I’ll bite, despite the provocative title:
First of all, my understanding, as others here have said, is that what Equiratings does publicly as to fan engagement is different from the risk consulting services that they provide to the FEI and national federations. There’s more under the hood than the prediction centre.
Second, again, without complete visibility into what they’re doing, my understanding is that the risk assessment information they provide to the NFs and the FEI is not in the form of assessments of specific courses. I believe they’ve done studies on types of fences, etc., but the overall question of how “safe” the course is is really a question left in the judgment of the course designer and later the officials on the day — I’ve at least never heard of Equiratings (or any other data analysis group) doing a kind of specific “we predict that this many people will have horse and/or rider falls on this particular course” analysis before a major event. Again, I could be wrong, but my understanding is that’s just not the question they’re answering.
That said, it is my understanding that one of the things they look at is what is the Bayesian probability of a rider or horse fall at a given level, based on past performance (at that level and at the level below). And broadly and generally (and unsurprisingly), the basic conclusion seems to be that a high number of successful past completions are a predictor of future completions — or at least, that the opposite is true — that people who have a history of falling are more likely to fall in future. And I haven’t run the numbers myself, but I don’t think that kind of analysis would have predicted the fall rate we had today, nor the specific combinations who had falls (after all, people like William Fox-Pitt and Boyd and Clayton Fredericks have legions of successful international runs between them at this level and the levels below). It’s entirely possible — and the MER debate has suggested that at least many people anecdotally believe this to be the case — that how a combination has fared in the past at the level is the wrong question to ask to predict whether they’ll succeed in the future, but at least to a first order of approximation, I’m not aware of a currently-available way that everyone agrees “could have predicted” the 23% fall rate today. Could we have said “gosh, it’s raining, and they all think the course is hard, and that’s probably going to cause some problems”? Yes. Beyond that? It would be fascinating to know, but I just don’t think that’s the point of their analysis.