What’s the Point(s)?

I admit that I have a bit of a hard time caring about year end awards. Back in the day (gosh, maybe 15 years ago now) when I was caught up in the oh so competitive world of our local h/j circuit, I definitely cared. Gotta show in the same divisions all year so you can get more points, definitely always do the under saddle even if you only get a low ribbon because every point counts, look through the points the second they’re posted online, and so on and so on and so on. It only took a couple years of that for me to realize how absolutely idiotic it was. If you went to every single horse show you’d end up racking up enough points to get a year end award pretty much default, and what did that really prove? You’re good at filling out a show entry?

This feels like a completely different lifetime ago now

You’d also see people entering tons of classes, trying to rack up rider points. There’s a time at which you cross the line into excessive and I’ll go out on a limb here and say that 20+ classes in a weekend is well beyond that. Sometimes it was just… ridiculous. I’ve seen people make some seriously bad decisions for themselves and their horse just in the sake of trying to rack up as many points as they can get, and it left a sour taste. When I really thought about it the whole thing just didn’t sit right with me, and I’ve never chased points since.

And while I definitely don’t think you see this situation as much in eventing – after all, you only have one opportunity for points per show – I have seen people enter more shows than they otherwise might in order to try to get more points. The whole “quantity” method of point tabulation has never seemed like the best way. It feels like we’re rewarding the wrong thing. I felt like I’d always rather see some kind of average, or a different way of doing the math that didn’t just go for sheer quantity.

It seems I’m not the only one that thought that way, because this week USEA announced that they’ll be changing the way they tabulate points, going from a basic quantity method to a “quality” method. It’s a bit complicated and intricate (details here if you want to read) but basically it calculates only the rider’s top 6 results, and they have to be MER’s in order to be counted.

so the 2nd place we got at Henry’s very first event when just about everyone died would not have counted for points because it wasn’t an MER. I’m totally ok with that.
or the 6th we eked out at Chatt when pretty much the whole division ran into trouble – that wasn’t an MER either, so no points

I definitely like this method better, although I still think it doesn’t really dissuade the folks who want to show their horses’ legs off in order to get more points. They could still just go to tons of shows in a quest for getting the best “top 6 results” they possibly can. Then again, I think (hope?) those types of people are few and far between in this sport. It does, however, kind of even up the playing field a bit for the people who can’t afford to show as much, if their performances are good. If you only show a handful of times a year but hit it out of the park every time, you now actually stand a chance in the year end points against people who are showing every other weekend. This points method isn’t foolproof or perfect, but it’s definitely an improvement, IMO. It seems more fair all around.

It’s interesting to think about how this method might work in the h/j world though… would it? Theirs is far more complicated, given all the classes and the fact that they have no such thing as MER’s. And at the end of the day would it even really change anything with the true pointchasers? Meh… I’m not sold on that one.

I won’t even pretend to understand how the dressage world does its awards, I feel like they’ve got special prizes and awards for literally every scenario. Ride a one-eyed Bashkir Curly that never scores over 50%? There’s probably an award for that, and it likely includes a wine glass. (Joking, dressage people, don’t get mad at me. Ok I’m not really joking, y’all seriously love your awards. And wine.)

What do you think of the new changes? If you’re not an eventer, do you think something similar could apply to your discipline, and do you think it would be better or worse?

11 thoughts on “What’s the Point(s)?

      1. ha same will have to read to find what the f a Mer is as well. Quinn (The horse not the dog) is that him? I liked him a lot! also I did the chase points as a teenage (Western Pleasure but still) UGH it was EXHAUSTING and I Figured out fast it was not as fun as I thought it would be. Esp if you didnt get enough entries for the points to count. UGH bring back bad memories. HA!

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    1. MERs? Surely some sort of aquatic thing… I keep thinking of the scene in Zoolander when Derek’s commercial as a mer-person airs while he’s in the bar with his coal-slinging brothers and father. They call him a mermaid and he cries, “MER-MAN! MER-MAAAN!”
      I could go look at the article I guess, but then I’d lose my mental image of MER-horses in the water jump.

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  1. I know plenty of ppl who have chased HOTY awards in the hunter/jumper world and you hit the nail on the head. They just show and show and show and show and show and show and show and show and show and show, and hope to the points gods they got it at the end of the year. What gets me, is that it appears that a HOTY award is really seen for what it is, someone just showed their horse’s legs off to get it. Winning a big show like Devon or WEF or Indoors is far more prestigious than a HOTY. I think the people who really want those high point awards are always going to do what they have to do to win them and often their horse isn’t fancy enough to win the big fancy shows.
    I think this is why USHJA has tried to do more “Championship” type shows to appeal to those who can’t go to or win at the super competitive, best-of-the-best shows, but they still have something to work for and can be competitive without going to 5 million shows.
    I showed AQHA as a youth and I always like their World Championship show qualification strategy. You qualified be either achieving a certain number of points in a specific timeframe, usually achievable by going to a few well attended shows and placing well, or you could obtain one of your State’s 2 spots. I showed in Montana and there were never enough shows to qualify by points, but I was able to qualify in my State’s spots a few times. People with more resources would show out-of-state to qualify by points.
    I think this strategy could translate to hunter/jumper land, but there would have to be ONE big show at the conclusion of the show year. AQHA divides their World Championship shows into Youth, Amateur/Open (same as Pro) and since I quit showing have added one for ammie riders over 50. They also have well attended Regional championship shows. I think hunter/jumper land could do something like this and end up with special shows for people who don’t travel all across the country.
    I like the eventing change, but I don’t event so don’t know much about it really. It’ll be interesting to see if it changes the behaviour of participants like they hope it will.

