Body image is a big issue for bikers, study finds
Runners’ negative opinions about their own body shape are a significant problem, an award-winning study has found, with many people believing that larger body size has a detrimental effect on the evaluation of competitions.
Sofia Forino, BSC Equestrian Performance Management student at University Center Sparsholt (UCS), won the undergraduate award at the Virtual Equine Science Symposium 2021 (June 1-4) for her abstract A survey of self-perceived body image among female riders in the UK.
Sofia’s research, which is part of her thesis, is being conducted through a British Horse Foundation (BHF) Lecturer’s Fellowship and was written with UCS lecturers Lorna Cameron, Natalie Stones and Marianne Freeman. The aim was to examine self-perception of body image and the potential impact on well-being and performance in the equine industry, which is being studied at UCS as part of the scholarship of BHF speaker.
Sofia said H&H her research involved a quiz, to which she had 493 responses from competitive and non-competitive runners.
Participants were asked which of the 10 body images, from small to large scale, they thought was the most ideal shape for a cyclist.
Almost half, 46%, chose the second thinnest image, 25% the thinnest, and 26% the third smallest image, so only 3% felt that a larger shape was the ideal shape.
“There was almost no impact on the response of [the respondent’s] age, whether they were competitive or not, or what kind of riding they were involved in, ”said Sofia. “I expected people from different regions to say maybe different things; maybe people who just hacked or rolled once a month to say you can be a little bigger than someone competing, but there was no difference, it was really surprising.
Respondents were also asked to rate their own body shape, and a significant number said they were larger than the setting they thought was ideal. Those who rated themselves two or more heights above their ideal were perceived to have body dissatisfaction.
“We found that these people were more aware of themselves when riding than those who approached their ideal shape,” said Sofia. “We asked how people felt riding in a group or in front of others, and there was a correlation between those classified as dissatisfied with the body and feeling more self-conscious.”
Almost half of the runners surveyed, 49%, felt that competition judges favor runners with smaller frames, again with no effect on respondents’ situation, which Sofia said she would like to explore further.
Continued below …
“This overconfidence can have serious consequences for the welfare of horses, and could affect the mental health of riders.”
“When I jog down the center line, I feel so proud of her”
If you want to follow the news of the equestrian world without leaving your home, take out an H&H subscription
“If I can look at this, it will allow for a more practical application [of the study results], “she said.” If it can be refuted, I hope people will feel more confident to participate; it opens the door for more research which I hope will have more applications for the industry.
The survey also looked at breast size and found that those with larger breasts not only suffered from breast pain from riding, but also felt more embarrassed when riding and competing.
Sofia, who is due to start a Masters in Equine Behavior, Performance and Training at USC in September, added: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the undergraduate competition and I would like to thank UCS Conferences for their help and their support throughout the process.
Horse & Hound magazine, published every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and coverage, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet tips and training. Find out how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door each week, as well as upgrade options to access our H&H Plus online service that brings you the latest news in real time and other benefits.