driving competition

Photo courtesy Michaela Keener. Driver is Raymond Helmuth competing at the Indiana Classic Event in the marathon phase. 

Research emphasizing human performance in equestrian sport is outnumbered by that conducted on the horse. The Equestrian Athlete Initiative (EqA), based out of the University of Kentucky’s Sports Medicine Research Institute (SMRI), has a mission to optimize health, wellness and performance for the equestrian athlete through research.

The main EqA team comprises the EqA research director Kimberly Tumlin, PhD, , MS, MPH and EqA Research Coordinator, Michaela Keener, MS. Together, this team values embracing and validating the unique diversity of equestrian athletes, as equestrian sports range greatly in discipline, age and performance requirements.

Despite the expansive history of the equestrian athlete, we still do not know key descriptors such as activity levels with and without horses, perceptions of equestrian participation, injury mechanisms, basic demographics or how COVID-19 restrictions may have altered activity engagement. To help answer some of these questions, the EqA team built a nationwide survey to address these gaps in the field.

Equestrian sports allow for lifelong participation and are one of the only sports where females and males compete concurrently. With numerous disciplines, equestrian sports allow individuals to participate both recreationally and competitively. This diverse competitive field in discipline, rider background and age at which individuals participate in these activities pose various challenges. Not only is there a need for research that investigates ways to prevent injury among these athletes, but there is also a need to find ways to ensure healthy participation throughout the life course of these athletes.

Physical activity is a strong modifiable factor in prevention of non-communicable diseases, a leading cause of mortality and morbidity in the United States.The current CDC recommendation for adult activity is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and at least two days of muscle strengthening activity. However, data is limited on how equestrian activities count towards these CDC recommendations.

The purpose of the Equestrian Athlete Survey is to address important factors of equestrian participants. This survey is open to individuals currently participating in any form of equestrian activity, competitively, recreationally, therapeutically, occupationally, etc., anywhere in the United States who are 12 years old or older. Data collection includes basic demographics to look at discipline and regional differences across the country. The research team is interested in equestrians' weekly activity levels across disciplines, age, region and level of engagement to see if equestrians meet CDC guidelines. The team is interested in looking at equestrians' perceptions of their participation as physical activity and a sport, which the team expects to vary with age, region, discipline and level of engagement. Finally, the research team hopes to gauge how equestrian engagement has shifted with COVID-19 restrictions, between shutdowns, stay at home orders and cancellations of competitions, camps and clinics.

To participate in the survey please go here.

Or QR code:

 eqa qr code



Michaela Keener, MS, is the research coordinator for the Equestrian Athlete Initiative within University of Kentucky’s Sports Medicine Research Institute.