It’s difficult to imagine anyone involved in working equitation who has not heard of the great Pedro Torres or watched his educational and competition videos. Sometimes, though, it’s important to pause and celebrate the unsung heroes of the world: those whose Herculean efforts behind the scenes makes a lasting contribution to the discipline.
One such person is Portugal’s José Bacelar Lourenço, the software engineer/data scientist who is the genius behind the Gira.io online scoring program that is taking the Working Equitation world by storm.
José is CEO of the big data predictive analytic firm Act Now, based in Lisbon. He developed the Gira.io software when he became aware of the challenges involved in computing scores and placings in the sport. His brother, who works for the Portuguese Lusitano Association, asked him if he might be willing to lend his expertise. José remembered, “I watched a competition with my brother and saw the challenges that the competition organizers faced. Their papers were getting wet and blowing around in the wind; it took time to compute the points earned, and it was so easy for errors to occur.”
José’s solution was to create a custom-designed online system that enables judges or their scribes to enter each score as it is awarded, and then instantly averages the results across multiple judges, applies country-specific tie-breaking rules, and creates easy-to-read print-ready reports for posting the results. His Gira.io system has now been embraced not only throughout Portugal, but also in Italy, France, Belgium, Austria, Poland, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Netherlands, as well as the United States (all WE United competitions are provided free access to the WE United Gira account if they request it).
The Gira.io system not only speeds up the processing of results, it provides near-instant access to scores and placings for spectators, competitors, and show organizers alike. Perhaps even more important, the system has been shown to reduce errors in scoring and placing.
Oregon member Karin Hansen talked about how much she likes the system: “I’ve noticed how many people are excited to share the results as they are coming in at our shows now that we’re using Gira. It’s great; people show each other how to use the system on their phones, and as they come out of the arena, their friends are letting them know how they did and celebrating their success before they even un-tack!”
She also noted that when shows use the system, it helps reduce the stress in the office because people are able to see how they placed right away. She added, “It amazes me how often people are actively following the progress of horses at shows far from them. I’ve had people congratulate me on the scores my horse Cora has earned in the Midwest before I even remembered that her trainer was showing her. This has happened more than once. It definitely means that people are logging in to see how everyone is doing across the country.”
Today, we took the opportunity to thank José personally for his contributions to the sport. WE United founder Julie Alonzo awarded him an honorary “Champion of the Sport” rosette, with his name and “Championing WE across the globe” emblazoned on it as well a commemorative WE United stone coaster.
As Wisconsin member Kris Blacklock said, “I really appreciated his expertise, helpfulness, and willingness to make changes to the system [so it would meet our needs]. He’s a gem.” Thank you, José, for helping to build a bright and strong future for our sport as you champion it across the globe!