Too young to ride?


Formal title

Too young to ride? A study of riding school activities for pre-school children from safety and horse welfare perspectives.


Today, many riding schools in Sweden and Norway offer riding for pre-school children. There is, however, no research on pre-school children and horse riding. In general, there are few studies of younger children in comparison to studies of older children, adolescents, and adults. It is therefore of crucial importance to collect data on how activities for pre-school children are carried out and can be adapted to ensure rider safety and horse welfare.

The aim of the project “Too young to ride?” is to increase knowledge of horse and riding education for pre-school children with the objective of developing safer horse environments in Sweden and Norway. 


The project poses research questions pertaining to the organization of activities in relation to children, parents, riding instructors, and horses, as well as safety precautions in place and perceptions of safety. Furthermore, ideas of the welfare of horses will be studied. The research questions can be divided into three areas:

  1. 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?
  2. 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 by parents and riding instructors? What kind of horses are used in these activities? How are these horses kept and cared for?
  3. 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?

No systematic data have been collected for Norway, and there is less research on equestrianism in Norway in general. However, it has been established that activities for younger children are organized in stables, even though NRYF recommends seven years as an age limit. The present project will conduct a more systematic analysis of the stable activities for pre-school children in Sweden and Norway. For Norway, this includes a mapping of the activities, interviews with instructors and parents, and ethnographic research; for Sweden, it includes more interviews with riding instructors, new interviews with parents, and ethnographic work.The outcomes of this project are useful for riding instructors, the Equestrian Federations, and for pedagogical content in education of future riding instructors in both Norway and Sweden. Results will be communicated through workshops, lectures, conferences, articles and Facebook.

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The project is a cooparation between:
Susanna Hedenborg Malmö University/Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, Annika Rosén Malmö University, Oskar Solenes Molde University College, Gabriella Thorell Strömsholm

The project will soon announce a PhD position at Molde University College and Norwegian School of Sport Sciences.