How Teaching Horseback Riding Differs From Coaching Other Sports

Horseback riding is a unique sport, in that it’s an “individual” sport with two participants—horse and rider. That also makes it special in the way it’s coached and learned, researchers say.
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Horseback riding is a unique sport, in that it’s an “individual” sport with two participants—horse and rider. That also makes it special in the way it’s coached and learned. | Photo: iStock
Horseback riding is a unique sport, in that it’s an “individual” sport with two participants—horse and rider. That also makes it special in the way it’s coached and learned. Thus, one equitation scientist believes horsmanship science research should put greater focus on the effect of the coach.

“Our research indicates a need for developing pedagogical theories that can be modified to incorporate the unique and special variations of pedagogy that arise in teaching equestrian sports,” said Cristine Hall, PhD, education specialist in partnership with the Online Horse College, in Caboolture, Australia. Hall presented her topic during the 2017 International Society for Equitation Science conference, held Nov. 22-26 in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

In her study, Hall observed 26 coaching sessions and conducted eight interviews with coaches. Her analyses revealed several areas where pedagogy in equestrian sports differs from that of other sports. The three main differences she found:

  • Rider and horse safety education are considered essential in the sport;
  • Horses have an impact on the way teaching decisions are perceived; and
  • When coaches adapt a learning session, they do so in response to not only the student’s behavior but also the horse’s.

“Identifying these differences confirms that the horse does contribute to how equestrian coaches teach, which leads to a relational positioning of equestrian sports pedagogy as a unique and specialist variant of sports pedagogy,” Hall said

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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