The great and terrible thing about transparency 

One of my favorite things about the USEA website is being able to search by horse or by rider and pull up their entire competition record. One of my least favorite things about the USEA website is how anyone can search by horse or rider and pull up my or my horse’s entire competition record. Lots of data is awesome, until there’s something you’d rather everyone not see.


I feel pretty protective of my horse’s USEA record. I’m not really sure why… he’s not a sale horse at the moment, and he’s not headed to any kind of upper level or team competition. It’s not like he has phenomenal dressage or always jumps a clear stadium, and I certainly have nothing to prove his pilot. I just love scrolling down that page and seeing 0 XC penalties. Probably really weird, but I do. Even though he’s ridden mostly by me, so any mistakes on his record would be easily chalked up to rider error.

But this isn’t quite like a USEF or USDF record where you have several classes per show, and several chances to fix mistakes. One show, one score, no redemption. Permanently. It’s why, after a few stops, a lot of people choose to retire instead of make that one last attempt and get an E. It’s why, with a young horse, a lot of pros won’t bring it to a recognized show until they feel pretty confident that it’ll get around. Leave the baby mistakes at home or at an unrecognized, ie “off the record”.


Of course, if I was shopping for a horse, being able to pull up it’s entire show history is totally fantastic. Sometimes it shows you a pattern or a weakness. Granted, it only tells you a part of the story. Sometimes the score just doesn’t reflect what really happened.

So basically, I have a love/hate relationship with our results database. Henry had a 20 at his very first event in 2014 when he just didn’t understand the question. Since then, clear. I like that, I’m proud of him for that, and I think it tells you a lot about how genuine he is, so I’m protective of it. But then again, I think… it’s been BN and N. Let’s be honest, it’s just not that hard to go clear at BN and N.


He has a clear T on his record now thanks to Trainer, but now it’s my turn. I know it’s ridiculously silly to feel even a minute amount of pressure to keep his record “clean”, and probably really unlikely. I should probably focus more on, like, not dying. Things just get harder as you go up, and it becomes more difficult for him to overcome my mistakes. Plus, if I mess up THAT badly, it’s often the safer thing for the horse to say “um no, that’s actually not safe”, and I would definitely rather he do that if it’s the right choice. But still. I like 0’s.

Am I the only one with a crazy irrational rider obsession like this, feeling some kind of overprotective quality of what goes on a horse’s public record? I’ll let it go someday…


17 thoughts on “The great and terrible thing about transparency 

  1. No, not at all.

    Endurance riders and the horses they were on is public record too. Made worse that should you ask a question or give an opinion on Facebook, people will go look up your record and JUDGE if your opinion is worth anything based on your distance/place/completions.

    I KNOW people judge me based on my records as an endurance rider (1 lameness [stone bruise] and 2 Over-Times [I would rather OT than over-ride my horse]). And I know that they think less of me. But then, I think; “Hey, at least I don’t have a metabolic pull” and I realize I’m just as bad as “they” are. But I fear when that happens, because it’ll go on my record too and then MORE judgement.

    Vicious circle.


    1. I agree with Erin. Facebook endurance riders can be brutal and love to look up ride records. I do think it is important to know the experience level of someone giving you advice, but there are an awful lot of people who have a wonderful knowledge base, but can’t afford the time or money for competitions. It is a shame to write someone off just because they don’t have the miles. On the other hand, if you have never even stepped foot on an endurance course or at another discipline’s show, you really can’t go spouting off things because you really don’t know.


  2. I’ve only shown hunter/jumper, and honestly, I didn’t show rated until … now. So while I like to go back and look at records on USEF, for me it’s really not that big of a deal to me. But I could see how in Eventing it’s much, much difference.


  3. I’m still muddling around the world of dressage schooling shows but I am definitely guilty of looking people up on Centerline scores. It’s how I vet potential trainers and clinicians. But I also know that it’s not going to tell the whole story, so I try to weigh it with other factors as well.

    I think it’s perfectly natural to feel protective over what is publicly available about your horse, and want them to put their best hoof forward (so to speak).


