Saturday, September 12, 2015

mean ol' dressage (puns + plots)

Another favorite thing about reading so many excellent blogs is that I frequently find inspiration there. Sometimes it's about a specific riding exercise. Other times maybe a solution to a problem that's been nagging at me. Today? Today it's inspiration for a post topic.

bc without that inspiration, probably all you would have gotten is this pic. well, you're still getting it anyway, but now there's other stuff too!!! (also, isn't it cheating that those poles are fixed to the standards?!?)

You see, Megan wrote yesterday about applying statistical concepts to dressage. Specifically, she wrote about regression to the mean. If you haven't yet, go read her post.

This is already a familiar concept to me (I'm technically somewhat of a statistician by profession) so subconsciously I've always viewed my scores through that lens. As I commented on that post, this perspective helps me understand that just because we got an 8 on a canter depart in our last test doesn't mean that my canter departs are actually 8s now.

Rather, it might be indicative that I'm moving the needle in the right direction - that the mean score might be closer to 6 now as opposed to 5.
I also keep this concept in mind when looking back to my personal best dressage test ever at Loch Moy, where we scored a 26.8, and then followed it up two weeks later with my personal worst score of a 45.3 at Waredaca (ouch). Somewhere in between those scores is a perfectly respectable 35 36.

But the post got me thinking. Because of my insane compulsion to document literally every single thing, I have the data on hand from each dressage test I've ever ridden. Meaning every score from every movement. And because I do eventing dressage rather than pure dressage, there isn't a huge difference in movements from one test to another in the lower levels.

Some of the scores are combined (like the final center line is scored separately in BN A, but combined with the walk-trot transition at K in BN B). But really, it's mostly the same movements.

So, what if I looked at each individual movement to see how I've scored over time since riding my first ever dressage test in July 2014?

Well. Haha. I'm glad you asked:

Data considerations: 

  • 2 USDF Intro B tests (7/2014 and 9/2014)
  • 5 USEF BN A tests (from 9/2014 to 8/2015)
  • 3 USEF BN B tests (from 5/2015 to 6/2015)
  • excludes recent novice test (n = 1)

What story does this tell? First up, my average scores are:
  • Intro B - 41.7%
  • BN A - 38.2%
  • BN B - 32.2%

But I didn't need to break down the scores to calculate that. So what can I learn about each individual movement? (and I'm not going to talk about Intro, but it's included because those are the first two tests I ever rode so it seems like a good starting point.)

Right off the bat we can see that our strength lies in Isabel's trot work. We enter the ring well and get the ball rolling with a nice trot circle. Test BN B involves a lot more trotting than BN A (including those two diagonals), which may be the reason our collectives are so much better. Isabel's got a fancy trot and BN B gives ample opportunity to show it off.

we need moar dressage pics! this is from Fair Hill
And if you're curious about those collectives, that peak visible in all four spark lines is Loch Moy, and the immediate dip is Waredaca, both BN B.

The most interesting numbers are the canter work. It's no surprise that's our biggest weakness. What I did *not* expect was that, according to the data, we do better tracking right. Which is exactly the opposite of what I would have hypothesized.

Waredaca
I've got some theories here tho. Our first time at Jenny Camp last year saw us cross cantering into the left lead depart in BN A. I was too slow in correcting the lead and we scored 3s on both the depart AND circle. Oops. (This would be the dip on the left side of the spark lines). 

What about BN B averages, tho? Well, both departs are in a corner - friendly enough - but the right depart comes up quickly after trotting down the diagonal, meaning it's a sharp turn immediately preceding the depart. This is a more technical challenge, and it's therefore something dressage trainer C particularly focused on in our lessons. Therefore I think we are just better schooled in that specific movement.

Ultimately I still think our right lead depart is weaker in reality than the left lead, it's just shaken out differently in the show ring. Of course the biggest joke is that the strongest part of our canter work is when we stop cantering. The worst is when we start. Lol #figures.

Loch Moy
Anyway, our walk-trot and trot-walk transitions seem to be in pretty good shape, tho a nearly 1 point difference in the free walk scores between BN A and BN B seems odd. Probably it's attributed to doing the free walk on the short diagonal in test B, giving us a better shot at faking it. Considering that's usually the coefficient score I'd like to see improvements there regardless.

Our turns up the center line and halts are generally strong. The halts surprise me because we are rarely square and often not straight. Meaning I could see some serious improvement in scores by fixing that. The center lines are another focus with trainer C and the averages look good. (the spark line for the walk trot transition to turn up center line trends downward bc the last time we rode that test, at Fair Hill, we biffed the transition, thus killing the score).

