Jun 15, 2020

How Strong is Your Preliminary Game?

KTB Creative Group Photo.

How competitive have your Preliminary results been, where do you stand among your peers, and what scores should you be aiming for if a top finish is your goal? EquiRatings takes a statistical look at the USEA Preliminary level to help you evaluate your game. Stay tuned for the rest of the levels as they are released monthly!

How are people scoring at Preliminary?

Our first go-to is Zone Analysis. Zone Analysis is a great way to see how people are scoring, both overall and per-phase. Use these graphs to evaluate how you’ve been scoring relative to your Preliminary peers. We get you started with a few bullet-point takeaways below.

The Show Jumping Zones and the Cross-Country Zones include time and jumping penalties.

A few graph takeaways

Finishing Score Zones

  • Sub-28 Zone: Only 1 in 50 (2%) Preliminary starters finish sub-28.
  • 60+ Zone: On the other end of the spectrum, 1 in 5 Preliminary starters (20%) finish in the 60+ zone.
  • 36 to 50 Zones: About 1 in 3 Preliminary starters (35%) finish in the 36 to 50 range.
  • 50+ Zones: About another 1 in 3 Preliminary starters (34%) finish on a score of 50 or higher.
  • DNF: Out of every 20 Preliminary starters, 3 do not finish the competition (15%).
  • Sub-36 Zones: Similar to the DNF zone, about 3 in 20 Preliminary starters (16%), finish sub 36.0.

Per-Phase Zones

Note: The Show Jumping Zones and the Cross-Country Zones include time and jumping penalties.

  • 1 in 10 Preliminary starters (10%) earns a sub-28 dressage score.
  • Nearly half of Preliminary starters (47%) produce a dressage score in the 31 to 37 range.
  • Most Preliminary starters (65%) earn 4 or fewer show jumping penalties.
  • 1 in 5 Preliminary cross-country starters (20%) finish clear and inside the time.
  • About half (49%) of Preliminary cross-country starts finish with 8 or fewer penalties.
  • Over 1 in 10 (11%) Preliminary cross-country starts do not complete the phase.

What does it take to place high at Preliminary?

We all know that eventing is about putting all three phases together to finish strong, but what is a strong finish? What does it take to earn a top placing and how does a performance in a single phase affect your overall competitiveness? Here we show you the results achieved by first and third place finishers so you know what a top performance looks like.

TOP FINISHING SCORES

A few takeaways

  • 50% of Preliminary winners finish on a sub-32 score.
  • About 1 in 5 Preliminary winners (21%) finish sub-28. However, that same percentage of winners come from the 32 to 36 zone.
  • Only 3 in 20 third-place finishers (15%) earn a sub-32 score.
  • A Preliminary score in the 32 to 45 range still gives you a strong chance at a third-place finish. 3 out of 5 (60%) third-place finishers come from this range.

Top Dressage Results

What does a strong start look like at the Preliminary level?

Final Position

Average
Dressage Score

Started as
Dressage Leader

Started 10 Marks or Less from Dressage Leader

Started More Than 10 Marks From Dressage Leader

Winner

30.0

37.0%

60.6%

2.4%

3rd Place

32.9

8.0%

77.8%

14.2%

Using 2017 – 2019 Prelim data.

A few takeaways

  • The average dressage score of a Preliminary competition winner is 30.
  • The majority of eventual competition winners (about 3 in 5 or 61%) are not the dressage leader but are within 10 marks of the leader after the first phase. The same can be said for third-place finishers with nearly 4 in 5 (78%) coming from within 10 marks of the dressage leader.
  • Only about 2% of eventual competition winners come from more than 10 marks behind the dressage leader.

Top Show Jumping Results

Can you afford to knock a pole?

Final Position

0 Show Jumping Penalties

1 to 4 Show Jumping Penalties

5 or More Show Jumping Penalties

Winner

73.0%

19.3%

7.7%

3rd Place

50.7%

30.8%

18.5%

Using 2017 – 2019 Preliminary data. This table includes show jumping time penalties and jumping penalties.

A few takeaways

  • A clean show jumping round is critical to your chance of winning at the Preliminary level. Nearly 3 out of 4 competition winners (73.0%) keep all the rails up and finish under time.
  • Nearly half of third-place finishers (49.3%) do incur show jumping faults but, of these, most incur just 1 to 4 penalties.

Top Cross-Country Results

Do you need to be clear inside the time?

Final Position

Clear Inside the Time

Average Cross-Country Time Penalties

Winner

54%

2.2

3rd Place

33%

4.7

Using 2017 – 2019 Preliminary data.

A few takeaways

  • We know a clean jumping cross-country round is critical to success, but only about half of Preliminary winners finish cross-country clear and inside the time.
  • Across all Preliminary winners, the average time penalties is just 2.2 (5-6 seconds over the time).
  • 1 in 3 third-place finishers complete cross-country clear and inside the time.
  • Across all third-place finishers, the average time penalties is 4.7 (about 12 seconds over the time).

What are the 2019 record performances?

Lastly, we have pulled the 2019 Preliminary record dressage scores and record finishing scores. There are some recognizable names on these lists but also some combinations who may not always make the eventing headlines. Take a look – these numbers might be your reach goals!

How can you use these numbers?

Looking at these types of peer analyses allows you to gain clarity and set measurable targets. Measurable targets are so valuable! They help you purposefully improve by working toward a concrete target and gauging your progress toward the bullseye. Of course, long-term goal-setting is not about comparison; you have to stay in your lane or risk being robbed of fulfillment. But these comparison metrics do help you locate yourself among your peers so you know where you stand. From there, you can set realistic targets that can serve as rewarding stepping stones in your journey.

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