An Investigation Into the Place of Horseback Riding in Adolescent Development
Elizabeth Klish (2009)
This project was a phenomenologicalÂ investigationÂ ofÂ adolescentÂ girls' experiences ofÂ ridingÂ horses, their relationship with the barn community, and its connection to theirÂ development. The barn community was understood to be a type of facilitating environment (Winnicott, 1986) that included the owner and trainer of the farm, as well as other children,Â adolescentsÂ and adults who regularly participatedÂ in ridingÂ lessons at the farm, and the horses themselves.Â Horseback ridingÂ has been found to be therapeutic for several different populations (Bizub, Joy, & Davidson, 2003; Burgeon, 2003; Cawley, Cawley, & Retter, 1994; Emory, 1992; Greenwald, 2001; Terpin, 2004; Tyler, 1994). However, none of these studies investigated the impact ofÂ ridingÂ on a normative population. This study lies at the intersection of that which is known aboutÂ adolescentÂ girls'Â developmentÂ and the therapeutic benefits of horses. The study was conducted at a private horse farmÂ inÂ southern New England and sought to gain understanding of the phenomenon ofÂ horseback ridingÂ and its relationship to girls'Â adolescent developmentÂ through semi-structured interviews. Four thematic areas related to the girls' perception of their experience were examined. These included: relationship with self, relationship with the barn community, relationship with the horse, and relationship with the trainer. Within each of these major themes, several organic sub-themes emerged. Examples of the sub-themes included: identity, inclusionÂ inÂ the barn community, affectionate connection with the horse, and a mentoring relationship with the trainer.