Jenny Camp 2015
So. There's some data analysis for ya. Mayyyybe not what you expected on a Saturday morning, but whatevs. This little exercise tells to me that we're quite good at trotting (look at all those 7s or almost-7s!!). We need to improve the canter. It is happening, but it's slow and painstaking work.

Perhaps the easiest ways to quickly earn points will be to polish the halts and free walk. Those already score well despite getting very little attention in schooling.

And submission... hahaha... ehhhh. You'll have to talk to Isabel about that one ;)

Anyway this was fun. Have you ever done a similar analysis of your riding? How do you decide what needs work and what's already doing well?

20 comments:

  1. Oh wow! That analysis was so cool! You're making me want to go be super analytical now too. Maybe I will with Gus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes you totally should!! It was actually pretty easy - almost all my past test sheets are pictured on this blog (tho a couple are only recorded in the videos) so the info was already on hand. It would be a great way to keep track of Gus' progress!!

      Delete
  2. ohmygauyourbrain....Really good analysis! My horse is pretty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha I may or may not be guilty of over thinking some things, but this kind of stuff is fun for me. Lol. Having a pretty horse is usually enough tho ;)

      Delete
  3. THIS IS SO COOL!!! I can't wait to get back to showing now! I want to do the thing!

    It's so interesting to see things crop up that you wouldn't expect, like the right lead canter. Where maybe in general the right lead isn't as good as the left, that one left lead issue at Jenny Camp and then really focusing on that difficult turn/transition to the right can actually make your scores look better right than left.

    And the free walk at BN B is interesting. Hopefully part of the factor in the improvement from A to B is that you guys are getting better, but the shorter diagonal is definitely easier and that's a really interesting observation. I think TC will do better on shorter diagonals too, he gets distracted if we have to walk across the long diagonal.

    Also those submission scores! They are improving by a full point every time you move up a test! Even if it's the weakest collective, it's got a really solid upward trend. Yay!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So I did actually have to fudge the spark lines to make them work. Tests BN A and B aren't really separated chronologically - I've ridden both interchangeably over the last year at the discretion of the venue. So the spark lines for movements just in A or just in B had to be rearranged to be lines instead if points, but they don't line up any more by date.

      All this to say - the progression in scores from A to B might not mean actual progress. Particularly with the submission score. So I think what's really happening is that with the longer test B that has more trotting, we settle into a better rhythm that simply produces a nicer picture, therefore giving the appearance of better submission. All the same tho, I'll be happy to keep nudging that score up!!

      But really this was a super fun exercise an you should totally do it for TC too to track his progress. Not only was it cool to see unexpected results (the right lead canter for instance) but it's already helping me better understand our rides and where to focus.

      Delete
  4. This is straight up awesome, plus sparklines are luvvvv. (Can you tell I spend all of my time in Excel?) I wish I had cool data like this from schooling-type rides, it would be cool to break it down and see things vs arenas, judges, weather, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha excel is like my playground. But yes taking all those other variables into consideration would be super cool too. I think that's a longer term project tho bc I don't think my current sample size is big enough to draw such granular conclusions (like I might only have one test representative of riding in rain - fair hill; and only two tests in extreme heat). It would be super cool tho!

      Delete
  5. OH my god I love this. I love numbers and assessing them and ohmygoodness. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha yay I'm not the only one! Definitely geeked out a little bit, but I'm glad it's interesting!

      Delete
  6. Interesting to break down the numbers! I freakin love the cat jump pic haha :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha I love that pic too. It speaks to everything important in my life lol

      Delete
  7. If we had learned it this way in school... I may have made it through a little bit better haha.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha right? just put everything in horse terms and suddenly it makes more sense

      Delete
  8. Cool! I enjoy see the stats of things, actually. I should do this when I have statistically measurable progress

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes definitely - keep all your old test sheets, they are great for revisiting later on and tracking progress!

      Delete
  9. OH MY... you didn't.... you didn't just go and make a hard core chart lol! That is great, really! So nice to see someone is more cray- cray than me.

    ...actually... well atleast just AS crazy, I just never thought of that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hahahahaha the crazy is strong over here, that's for sure :D

      Delete
  10. I love this. And I loved the post you linked to as well - I hadn't seen that! I took enough stats in college to be able to comprehend it well enough, but I didn't end up using it on a day to day basis at my job. That said, I would totally break out my old stats books for dressage! I think this a really good learning tool! If only teachers would just have taught me math in terms of ponies I would have paid attention way better in high school!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha i pretty much wish everything could be set in the context of ponies. life would be so much more interesting!!

      Delete