Equestrian sport more tense to watch than football, study finds

  • Dressage and showjumping are more tense to watch on TV than football and Formula One according to a new study.

    Television platform Freeview, in partnership with technology company RealEyes, conducted the research looking at 10 sports including equestrian (dressage and showjumping), Formula One, football, tennis and boxing. The aim was to reveal the emotional responses of 150 participants while watching sport using emotion recognition software to track and decode facial expressions.

    The participants were sent video content of low-, medium- and high-intensity clips from each sport and a camera built into an at-home device to track their facial expressions. The software categorised human emotions according to changes in eyes, eyebrows, nose and mouth which were then decoded and analysed to reveal emotional responses. It is not known what games or level of the sport were shown.

    The findings showed equestrian sport was the most tense to watch on television, with 29% of participants holding the most continuous attention and having the lowest level of distraction while watching dressage and showjumping. Formula One was second with 28%, while synchronised swimming, gymnastics and boxing made up the remainder of the top five. Equestrian sport was also the second most engaging after gymnastics.

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    “After the disappointment of more major horse trials being cancelled earlier this year, we can’t wait to see our favourite riders back on our screens for the Tokyo Olympics. Our research showed that equestrian sports left viewers on the edge of their seats with every last pirouette or clear round,” a Freeview spokesman told H&H.

    “With so much sport available to watch for free this summer with Freeview Play, we’re excited to share with fans across the country the nerves, excitement and all-round spectrum of emotions that comes with watching the Olympic events. Equestrian coverage kicks off with dressage on 24 July, with catch-up available on BBC iPlayer.”

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