  4. I can’t lie. I judge people on their dressage record. It’s not always as negative as the word “judge” connotates, but I do look almost everyone up. My own record is “meh”. I’m happy with the overall improvement my scores have shown, though. And my horse isn’t a sales horse (ever), so I don’t mind a few sub 60s on his record. I think our scores show us to be a hardworking pair trying hard to be the best we can. I feel zero shame for anyone with scores in the 50s, especially their first time out at a level. And if someone’s record is low with one horse and high with another, I think that tells an interesting story.

    TL;DR: Data is concrete evidence of a story, that’s all. One low score doesn’t define you or your horse.

    I do, however, judge negatively someone presenting themselves as an expert or a trainer with a questionable or non existent record. If someone is going to suggest that they are a “dressage trainer” or a “good rider” I expect to see the results. If someone is going to loudly put down my experience or my riding, you can damn well be certain I will be looking them up and seeing how their record compares to mine. And if I’m looking for a trainer of my own, I’ll be examining each potential trainer’s scores to ensure they have proven themselves capable (at least at the levels I’ll be learning from them!!). It’s due diligence.

    Another thing I like to look at with scores is seeing how relationships exist between a rider and his/her horse. Often you can see riders that have long lasting relationships, developing a horse. You can also see riders that struggle with the wrong horse, then move on to something more suitable. In the worst case, you can see riders that go through a ton of horses either through injury, mismanagement, or lack of rider skills/awareness. Those are the people to stay away from.


  5. oddly enough this has been a topic on my mind a lot lately. quite the strange coincidence considering i have never actually competed in a recognized event lol…. so obvi my opinions here are all hypothetical (not that that’s ever stopped me. so also please excuse very long forthcoming comment!).

    basically i have two minds: on the one hand i agree with some of thinking about ‘well it’s my horse and it’s not for sale and it doesn’t really matter what the score looks like bc i don’t really care what anybody else thinks.’

    but on the other hand, my competition record might not include anything recognized but i still keep very close track of literally every little outcome thereof. i’m a data hoarder, what can i say. but i *use* that data, it informs my understanding of how i’m doing. sure – sometimes good events reflect poorly on paper… but generally we are scored by what that paper says, and if we are consistently doing poorly on paper… that’s a sign (one of these days i’ll have to do a fun little infographic of how this season panned out for us….).

    my general assertion being: the margin of error decreases as complexity increases. things that were not an issue for us a 2’6″ may very well be an issue at 3′, and training holes are only amplified up the levels. as much as i would love to gloss over some of those training holes, there’s no sense rushing past them bc they will (and have) only come back to bite us in the ass.

    anyway long story short – i don’t think these records are the full story, but they are an important story. and it’s a shame to have to explain away a spotty record for a good horse, when a clean record will often speak for itself.


  6. the struggle is real. i actually told my trainer before my show this weekend that I hoped it went horribly, because I had been feeling too much pressure since runkle freakin WON the last two we entered. I can’t have that on my mind — christ what if we were first after dressage and then i lost it for him because of some shitty ride?

    i actually like my angry red mare who always had us in last better. 0 pressure.


  7. I feel super protective over my record as a rider and both of my horse’s records. I’ve only ever scored below 60 three times and I want to keep it like that. I’m not sure why I care so much, I’m slowly stepping out of the world of being a professional and it shouldn’t matter as much. And I knew I was retiring my GP horse after he was done so I could have relaxed a bit on him.

    My young horse is a sale horse, but I know that in the long run, a couple scores in the 50s at his first shows at training won’t affect my ability to sell him later on. But I’m still thinking that I’ll wait until next spring to show, rather than pushing to show this fall or winter, even though he’ll probably be ready. I’m over cautious!


  8. USHJA and USDF have records readily available, and it was highly useful for me when I was trying to find out more about my old lease’s background. Last time she showed, she pulled mainly 50s, but had gone into the 60s and 70s prior to that, so I knew there might be some bad habits to correct. I don’t have any records available online (at least not that I know of), but if I did, I’d probably obsess over them, too. I definitely understand wanting to keep the record “clean”. However, competition results – especially for those who get anxious in show settings – aren’t always an accurate measure of skill. Good riding is good riding.


