Too young to ride? A study of riding school activities for pre-school children from safety and horse welfare perspectives
- Contact person:
- Susanna Hedenborg
- The Swedish-Norwegian Foundation for Equine Research
- Responsible at Malmö University:
- Susanna Hedenborg
- Project members:
- Oskar Solenes - Molde University College
- Guro Fiskergård - Molde University College
- Time frame:
- 01 January 2019 - 12 December 2022
- Research subject:
The research project aim, objectives, and expected results
A few years ago, media reported on a 7-year-old girl who was killed during a riding lesson in Sweden. Equestrianism is one of the sports most affected by serious accidents (Ball et al, 2007; Carmichael et al 2014; Carrillo et al 2007) and the accident with the young girl evokes questions about children, horses, and safety. Children are small and horses big, and the horse is a herd and prey animal whose behavior is partly controlled by instincts.
Today, many riding schools in Sweden and Norway offer riding for pre-school children. There is, however, no research on pre-school children and horse riding. In general, there are few studies of younger children in comparison to studies of older children, adolescents, and adults (Söderlind & Engwall 2005). This also applies to research in sports sciences (Hedenborg & Fransson 2011). It is therefore of crucial importance to collect data on how activities for pre-school children are carried out and can be adapted to ensure rider safety and horse welfare.
The aim of the project Too young to ride? is to increase knowledge of horse and riding education for pre-school children with the objective of developing safer horse environments in Sweden and Norway. The project poses research questions pertaining to the organization of activities in relation to children, parents, riding instructors, and horses, as well as perceptions of safety and the welfare of horses. The research questions can be divided into three areas:
A. Current status in Norway and Sweden: How many riding schools organize activities for pre-school children in Sweden and Norway; in urban and rural areas? Who is involved in these activities (social class, gender, ethnicity and age patterns)? How are activities for young children presented and carried out, and how much do they cost?
B. Safety, risk, and horse welfare: Do accidents occur in connection to these activities? If so, how many, and of what kind? What kind of safety equipment is used in activities with pre-school children in the stable? Who provides the equipment? How is the safety equipment that is used perceived? What kind of horses are used in these activities? How are these horses kept and cared for?
C. Understanding the social construction of childhood and gender constructions: What are the perceptions and motives of these activities among parents and riding instructors? How is the notion of childhood socially constructed in parents’ and horse-riding instructors’ thoughts about stable activities for pre-school children? How is gender constructed in the stable activities for these children?