The equestrian community, like many other sports ecosystems, is suffering from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Riders, horses, and their coaches are not allowed to meet and tournaments around the world have been cancelled.

This was no different for CHIO Aachen, the World Equestrian Festival in Germany and a long-standing sports partner event for SAP.

It has also had an impact on equestrian fans and equestrian businesses, which are no longer traveling to the major equestrian competitions that for many are the main source of connection with the equestrian community.

What is unique about the international equestrian community is that the connections within this sport are built almost exclusively on the circuit of international shows each year. To help CHIO Aachen and the wider community stay connected, SAP and some long-trusted equestrian development partners reacted quickly and built a completely new digital setup for riders, coaches, and fans.

“We normally meet our partners and demonstrate our fan technology at events such as CHIO Aachen and, in 2020, it looked as though that was not going to be possible,” says Henrike Paetz, director of Strategic Partnerships in Equestrian for eXperience SAP. “This felt like a problem for a wider group because the shows really are the glue that ties the community together —  a tightly knit international ecosystem that includes the athletes, organizers, volunteers, commentators, media, judges, owners, scoring teams, sponsors, and many more.”

Within weeks, SAP and partners EquiRatings, Black Horse One, and others had adapted their traditional delivery of services and created tools to ease the issue of disconnection and demonstrate how sports disciplines can adapt to new circumstances and engage with each other in a digital environment.

At the same time, CHIO Aachen decided to go digital. Together with SAP and its partners, it turned the “Concours Hippique International Officiel” into the “Concours Hippique International Online,” taking place August 4–9, 2020.

The absence of live competition presented the biggest challenge, but using the latest SAP Predictive Analytics software allows event organizers to offer a simulated Eventing competition, with perhaps the best field ever seen. This outstanding concept provides the excitement of live competition with the key stories around the event derived from the predictions and presented in dedicated online shows by a professional commentary team.

Dubbed “Champion of Champions,” the new format brings together CHIO Aachen’s top finishers from 2006 through to 2019, plus some wildcards from the top 10 who gained their place via fan voting. The field is based on the data and strengths of each combination at the time of their Aachen finish. For example, based on 2006 data, Clayton Fredericks and Ben Along Time will be competing against Laura Collett and Rayef, based on 2012 data, all the way through to Ingrid Klimke and SAP Hale Bob in 2019. Twenty combinations were selected based on their previous Aachen finishes.

The simulated Eventing competition will take place on Friday, August 7, at 3:00 p.m. BST / 10:00 a.m. ET (dressage) and Saturday, August 8, at 2:00 p.m. BST / 9:00 a.m. ET (jumping phases).

To include the fans even more in the digital CHIO Aachen, the new Eventing Manager app adds the concept of fantasy sports to the simulated competitions. Available as a free download from the app stores, it allows fans to become a virtual manager and select their own “dream team” of four based on a dedicated budget. The market prices for the riders are driven by their win probabilities derived from the “SAP Prediction Center,” a new statistical model that calculates both before and during a competition how riders are likely to score and what their chances of winning are. They can use the app to play against their friends in their own private leagues, compete for their country in the League Challenge, and join featured leagues of various brands and organizations for even more chances to win great prizes. The app is fully built on SAP technology such as SAP Cloud Platform, SAP HANA, SAP Predictive Analytics, and Experience Management solutions from SAP and Qualtrics.

Also available in Aachen is eDressage, powered by SAP. This paperless scoring solution, developed by and with partner Black Horse One, allows unrivaled real-time scoring.

“Especially in these challenging times, eDressage allows for effective social distancing, a significant reduction of risks by more than halving the number of people necessary to do dressage scoring,” explains Daniel Göhlen, managing director of Black Horse One. “Before COVID-19, it was already the most popular scoring solution for dressage, and we are proud that is has proven even more valuable at CHIO Aachen.”

Additionally, spectators can become active as well and jump into the judge’s seat with the Spectator Judging Fan Engagement App powered by SAP in cooperation with the CHIO Aachen.

Along with the digital CHIO Aachen event in 2020, a groundbreaking Virtual Training and Feedback Platform has been developed and implemented together with Black Horse One in record time, helping both the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and the German National Federation (FN) provide a digital channel for their athletes. It facilitates the upload of videos, review, commentary, official scoring, and related communication between all parties. Further National Federations are currently in the process of adopting the system as well. SAP will leverage the platform to run the annual “Ingrid Klimke Training Event” as a virtual experience later in the year.

As an additional virtual meeting point, the #RidersConnected campaign and platform uses SAP technology to connect riders, fans, and business of the equestrian world. The campaign has its own Website that features video updates, training tips, and blogs from the best athletes in the world. It is updated daily and fans use the #ridersconnected hashtag to stay involved.

“The campaign is about giving people a base, a home, while we are without the normal mechanisms for staying in touch,” says Diarmuid Byrne, managing director of EquiRatings. “If we can help in any way to bring people closer, the campaign will be serving its purpose.”

Being physically apart can be difficult. But riders, fans, and friends from the equestrian community — in every country and at every level — know the importance of staying connected and supporting each other.

The combined efforts of SAP, CHIO Aachen, and their equestrian partners have shown how technology can help maintain these connections, even in times of crisis.

Top image of CHIO Aachen Showjumping copyright Arnd Bronkhorst.