A scoping review of determinants of performance in dressage

Hobbs, Sarah Jane orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1552-8647, St George, Lindsay Blair orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5531-1207, Reed, Janet, Stockley, Rachel orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4441-6860, Thetford, Clare orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-2188-3052, Sinclair, Jonathan Kenneth orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-2231-3732, Williams, Jane, Nankervis, Kathryn and Clayton, Hilary M. (2020) A scoping review of determinants of performance in dressage. PeerJ, 8 . e9022.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.9022


As a first step in achieving an evidence-based classification system for the sport of Para Dressage, there is a clear need to define elite dressage performance. Previous studies have attempted to quantify performance with able-bodied riders using scientific methods; however, definitive measures have yet to be established for the horse and/or the rider. This may be, in part, due to the variety of movements and gaits that are found within a dressage test and also due to the complexity of the horse-rider partnership. The aim of this review is therefore to identify objective measurements of horse performance in dressage and the functional abilities of the rider that may influence them to achieve higher scores. Five databases (SportDiscuss, CINAHL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, VetMed) were systematically searched from 1980 to May 2018. Studies were included if they fulfilled the following criteria: (1) English language; (2) employ objective, quantitative outcome measures for describing equine and human performance in dressage; (3) describe objective measures of superior horse performance using between-subject comparisons and/or relating outcome measures to competitive scoring methods; (4) describe demands of dressage using objective physiological and/or biomechanical measures from human athletes and/or how these demands are translated into superior performance. In total, 773 articles were identified. Title and abstract screening resulted in 155 articles that met the eligibility criteria, 97 were excluded during the full screening of articles, leaving 58 included articles (14 horse, 44 rider) involving 311 equine and 584 able-bodied human participants. Mean ± sd (%) quality scores were 63.5 ± 15.3 and 72.7 ± 14.7 for the equine and human articles respectively. Significant objective measures of horse performance (n = 12 articles) were grouped into themes and separated by gait/movement. A range of temporal variables that indicated superior performance were found in all gaits/movements. For the rider, n = 5 articles reported variables that identified significant differences in skill level, which included the postural position and ROM of the rider’s pelvis, trunk, knee and head. The timing of rider pelvic and trunk motion in relation to the movement of the horse emerged as an important indicator of rider influence. As temporal variables in the horse are consistently linked to superior performance it could be surmised that better overall dressage performance requires minimal disruption from the rider whilst the horse maintains a specific gait/movement. Achieving the gait/movement in the first place depends upon the intrinsic characteristics of the horse, the level of training achieved and the ability of the rider to apply the correct aid. The information from this model will be used to develop an empirical study to test the relative strength of association between impairment and performance in able-bodied and Para Dressage riders.

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