Among tiny tots and minis: Riding school activities for the youngest

🇸🇪 Summary in Swedish 

© Susanna Hedenborg1, Annika Rosén1, Gabriella Thorell Palmquist2,
Oskar Solenes
3, Guro Fiskergård Werner3
1 Malmö University; Swedish National Equestrian Centre at Strömsholm;
3 Molde University College.

As early as 1991, the sports historian Jan Lindroth pointed to the childification of sport – a process involving sports associations offering activities for increasingly younger children (Lindroth, 1991; see also Carlsson & Fransson, 2006; Goksøyr, 2008; Solenes, 2009). At that time, Lindroth stated that children in primary school now became active in club sports. Today, sports participation has moved further down in ages. In this article, we will study sports for the youngest with a focus on riding school activities in Norway and Sweden. The study is based on a questionnaire and interviews with riding school managers. The results indicate that riding schools in both Norway and Sweden, just like other organized sports associations, offer activities for the age group 0–6 years. Riding school managers justify this by saying that it is about catching the children at an early age – in competition with other sports associations – and givíng them a good foundation for the regular activities. It is worth noting that, unlike previous studies about Swedish riding schools show, the activities of the younger children are based on other principles than military commands. For the youngest, different types of games are used instead to convey how the horses should be taken care of and ridden. The activities are also based on accompanying adults who can help their children. In most places, there are helmets and safety vests to borrow. The horses used are usually smaller and older than horses in other activities. Perceptions about the activities differ. Some think that the activities are good, but that they need to be adapted to this age group, while others perceive them as problematic and that the children are too small or that the parents lack knowledge. The latter are seen as problematic security aspects.

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SUSANNA HEDENBORG is a professor in Sport Science, Malmö University. Hedenborg has an academic background in social and economic history. In her sport research she has focused on childhood and youth studies, gender, and equestrian sports. She is the author of numerous articles and text books in sport science. Hedenborg is affiliated to the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences and president of the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science.

ANNIKA ROSÉN is a Senior Lecturer at Malmö University as senior lecture, a lawyer at Legal Office and a previous as Head of Department. She has a PhD in Social Work, Bachelor degree in Social Work and a Master’s degree in Law. She is born in 1966. Research areas and ongoing projects are within equestrian sports, sport and preschool pedagogy, sociology, and research ethics.

GABRIELLA THORELL PALMQUIST has a PhD in Sport Science and works as a head teacher in pedagogy at the Swedish National Equestrian Centre at Strömsholm. She mainly teaches at the Equine Science Program. She also works with projects commissioned by the Swedish Equestrian Federation

OSKAR SOLENES is an Associate Professor in Sport Management at the Faculty of Business Administration and Social Sciences at Molde University College, Norway. He holds a PhD in sport history, having studied the development of organized sports for children during the 20th century. His research interest are especially connected to the social and cultural values of sport in general, as well as voluntarism and the organizing of children’s and youth sport in particular.

GURO F. WERNER has a bachelor’s degree in social education from Molde University College, Norway (2006), and holds a master’s degree in Disability & Society from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (2017). In the period 2019–2022, she is a PhD candidate in health sciences and social care at Molde University College and Volda University College.

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