Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Exercise and Sport Sciences


This study examined the experiences of equestrian athletes who had incurred a significant fall from a horse and subsequently returned to competition. Equestrian athletes (N=4) who were at least eighteen years of age, had been involved in a fall within the previous year to year and half, and had been riding for a minimum of two years were recruited for the study. A qualitative, phenomenological research design was used to assess the experiences, perceptions, feelings, and emotions of the equestrian athletes. Each athlete participated in one audio recorded interview lasting 40-60 minutes. Using a phenomenological interview method, as outlined by Patton (1990), the participants were asked the following question: "What was your experience following a significant fall from a horse and the subsequent return to competition?" The phenomenological method of analysis, presented by Shelley (1999), was used to analyze all of the transcribed interviews. Following the analyses of the four interviews, three common themes emerged. They included: (1) Feelings of anxiety and/or fear, (2) Decrease in confidence, and (3) Using the fall as a learning experience. The anxieties and fears of the equestrian athletes in this study focused on the idea of falling again and/or the general fear of the unknown; the athletes focused on the potential "What-ifs" surrounding their return to riding and competition following their fall. The decrease in confidence experienced by the athletes centered on a belief that their skills and riding abilities were inadequate for the tasks they were performing upon returning to riding and competition. Despite the fact that their falls were considered unpleasant, the athletes described that something was learned from their experiences and that they were able to gain new perspectives of their sport.



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