Too young to ride?
Too young to ride? A study of riding school activities for pre-school children from safety and horse welfare perspectives
Period: January 2018 – Spring 2022.
Project leader: Oskar Solenes
Funding: The Norwegian Research Council, Stiftelsen Hästforskning (Sweden) and HiMolde.
Partners: Malmö University (Sweden) and Ridskolan Strömsholm (Sweden)
Aim of project:
Today, many riding schools in Norway and Sweden offer riding and other horse-related activities for pre-school children. Over the years younger and younger children seems to participate in organized activities in stables and at riding clubs even though riding school instructors express that these children are “too young to ride”. In general, there seems to be a growing track of research on topics concerning horseback riding and equine sports, and more specifically on the sociological, cultural and historical part. However, most of this research seems to be concerned with adults or adolescents, while focus on children, and pre-school children in particular, within horseback riding and equine sports is scarce.
The aim of the project “Too young to ride?” is to increase knowledge about horse and riding education for pre-school children in Norway and Sweden.
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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?