Breast-related barriers to horse riding widely reported among women in study

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A quarter of the 1324 female horse riders involved in a British study reported one or more breast-related barriers to riding.

The study team found that three-quarters of female horse riders wanted bras that better supported them, partly for the sake of their health and partly to avoid embarrassment.

The study, led by University of Portsmouth sports scientist Dr Jenny Burbage, aimed to establish the impact of bra design and fit and breast size in female riders.

Nearly three-quarters would like to see an improvement in bra support, style and fit for horse riding.

Dr Jenny Burbage
Dr Jenny Burbage

The research, by Burbage and Lorna Cameron, of University Centre Sparsholt, highlighted that a greater number of large-breasted women took part in horse riding than in other sports and that bras worn for riding were not good enough.

“Need better support” was the top complaint by women who took part in the study and who had a cup size of D or above.

“Better style wanted” was the second-most cited comment, followed by “better fit wanted”.

Burbage said: “This is the first research to specifically explore breast health issues and bra concerns in horse riders and the results highlighted the need for more consideration in bra design for this group of women.”

“Many horse riders were dissatisfied with their current bras, the breast was often a barrier to them riding as often as they’d like to, and breast education levels were low.

“Targeted educational initiatives for this population are justified and further research is needed into the demands of this activity on the breast biomechanically.”

According to the survey, 19 per cent of larger breasted riders reported they were embarrassed by excessive breast movement and 15 per cent did not like the look of their breasts when they exercised.

For those riders within the larger-breasted category, “Breasts being too big” was cited as the fourth highest barrier to riding, higher even than cost of taking part in the sport.

Across all bra sizes, 44 per cent said their current bra worn for horse riding did not fully meet their needs, with larger-breasted riders being less satisfied.

Cameron said the results established that female horse riders were dissatisfied with their current horse riding bras and that breasts proved to be a significant barrier to participation in this activity for many women.

“Further study is needed to measure specific breast movement in horse riding and address these barriers to physical activity within the female population.”

The researchers now plan to analyse data collected from horse trials and investigate equestrian-specific breast displacement in comparison to other sporting activities.

The findings of the research have been published in the journal Comparative Exercise Physiology.

Women interested in taking part in forthcoming research and for more information on horse rider breast health education can contact Lorna.cameron@sparsholt.ac.uk.

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