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Digitization with Extra Horsepower

September 4, 2015 by Lynda Seger 12

Equestrian sports fans became judges at the European Championships in Aachen – they’ve never been closer to riders and horses.

On the edge of their seats, spectators shift their eyes between horse and rider and their smartphone. How will the riders’ dressage be rated by the judges? Is the horse’s position correct? And what about the number of steps taken? Many visitors are holding their smartphones or tablets in their hand to find out which dressage lesson is about to take place and which elements are called for. And they eagerly type their very own grading into their mobile device. After the ride they can see how close their rating matches that of the judges.

More than 470 athletes from 40 nations, 720 horses and a total audience of around 450,000: The FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) European Championships were the largest sporting event in Germany this year. As technology sponsor, SAP, working with event organizer Aachener Reitturnier, played a major role in giving equestrian sports fans the feeling of being in the saddle themselves – along with an opportunity to judge the performances.

SAP’s Aachen 2015 Event App, which provided much more than just general information about the program and the show grounds: dressage and vaulting fans, in particular, had the opportunity to participate more than ever before. The “Audience Judging” feature let the audience sit in the virtual judge’s chair and rate the world’s best riders live, in parallel to the official judges. They could also use the app to check the rules and access the latest rankings and results. More than 100,000 ratings for the individual elements of the events show how well this feature was received.

On the cross country day, fans took an excursion to the legendary Aachen Soers grounds to watch their favorites negotiate the nearly four-kilometer-long obstacle course. Since much of the action on the course takes place out of sight of the audience it has been difficult sometimes to maintain crowd enthusiasm.

Now riders wore helmet cameras and specially designed data loggers on their arms which beamed speed and position information back over a WiFi network to fans’ smartphones nearly instantly. Combined with additional information on riders, horses, the course, and its obstacles, fans were able to follow their favorites up close and in real-time.

The video feed from rider’s helmet cameras, coupled with position and speed data acquired during the events were displayed for everyone to see. Riders also benefitted: “In 2014, only seven German riders used data loggers during the eventing competition; the number jumped to 32 this year. As an active user of our technology, Ingrid Klimke (SAP Ambassador) is perfectly suited to promote it,” explains Stephan Daub, project manager at SAP. With this new format, “viewers feel like they are sitting in the saddle themselves.”

Ingrid Klimke triumphed in the competition, taking both first and second place with her two horses Horseware Hale Bob and FRH Escada JS. She sees major potential in these new applications: “SAP Equestrian Analytics helps us to get our fans closer to the sport than has ever been possible.”

Back in the Saddle Again

The event organizers are also full of praise for the collaboration: “Digitization in equestrian sports is becoming more and more important for fans and riders,” says Michael Mronz, Managing Director of Aachener Reitturnier. “Having a strong partner like SAP at our side is an unbeatable advantage in the development of innovative offerings to make the sport more transparent and hands-on – and thus more exciting – for our fans.” And the event organizers are already thinking about how digitization can be integrated in the events even better in future.

SAP was also the sponsor of this year’s U25 Jumping Trophy, which gives show-jumpers age 25 and younger the opportunity to gather valuable sport experience at the top tournaments. The trophy was won by Guido Klatte on Coolio, his eight-year-old Oldenburg, who, after winning the first two courses, also finished first in the final course with a lead of more than three seconds over the next-placed competitor.

SAP and Equestrian Sport

Since 2012, SAP has served as technology sponsor of CHIO Aachen and continued as this year’s sponsor of the FEI European Championships 2015. The Fédération Equestre Internationale is the international umbrella organization for equestrian sports. Medals are awarded in the disciplines of dressage, jumping, driving, vaulting, and reining.

The Aachen 2015 app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

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