I Think I Can? Maybe Not? Yes, We Can!

Commanders Eisenhower Spring 2013Ike and I have a few weeks before our next dressage show.  During this brief intermission, we are working hard towards boosting our scores.  I’m trying not to psych myself out, but to remain positive that we will see some improvement before we head down centerline again.  Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you are right.”  In other words, what you think, you become.  If I think Ike and I can’t hit that magical 70% mark, then chances are that we won’t.  So I’m going to push on and do what I can to make that magic happen.

One tool that we are going to try for the first time is the free analysis on the Global Dressage Analytics (GDA) website (http://www.globaldressageanalytics.com/).  I learned of this website in my latest edition of Dressage Today.  It is the brainchild of David Stickland, a British physicist, whose daughter was struggling to boost her dressage scores.  He sat down with her score sheets and discovered that she could achieve decent marks for every movement (6.5-7.0), but that she had a movement or two go poorly during each ride which kept her average score in the lower 60’s.  Hmm, that problem sounds vaguely familiar.  He then created GDA so that riders can see trends in their scores, and see which movements are hurting the final score.  If more than one judge scores the ride, it allows all the individual marks to be entered.  I’m certainly not averse to doing my own statistical analysis, but why not take advantage of this tool that has already been created.

It is easy to enroll for an evaluation package; the basic analysis is free and there are more options if you are willing to pay the monthly fee.   You enter some basic information on you and your horse and submit it to GDA along with your USEF/USDF member numbers.  If you are outside the USA, you would provide your member number for your national organization.  Once they create your account, you enter your scores from each competition.  Luckily, GDA is big on confidentiality, so have no fears that people will see any of your scores, including the abysmal ones.   I had my access the next day and uploaded my scores from this competition year.  Hmm, unfortunately with only four scores to enter, there aren’t any meaningful conclusions to be had from the statistics yet…too few data points.  Once I enter enough scores to actually generate meaningful statistics, I’ll be sure to share the results.  You may as well learn from my mistakes.  So much for this helping me out before my next show in June.

Luckily, Ms. C didn’t need any fancy statistical software to interpret the scores and judge’s comments on my newest score sheets.  She scrutinized the video of my Test 2 ride as well.  When she reads comments like “losing balance,” “rushing,” “head wagging,” and “not quite steady,” she knows immediately that my half halts are not effective (shocker) and that I am not maintaining thoroughness and a steady connection.  We are truly inconsistent at this point and no statistical evaluation is necessary to tell me that we need to be consistent to get the higher scores.  Part of it is Ike’s young age and lack of knowledge, strength and stamina.  The bigger part of the problem is of course the rider’s inability to be heard with too little a half halt or to pull on the reins rather than squeeze them so then I appear to be hanging on Ike’s mouth (where are those soft, following hands??).  Either way, it is not a pretty picture and we throw away valuable points in each test.

Much like Mr. Stickland’s daughter, Ike and I have also consistently botched at least one or two movements in every test.  I’m assuming our blunders were more costly than hers, but it still hurts that bottom line and the ribbon color.  Making mistakes during our tests is the only consistent thing we do right now.  When you want to cross that mythical 70% mark, you really cannot have 3’s, 4’s, or 5’s anywhere on your score sheet.  Sigh.  Maybe we need to reassess our goals for this competition year?  The plan is to successfully ride our four tests at the June competition and then decide if the game plan needs to be retooled.  In the meantime, we will channel Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, “We think we can.  We think we can.”

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