Can’t jump, won’t jump: Affordances of the horse-rider dyad underpin skill adaptation in Showjumping using a constraints-led approach.

Marianne Davies, Joseph A. Stone, Keith Davids, J. M. Williams, Mark O'Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

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Equestrianism is part of a global industry influenced by a rich history of over 4000 years of culture and tradition. As the only interspecies Olympic event, equestrianism is facing negative public perceptions of competition performance and traditional coaching practices. In this position paper, we propose a constraints-led approach as a framework for contemporising equestrian coaching practice. Ecological dynamics is the theoretical framework that underpins a constraints-led approach methodology, providing guiding principles that inform a nonlinear pedagogy in sport and physical education. A constraints-led approach focuses on the individual (organism/s), task and environmental constraints acting over multiple nested timescales and what this means for how behaviour emerges. Using examples from the equestrian discipline of showjumping, we outline how a constraints-led approach can inform coaching behaviour and practice design to support skill acquisition through co-adaptations in the horse-rider dyad system. By focussing on the horse-rider dyad as a complex system, there is a move away from a human-centric perspective of compliance and control of the horse, toward system agency and intentionality in problem solving. Practice design principles of intention, representativeness, constraints manipulation and functional variability support the dyad to co-adapt and interact effectively through practice to achieve performance goals. Skilful performance is developed through attunement to perceptual information that invites opportunities for action (affordances). Understanding the development of affordance perception in the horse-rider dyad could guide the application of a constraints-led approach to equestrian coaching practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1313-1319
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Sports Science and Coaching
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


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