Equestrian Dressage Goes Digital

Equestrian dressage is an art. It takes a skilled eye and a thorough understanding of horse training to see and appreciate the small nuances that turn a ride into a truly great performance. Despite the high level of mastery required for the discipline and the international audience it attracts, dressage long remained stuck in a traditional environment — until SAP partner Black Horse One set out to shake up the status quo.

In dressage, horses must train for at least eight years before they compete in a top international class where they are scored by up to seven judges who provide marks on up to 37 elements of a performance. With complex and paper-based scoring, this process required dozens of support staff to note, collect, distribute, and calculate results. At times, official scores took longer to be announced than the competition took to move on to the next rider, limiting the experience for fans, commentators, and athletes alike.

As media interest declined and audience engagement reduced to die-hard enthusiasts, the need for digitalization became clear.

With the introduction of e-scoring, fan engagement apps, and a virtual training platform, Black Horse One has revolutionized equestrian sports since 2017.

Innovation Success Streak

Together with the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and renowned dressage judge Katrina Wuest, Black Horse One collaborated with SAP to develop and enhance a rich portfolio of innovative applications – based on SAP HANA Cloud and powered by SAP Business Technology Platform.

eDressage™ has successfully transformed paper-based processes into a digital and sustainable judging solution that enables real-time, on-the-go results. With digital scoresheets, freestyle flow analyses, standardized scoring, and a new dressage dashboard, users can compare the performance of horses at multiple events and from the perspective of different judges to identify areas for improvement.

The Spectator Judging® mobile app has tapped into audiences both on-site and at home for the first time, making fan engagement an integral part of the event. The app places users in the judging seat with the ability to co-score competitions alongside official judges and see predictions displayed in real-time on arena screens. The FEI has since adapted the concept to bring dressage into the world of fantasy sports via a dedicated ‘FEI eLeague’ for each FEI Dressage World Cup™ season.

“Choosing the SAP Business Technology Platform for our central services meant that we efficiently and effortlessly scaled with the demand. Today, more than half of all international dressage shows use our solutions,” said Daniel Goehlen founder of Black Horse One, alumni of the Technical University of Munich, and Grand Prix level dressage rider. “We strive to provide additional value on top of the data already received, and with new possibilities arising through machine learning, we will help to bring even more stats and analytics to fans in creative ways.”

Training at Home with Expert Advice

When the pandemic hit, riders found themselves with few options to stay connected to the equestrian community or continue their training and development. Black Horse One and SAP bridged this gap by introducing an online training platform called “Equestrian on Demand” to the FEI and various national federations. The platform allows athletes to upload videos of their rides for review by highly qualified judges and trainers worldwide. The valuable feedback attained has quickly evolved the tool into an invaluable companion for riders of all levels.

SAP employee Nadja Mayer recently had the opportunity to test the German National Federation (FN) version of the platform called “FN Level Up” to receive training tips from her idol Ingrid Klimke, SAP ambassador and Olympic champion.

“It was a great experience to seamlessly receive Ingrid’s virtual feedback on my showjumping. As a rider it’s amazing to know SAP technology is also supporting my sports passions,” Mayer says.

Watch the value of the platform brought to life below:

FN Level Up / INGRID KLIMKE reviews my ride

Click the button below to load the content from YouTube.

FN Level Up / INGRID KLIMKE reviews my ride

To learn more about SAP technology in equestrian sports, visit the SAP Global Sponsorships page.


Henrike Paetz is head of Equestrian Partners for Global Sponsorships at SAP.