Horse Show Assignments: An Insider's View
The Knollwood Summer academy show is coming up quickly on August 19-21, and preparations are in full swing for 100 riders to join us for a weekend of horse showing.
Class rosters are set, and horse assignments have been completed. The process of horse assignments is one of the most challenging of the year, and we’d like to provide a peek behind te curtin to share some of the thought behind the mystery.
The process has many variables and is called "Fuzzy Logic". Yup, you heard that right.
Here’s the definition of the strategy:
Fuzzy logic is a form of many-valued logic in which the truth value of variables may be any real number between 0 and 1. It is employed to handle the concept of partial truth, where the truth value may range between completely true and completely false. By contrast, in Boolean logic, the truth values of variables may only be the integer values 0 or 1.
The term fuzzy logic was introduced with the 1965 proposal of fuzzy set theory by Iranian Azerbaijani Turk mathematician Lotfi Zadeh. Fuzzy logic had, however, been studied since the 1920s, as infinite-valued logic—notably by Łukasiewicz and Tarski.
Fuzzy logic is based on the observation that people make decisions based on imprecise and non-numerical information. Fuzzy models or sets are mathematical means of representing vagueness and imprecise information (hence the term fuzzy). These models have the capability of recognising, representing, manipulating, interpreting, and using data and information that are vague and lack certainty.
Fuzzy logic has been applied to many fields, from control theory to artificial intelligence and up to and including horse assignments for academy shows.
It is pretty geeky, which comes as no surprise, as we want to make it as fair as possible. If your eyes are already glazing over, you might want to move on to the ‘What’s Coming Up’ section of the blog. But don't!
Horse assignments start the day after entries are due, and the shirt order has been sent to our friends at Wild Impact Marketing.
Each rider has selected four horses that they’d like to ride. It’s important that riders fill in all four blanks, because with fewer options, the assignment gurus may be forced to go ‘off the charts’ for a horse selection. Do yourself a favor, and please fill in all the blanks.
Each rider’s instructor signs the entry blank as a sign of approval of the classes and horses selected. Riders must have ridden the horses selected. Trust us, we’ve come across some pretty entertaining entry blanks in our days.
Once horses and classes are approved by the instructor, entries are divided into categories of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Then they’re divided into age or experience groups, depending on the division of the rider. Remember, many riders compete on both Friday and another day.
Then the fun begins.
We divide each division into an appropriate number of splits. Friday night pattern class sizes are only limited by the size of the pattern judge’s brain. Knollwood Wizard Jane is judging the summer patterns, and we know how smart she is, so we only split one class. The 10 and under walk and trot pattern class of 13 riders has been split, so Jane can calculate classes of 6 and 7 instead of 1 class of 13. And yes, Jane already has her point values assigned to each element of each pattern class.
More fuzzy logic.
Saturday rail classes in the big outdoor ring are only limited by the number of horses available. The arena is huge, and we really never run out of space in there. We do, however try to give horses some classes off so that they stay comfortable for the day. So, classes in the big outdoor tend to max out around nine horses.
Sunday classes in the little outdoor arena are limited to seven horses at the most, but you’ll see most classes at around five or six. If the riders are really young, you’ll see classes as small as three riders,
Here’s where the real fuzziness kicks in:
First of all, some horses can walk, trot, and canter while other souls only work at the walk and trot. Some horses are still working on cantering but are safe and skill building at the walk and trot, and some are too strong in the bridle for small kids to canter in the big outdoor ring.
Some of our most trustworthy souls in everyday situations don’t enjoy the show atmosphere, so they’re out of the mix.
Some horses are able to carry adults or heavy children, some can only carry small to medium kids.
Some horses can have a hard time in the big outdoor if it hasn’t rained for a while and the grass center is hard on legs.
Some of our most tried and true horses every day get into the ring, and they like to relive their glory days at Louisville or at the Morgan Grand Nationals. Just ask any unsuspecting kid who’s been on Eddie when he heard applause from the academy crowd.
Then we take each horse’s health into account. Some of our most precious beginner horses have some age on them, so we have to be careful not to overuse them.
Some of our horses are pretty and favorites of all horse loving girls between the ages of 7 and 11, and we have to make sure to protect their health and energy.
Many of our horses who may be a little plain on the outside are beautiful beyond words on the inside. Those horses have just as valuable lessons to teach as the pretty boys. We make sure to use them well.
Some of our horses have some limitations in the heat, so we take that into account with usage.
So, we make a first pass at assignments, using all of our fuzzy ‘If/then’ statements.
Bottom line, it’s all about safety of horses and riders.
The least experienced riders in each division are assigned to the angels of the school horse world to set the new riders up for success.
We work our way up through the divisions, trying to keep an eye on the number of times each horse goes as we progress.
After the first pass, we employ a brilliant advanced rider to do ‘the count.’ Thea and Mia have become experts at the process.
We get a count of how many classes each horse is scheduled. We undoubtedly find imbalances, so we massage the horse assignments and count AGAIN.
This is what Mia usually looks like.
Then we look at assignments in class splits. We try to not have a horse go in back to back class splits because it would mean six classes in a row, and it would mean immediate tack changes during the show.
We value our customers’ time, and want the show to run as smoothly as possible. We also want our horses to be as comfortable as possible, so we work the class splits AGAIN to help horses out.
This is Mia working on class splits during the IASPHA Spring Show...
When it’s all said and done, our brains are tired, but we’ve done well by our horses and riders. Everyone will be safe and learn lessons of horse showing.
Horse showing will teach you confidence, sportsmanship, compassion, and humility. Horses pass out humility in spades.
And we wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Horse Show Reminders:
Make sure your Knollwood Knockouts membership is current so you can receive points for your participation in the Summer Show.
If you haven't already signed up to contribute to a gift basket, please sign up on the tack room door in the school barn. Melissa came up with some really creative baskets, and spots have been filling quickly.
If you're able to volunteer with show operations, please sign up here. Whether you'd like to set up, tear down, or work the concession stand, we'd love to have you. Many of our show barn families will be on their way to the World's Championship Horse Show while we're hosting our in-barn show, so we'd LOVE extra help!
Each rider has a show schedule and a preorder form for the concession stand waiting for them at the farm. Please talk to your instructor or your office admin to locate yours. Food orders are due August 14, and we're accepting cash or checks made out to the Knollwood Knockouts.
Overflow parking will be available in the Kettle Moraine Curling Club lot.
Shirts have been ordered, and we'll update everyone as soon as they arrive.
What Else is Happening?
IASPHA Summer Show
Our academy team and some show horses are heading to Beyond Stable Farm in Woodstock for a favorite show this weekend.
Please consider taking a road trip to cheer us on! Our entire crew of World Famous Saturday Helpers will be competing, including Taylor who's making her academy debut. It will sure to be worth the trip.
ASAW Summer Showcase Horse Show
Academy horses and 12 new academy stars will be making the trip to the Ozaukee County Fairgrounds for a show on August 14 and 15.
We can hardly wait to see our newest stars show for the first time!
World's Championship Horse Show
Team Knollwood will be well represented in Louisville at the World's Championship Horse Show. Running August 20-27. The gala affair features the best equitation riders, performance horses, and ponies around.
We'll post a schedule before the show, so you can follow along if you choose to purchase the live webcast.
See you soon at the barn, or at the in-gate.