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  2. I’ve been doing a lot of local schooling shows recently because they’re a lot cheaper for me and because my horse has needed some stadium seasoning, and I actually really like how they’ve been doing their points. While it is quantity rather than quality, the shows around here generally do winter or summer series that are composed of three to four shows over three or four months, and awards are given at the last show of the series. You generally have to show in 2 shows to qualify (and at these jumper shows, you can definitely win even if you only go to two shows) and horse/rider combinations, while allowed to compete in two consecutive divisions, are generally discouraged from over jumping. It’s quite nice, especially for the younger juniors who really enjoy the year end awards.

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  3. Just speaking as a dressage rider.

    I don’t really care about year end awards. My goal is to earn my bronze on my self-trained ottb. Which will take as long as it takes. I only go to a couple recognized shows each year but I do my best to be ultra prepared so I get the percentages I want.

    I do very strongly care about wine though!

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  4. I do competitive trail with NATRC. A quick note about the sport: rides are usually 2-day, sometimes 1-day (but you don’t get as many points for those), and are located across the region/country. So for me in Denver, Colorado, in a pre-COVID ride year, I’d have 2 nearby rides (~2 hour haul), maybe one that’s a 5-hour haul, and everything else is 8+ hours (in New Mexico, Kansas, or Nebraska). So to be in the running for any sort of award, you have to travel A LOT.

    There are quite a few national-level awards: many have to do with points, but some are “high average” where they take your average score of all of your rides (I think you have to do a minimum of 5 rides to qualify? I don’t know, I’ve never been good enough to be in the running). The most common award and the one I like the most is a “National Championship”. There is no limit to how many people can win this award: if you fulfill the requirements, you win one. The requirements are either 2 first places or one first place and 2 second places, AS WELL AS accumulating 75 points. One of the placings has to be out of state or region: so you have to make at least one of those longer hauls (though it might be shorter if you live in, say, Georgia and travel to a ride in Florida). The points awarded depend on how many folks are in a class: so if there’s 6 or more people, you’d get 16 points for a first place, but only 6 points if you’re the only one. Filling classes is a thing of the past since it’s a bit of a niche sport, so a class of 4-5 people is considered awesome. For most people, it takes 6-8 rides to get a National Championship, which, if you’re working, pretty much sucks up all your vacation time for a year to travel 8 hours to rides…You also don’t gain anything for that specific award by accumulating more than 75 points. You’ll have a better shot at overall high point awards with more points, but that’s a different award. Doing more rides can hurt you if you’re going for the high average awards, especially if you happen to ride under a low-scoring judge, or have to pull from the ride (as they count if you start regardless of if you complete), or just have a bad weekend.

    The highest award (called the President’s Cup) has actually changed over the years: it used to be just “the most points”, then they realized that favored those that had the means to compete literally every weekend in a different state, so they capped it at 16 rides (which still pretty much requires you to be retired, or VERY mobile with your telecommuting). They’ve also changed it to require 2 rides out of region, because the South region has enough rides that you could potentially stay within the region and win, which isn’t fair to those of us out west who have 8-10 hours between our rides. Basically, this is an award won by wealthy retirees: the folks who can not only afford the big living quarters trailer to begin with, but who can also afford to actually live in it for weeks on end travelling around the country. Sounds fun, but beyond the practical reach of most of us. I think the last person who won it while being employed relied on his wife to drive the horse to the ride site and then he’d fly in to the nearest airport after work on Thursday so he only took one day off to compete, even far away (read between the lines here, this cost a hell of a lot of money!)

    It’s a different sport for sure, and you really don’t see people “chasing points”: in large part because most of us just don’t have the ability to drive for a day, compete for 2 days, then drive for another day. Work gets in the way, and that cost of fuel really adds up!

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  5. I like that idea. Top however many shows seems more reasonable. That is actually how they determine who gets into indoors and Devon. Your top however many shows, not all of your shows. (I can’t remember the number they take, and it’s probably different from when I was involved in any of that back in the 90’s…)
    I’m not one to chase points. Horse welfare aside, I have a full time job and not an endless bank account. But I do enjoy a beautiful long ribbon… not gonna lie about that! We have so many local associations around here that when I was doing Jampy in the equitation I was able to snag a bunch of year end prizes without showing all that much. It wasn’t the most competitive division which helped. Does it really mean anything about my abilities as a rider? NOPE! Not a thing. But I do like my “Champion” fly sheets and long ribbons. Lol.

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  6. That’s such a positive change! I don’t mind the local show series who give accumulating points to encourage people to come back to the next one, but it would feel weird on a national scale if people were able to essentially buy a championship. I don’t think we have breed specific dressage awards here, perhaps I need a USDF membership! Events are so few here I can’t imagine anyone being able to overdo it, pretty much everyone just goes to every event lol

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