International researchers focusing on female equestrian health and wellness issues have formed a group to share knowledge on the under-studied topic.
Within the horse industry, a large amount of research has been conducted on the horse’s health and wellbeing, and on rider injury and injury prevention. But much less has been conducted on the health of female riders.
University of Kentucky’s Karin Pekarchik and her research collaborator, Kimberly Tumlin from UK’s College of Public Health have formed a community of practice (CoP), which is a group of people who share a passion for something, and interact regularly to learn more on the topic.
The idea for a CoP stems from research by Pekarchik, who conducted a survey in the spring of 2017 on female equestrian breast discomfort/pain and other health issues. Pekarchik and Tumlin have been working with UK researchers Jenny Burbage, Ph.D., (University of Portsmouth) and Lorna Cameron (Sparsholt Centre College) to better understand breast health and discomfort that has been demonstrated to limit riding.
Some 75% of all professional female riders who participated in the survey reported breast pain within the last year, a higher percentage than non-professionals; and riding activity resulted in a higher proportion of professional equestrians with small cup sizes reporting pain. From this information and the initial collaboration, Pekarchik and Tumlin recognized that additional aspects of female equestrianism were under-researched, and that inspired them to start the community of practice. By connecting researchers and industry experts globally, they believe that a collective understanding of the influences on health and wellness of equestrians can be established and sustained through collaborative funding efforts, educational outreach, and health for both horses and humans.
Organized and moderated by Pekarchik and Tumlin, the Female Equestrian Health and Wellness CoP has more than 20 members, including experts from the US, Canada, Ireland, England, and Australia. The CoP will meet six times a year to share information on ongoing trends and research discoveries within different areas of emphasis. Examples of these areas include engagement in equestrian sport, cumulative injuries, environmental exposures, occupational safety, pain and quality of life considerations, breast biomechanics, and systems designs and engineering.
The first meeting of the CoP took place on May 15. At the end of the first year, the CoP will publish a white paper that will delineate areas of strengths and weaknesses and identify research priorities for the female equestrian.