  9. No one likes to see something less than perfect on their record. Totally get that. Especially if down the road you decided it was time to sell Henry, of course you want to him to appear perfect on paper. But honestly, things happen, and more often than not (for me anyway) they happen at shows. Just go out there and do your thing!
    That said, I totally check out horses’ records online if I’m thinking of buying. It was really fun when I was getting Jampy to see all the things he did in Europe. I am still amazed that he showed 1.5M… (Seriously, he’s so lazy.) But as a buyer, I wouldn’t let a bad day at a show be a deal breaker if it’s not a consistent issue. We all have bad shows and bad days.


  10. I absolutely feel this in my soul. Right now I have an incredibly green rider riding Yankee around and his scores are literally god awful. He will never be for sale, but for potential leases, it might be a turn off to see scores roundabout 45…makes me cringe. Its freaky how permanent scoring is, and the fact that it truly does not tell the whole story sucks. Just by looking at the numbers you don’t know what the weather was like, the footing, how the horse felt that day, who was riding, etc etc. Interesting and thought provoking post!


  11. I’m protective of Penn’s scores… he may or may not be a sale horse eventually (I hope not, I really like him!). It’s why he showed so often over the winter- I wanted to get him a ton of schooling show (off the record) experience. Looking back at my old horse’s scores makes me cringe- they aren’t all that great. We were medal hunting on a limited budget, with a horse who was maxed out at 3rd level and in his final couple years of showing. Once I got the scores at one level, I’d skip on to the next because it was just dressage… not like I was going to get myself killed on XC or anything. I have a bunch of 59’s, and some good scores, but several 53-57%. Money plays a part in the limited scores available. The scores definitely don’t tell our whole story. My record has a large time gap… well what you don’t see is that my horse had surgery to fix his hock, then died before we made it back out to a recognized show. Then I was bringing along my new horse. It’s hard not to look up scores and make a judgement based on what you see there. That said, I look up scores all the time. Penn has some excellent scores on his recognized record- just one bobble in his first recognized show.


  12. Coming from H/J land, I appreciate being able to see the scores as it’s helpful to vet the “successful “A” circuit horse” claims. You can tell if successful meant 3rd out of 3 or 9th out of 50. You can see how many classes it took to get a good ribbon, etc. You can see if there was a long break in showing with the same owner which prompts questions about injuries, etc. With show experience increasing price, it’s important to know what that experience consists of.

    On the other hand, I think you can read to much into it. That gap in the record could mean the rider was taking a break rather than an injury. A DNP in a decent sized class could just mean there was good company that day.

    When judging the rider, there are so many factors that play into whether someone really is knowledgeable that I wouldn’t rely too much on a record. There are enough riders with good records that don’t have the horsemanship knowledge and there are riders with a lot of knowledge with limited records. I prefer to listen to someone’s advice and/or watch how they ride/manage their horses and then make my decisions from there. If either isn’t up to par, well… The cost of showing H/J these days really does exclude a lot of very knowledgeable people from participating and they instead chose options where they can have fun on a smaller budget. I imagine that is different in eventing where 1)the events are not as expensive and 2)it seems people usually end up at recognized events at some point.


  13. I never really cared about my record with Houston bc I just wanted to survive but I feel the same about Annie now. She is honest and brave and I really want her record to reflect that. We have an E from our first event and now I would love for her to keep a clean record. Gotta improve that dressage though. Our second event they tried to give me a stop and I refuted? And they agreed that the jump judge was mistaken because breaking to the trot into the water isn’t a stop as there was no stop of forward motion or side steps.

    Hopefully as we move forward I will be able to give Annie the ride she deserves so that her record will reflect what a good little ginger she is. While I don’t plan to sell her I want to make sure that she does have a positive record and experience should it be required down the road.


  14. I think transparency is awesome! It is OK if there is something not the best, as long as it isn’t being misrepresented. That’s what I hate. Someone claiming they or their horse has done x when they’ve done y. It’s OK to acknowledge history. It is just what happened. But trying to pretend your BN horse did T, or as a trainer you’re implying you’ve taken a horse P when you’ve never left the yard… that is what gets me more than bad scores.


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