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Medicina dello Sport 2013 June;66(2):179-88


language: English, Italian

Reducing anxiety in novel horse riders by a mechanical horse simulator

Demarie S. 1, Minganti C. 2, Piacentini M. F. 1, Parisi A. 1, Cerulli C. 1, Magini V. 1

1 Italian University of Sport and Movement, Foro Italico, Rome, Italy; 2 Magna Graecia University, Catanzaro, Italy


Aim: The process of learning a motor task that provokes some sort of fear in the athlete, as in the case of horseback riding, can be enhanced by the use of specific mechanical apparatus simulating the condition of the real exercise. Practicing the motor task of riding without actually having to mount on a “real” horse can facilitate the familiarization with the correct movement in a relaxed attitude. Purpose of our study was to assess the usefulness of this mechanical horse in reducing riders level of anxiety and in enhancing their perception of own self-efficacy while improving their ability in horse riding, in order to gain better performance in riding a real horse.
Methods: Forty-eight riders were subdivided in two groups. The control group practiced a 40 min horse riding lesson twice a week, the experimental group replaced one lesson by two 20 min lessons on the mechanical horse. Mean heart rate (mHR), rate of perceived exertion (RPE), perceived levels of cognitive and somatic state anxiety (STAI 1) and individual self-efficacy perception in performing physical activities (S–EMS) were assessed before and at the end of a four week training program.
Results: STAI 1 and mHR were lower after training in the experimental group, but not in the control group. RPE and SEM–S remained unchanged.
Conclusion: In conclusion, it can be assumed that the mechanical horse can be a useful instrument for teaching and training in a reduced anxiety condition, which can lead to more efficient further training sessions on a real horses. The mechanical horse can be utilized when technical aspects need to be in direct control of the coach end/or when hazardous exercise has to be faced, as well as in the case horses are not available in a sufficient quantity or when weather conditions are adverse.

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