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Painful Incidents and Horseback RidingOctober 2016

Story: Lara Genik and C. Meghan McMurtry

Beyond physical benefits, horseback riding is a sport which can also have a number of positive psychological, social and therapeutic effects for individuals of all abilities (e.g., Bizoub et al., 2003; British Horse Society, 2010; Mackinnon et al., 2009). Horseback riding also brings with it risks of experiencing painful incidents during both handling (e.g., being kicked or bitten) and riding (e.g., falling off) horses. Research on children who ride horses has focused largely on painful incidents leading to emergency medical care. We know very little about less severe incidents (e.g., how often do they occur, where do they occur, the impact of these incidents on children(s) safety behaviours around horses).

In collaboration with Equine Guelph, Lara Genik (PhD Student) and Dr. C. Meghan McMurtry of the Psychology Department at the University of Guelph are working to better understand the types of painful incidents that children commonly experience when handling and riding horses.

Painful Incidents and Horseback RidingIn November 2015 at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto, Ontario, 124 children and 128 of their parent(s) completed surveys with research assistants. All children received horse treats from Martin Mills as a thank you for taking the time to participate. Data analyses are ongoing, and a summary will be released in the Equine Guelph Research Update newsletter and on the Pediatric Pain, Health and Communication lab's website after publication.

Researchers hope to learn more about pain associated with horseback riding and safety practices (i.e., helmet use, supervision) of children who ride. Researchers also want to know about the impact of painful incidents on parent and child behaviour and perceptions of the sport. It is hoped that the findings will help to inform safety-related programming for children and those who supervise them.

Stay tuned for an update on the findings!