The effect of discipline and competition level on rider anxiety in equestrian

J. Buffery, Emma Davies

Research output: Contribution to conferencePoster

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Introduction: Anxiety is a common challenge for athletes in all sports and is especially important in equestrian sports which requires a harmonious partnership between horse and rider combination (Bridgeman, 2009). Understanding various anxiety types is crucial for riders, trainers, and professionals in the equestrian industry as anxiety must be maintained and utilised to maximise performance potential. The aim of this study was therefore to identify the effect of discipline and competition level on rider anxiety.
Materials and Methods: An online retrospective survey was completed by 159 horse riders of any discipline and competition level, identifying anxiety experiences and coping strategies at competition, and demographics. Participants were also asked to reflect on prior competitions from the previous 12 months when completing the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory (CSAI-2), measuring cognitive and somatic anxiety (CA, SA) and self-confidence (SC) (scored: 9 (low) to 36 (high). Following assumption testing, Kruskal-Wallis tests compared competition regularity and discipline for SA, CA, and SC, whilst Mann-Whitney U tests compared anxiety between unaffiliated and unaffiliated riders.
Results: Riders had moderate to high cognitive (x̄ = 27) and somatic anxiety (x̄ = 25), and lower self-confidence (x̄ = 17). Results revealed significant differences in somatic anxiety (H (7) = 18.20 (p=0.01) and self-confidence (H (7) = 20.02, (p=0.01) between participants competing at different intervals of regularity. Cognitive Anxiety (H (4) = 10.584, p= 0.03) and Self Confidence (H (4) = 13.11, p= 0.011) were significantly different between competition disciplines, with dressage riders reporting the highest self-confidence (median = 17), and cognitive anxiety (median = 31). Unaffiliated riders had higher somatic anxiety (H (1) = 4.97, p=0.03) (median = 27) and lower self-confidence (H (1) = 6.70, p = 0.01) (median = 15) than affiliated riders (SA median = 23.5; SC median = 17). Respondents reported utilising various coping strategies, including herbal remedies, breathing exercises, time management, music, professional help in the form of a sports psychologist, distractions, and dietary adjustments. However, 80 participants did not utilise any management techniques before competing.
Discussion and Conclusions: Findings suggest that rider anxiety is influenced by characteristics such as competition regularity, discipline, and level of competition. Those competing more regularly may have lower levels of anxiety due to the constant exposure to the competitive environment however high-stake competitions and the desire to qualify for championships may affect this. Disciplines demand different aspects from all riders and therefore it is likely that anxiety would differ as a result. Level of competition also has an effect due to differing experiences, personal goals, and demands. Anxiety interventions are successful in other sports and coaches should aim to improve the education and management of competition-induced anxiety in horse riders.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2024
Event13th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference - Hartpury University, Gloucester, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 May 20248 May 2024


Conference13th Alltech-Hartpury Student Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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