Comptitive riders are more extroverted and conscientious than their non-competitive counterparts, according to a recent study.
Researchers surveyed more than 4,000 English-speaking equestrians and found that personality traits are linked to the discipline a rider practises.
The study discovered that competitive riders are more open to new experiences, ideas and thoughts, with dressage riders scoring highest of all.
“Most competing riders will encounter situations that will tax their resolve,” said sports psychology expert Dr Inga Wolframm, who carried out the research alongside Dr Jane Williams and Dr David Marlin.
“Injuries to their horses immediately prior to an important competition, the struggle of combining a competition schedule with family commitments and financial strains — it all adds up.
“Riders who are conscientious by nature will work very hard at overcoming these obstacles. And riders who are extrovert may even enjoy the challenge of it all.”
The research also found that riders become more genial with age.
Equestrians aged over 35 were found to be less anxious and more emotionally stable and open to new ideas than younger riders.
“Riding is one of the few sports where performance isn’t hindered by advancing years,” said physiologist and biochemist Dr Marlin.
“We need to encourage any coaching whereby older, experienced riders take youngsters under their wings.”
The research, conducted in spring last year, was published last month (7 September).
Participants completed a questionnaire that allowed for personality profiles to be developed based on the traits of emotional stability, extroversion, agreeableness, openness and conscientiousness.
Participants were mainly female (96%), from the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Europe, and participated in pleasure riding, dressage, eventing, showjumping, Western riding and showing.
‘A little obsessive’
Olympian and H&H dressage columnist Richard Davison said he sees shared characteristics between top riders.
“Most are a little obsessive and pay great attention to detail — in all aspects of their life,” he told H&H.
“If you turn that round that’s probably why they’re very good riders. Dressage in particular requires very consistent, routine training techniques.”
Richard questioned whether competitive riders are naturally extroverts or if they learn this behaviour to be successful.
“Other psychologists say it’s not that unusual to adopt a personality trait for people dedicated to success in any sphere.”
He agreed older riders are more genial and cited the fact that top international competition yards have younger riders as apprentices.
“The findings that dressage riders are more open to new experiences do not surprise me at all,” he added.
“If you want to be successful, it’s all about appraising what you are currently doing and questioning if there is a more effective way.
“To be successful at any elite level of sport you need a strong resolve to bounce back when faced with the knocks and challenges.”
Despite the findings of the study, a handful of leading riders display more introverted characteristics.
For instance, the world’s leading dressage rider Charlotte Dujardin chooses to keep her trainer Carl Hester by her side during press conferences, and has only recently appeared more confident under the public eye.
Similarly, three-time champion Flat jockey Ryan Moore speaks very little in public, preferring to keep his head down to focus on the job.
Showjumper John Whitaker is also known for having a more reserved nature.
The researchers hope the study will help riders make the most out of their partnership with their horse.
“It could be useful for a rider looking to specialise or young riders starting out,” Dr Williams
“They can look at their personality to see which area suits them — for instance if they struggle to pay attention to detail then dressage wouldn’t be for them.”