That is we would be reducing the overall influence of the XC. Now, this is just one event and it would need a lot more analysis.
So is the dressage too influential? Possibly sometimes but not always. Could we easily reduce the relative influence of the dressage score? Probably.
SORRY TO HAVE TO SAY THIS, BUT……….THIS IS A DISCUSSION! There will be many different opinions. Do share your views. Be polite and respectful to those who engage, and myself. Poor behaviour will not be tolerated. Enough bad things going on in the world.