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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert
Digital transformation has come to the sporting world – and the lessons learned apply from the tennis court to the boardroom.

The sports world is steeped in history and tradition. The equestrian sport of dressage, in particular, traces its roots back to the 350 BC writings of Anthenian historian and soldier, Xenephon. It is from this writing that the highly skilled and elegant maneuvers of dressage grew from practical use into a competitive sport. Much like dressage, the meeting of technology and tradition requires fancy footwork. Successful innovators make sure to honor tradition, even as they strive to modernize and streamline what doesn’t work.

Black Horse One is bringing dressage into the 21st century. Drawing from the CEO’s own experience with dressage, this small team has crafted a suite of apps that focus on skill development, digital scoring, and spectator involvement. Today, over half of all international dressage shows use Black Horse One’s solutions.

Technology and tradition in the sporting world can work hand-in-hand to improve performance and enhance the experience for participants and spectators alike.

In the latest Better Together: Customer Conversations series, we hear from Daniel Göhlen, CEO of Black Horse One, about how his apps have impacted the dressage culture and sport. For added perspective, we asked Craig O’Shannessy, Director of Brain Game Tennis, about how he brought technology into his tennis coaching practice.

  • For the podcast, Tamara McCleary, CEO at Thulium spoke with Daniel and Craig about how technology can revolutionize sports for the athlete and the audience.

  • In the LinkedIn session, I spoke with Daniel about what it takes to innovate in one of the most traditional and therefore unlikely of sports and what comes with such and effort and a success.

Read on to learn more about how this transformation within tradition took place.

Technology designed to feel familiar

Traditionally, dressage judging involved a great deal of high-touch paper-based work and manual calculations. When Daniel first approached the dressage world about migrating the judging process to a digital format, he was met with resistance. Rather than push back or give up, Daniel listened, and through that listening gained an understanding of where some of the hesitance was coming from. Ultimately, he came up with a solution that honored the long-standing tradition of paper-based judging in the form of an app that looks just like the traditional forms, to be filled out on iPads with a stylus pen.

This small gesture toward tradition earned Daniel a great deal of trust within the dressage community – something he’s quite proud of.  “People trust us. People trust the SAP Business Technology Platform for its integrity with data. And this combination is really, really helpful and pushed us to where we are now,” he says.

Collaborative engagement with fans

The digital age has brought about the desire for more direct engagement with what were once strictly spectator activities. Black Horse One answered this call with an innovative app, Spectator Judging. It does exactly what the name implies, allowing fans to sit in the judge’s seat. “The additional benefit of being interactively engaged and trying to give the marks during these nine minutes is very exciting, and keeps you watching and keeps you engaged,” says Daniel. One unexpected benefit: some of the superfans have become fully-qualified judges, helping to remedy a judge shortage in the sport.

Adversity becomes opportunity

The pandemic created a disruptive environment that required creative solutions to keep us connected. While athletes across the world were doing their part by staying home, it was important that they keep up with their training.

Black Horse One’s solution was to develop a new platform, Equestrian on Demand. It allows athletes to submit videos of their performances to judges for scoring, or to trainers to receive feedback on areas they need to work on. The power of this tool keeps all parties engaged over great distances.

Lean in to innovation

If an industry as timeless as competitive dressage can undergo an incredibly successful digital transformation, any industry should be open to innovation and growth.

Interested in additional success where sports and technology intersect?

  • NHL: A clever, in-game coaching app delivers real-time performance data, helping the NHL boost player skills and delight sports fans

  • San Francisco 49ers: Helping The 49ers Feel The Pulse Of the Stadium

Looking for more stories like this from SAP Business Technology Platform customers? Check out the whole Better Together: Customer Conversations series, and more, at