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Hilary Webb

Hilary Webb staff profile picture

School of Veterinary Science
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
The influence of social and psychological factors on practices and performance of Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) endurance rider-owner-train

Research Description
The influence of social and psychological factors on practices and performance of Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) endurance rider-owner-train This research aimed to understand why the performance of New Zealand endurance riders engaged in international level competition governed by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) was conservative, compared to other countries. A qualitative interpretive research approach was appropriate to meet the exploratory aims. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected during the 2016–17 endurance riding season from 23 purposively selected participants. A survey and an observational study were complemented by two longitudinal in-depth interviews that explored participants’ motivations, competitive orientations, experiences and perspectives. The overall results suggest that practices and performances of participants were logistically, psychologically and socially constrained. Amateur rider-owner-trainers had limited time, money, and numbers of horses hence they rode conservatively in domestic rides to preserve their horse for achievement in FEI goal rides. Participants were psychologically constrained by autonomous forms of motivation that drove self-determined practices that emphasised avoiding elimination in veterinary inspections, and a task focussed competitive orientation that emphasised process and performance goals. Finally, participants were socially constrained by the small, closely connected community that reinforced the conservative ethos through modelling, compliance and comparison. Adaptive performance strategies and autonomy coaching were recommended to improve performance, based on the understanding of performance constructed in this research.

Research Importance
Understanding factors that influence practices and performance can enable riders, trainers, and coaches to optimise performance while avoiding harm to horses. The results problematise the relevance of the FEI framework because amateur rider-owner-trainers’ style of participation emphasised intrinsic enjoyment and their own and their horses’ wellbeing, rather than winning.

Research Benefit
An understanding of what riders value about their sport may enable administrators to provide matching experiences and rewards, and thus reverse the contraction of membership and participation in FEI level endurance in New Zealand. Recommendations to improve performance can benefit those riders that continue to aspire to international level competition.

Personal Description
A lifelong involvement in many equestrian sports drives my interest in how we use animals. This research focused my interest on the context of a demanding elite competitive discipline. This research project was made possible by the willing participants, and the group of researchers whose vision and work created the opportunity of this PhD. I am grateful for the support of a doctoral scholarship and professional development training provided by MU Graduate Research School to doctoral students. And, most importantly, keeping my horses on campus at the MU Equestrian Centre made it easier for me to balance life with study.

Professor Chris Rogers
Associate Professor Liz Norman
Associate Professor Jenny Weston
Associate Professor Naomi Cogger


Webb, H.J., Weston, J.F., Norman, E.J., Cogger, N.D., Bolwell, C.F. and Rogers, C.W. (2020). A descriptive study of training methods for Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) endurance horses in New Zealand. Journal Equine Veterinary Science. 92

Webb, H.J., Weston, J.F., Norman, E.J., Cogger, N.D. and Rogers, C.W. (2019). Experience, riding practices and training methods of Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI: 80 – 160 km) level endurance horse rider-owner-trainers in New Zealand. Journal Comparative Exercise Physiology 15 (2); 137-145