Vol. 12 2021, pages 33–58
Published April 6, 2021
New media habits in the era of digitalization challenge previous understandings of who and what receives media coverage. Research shows that practitioners in self-organized lifestyle sports consistently use social media to attain and exchange information and knowledge about their sport. Is this also the case in organized sport? The Internet has become a great resource for horse-enthusiasts and the online horse world can be described as an extension of the physical horse world. Equestrian sport is particularly interesting to analyze due to the fact that there is an animal involved. Still, there is little knowledge of how horse enthusiasts use social media in relation to their interest in equestrian sports. The aim of this article is therefore to chart and analyze how equestrians use social media, how they communicate horse-related content on social media, and how social media can be seen as a source for knowledge exchange. Our investigation focuses on how equestrians use social media to acquire information about horses, and how this usage can be explained in connection to age and experience. A mixed methods design is used and data is collected from 28 focus group interviews with equestrians in Sweden and Norway and a survey with 1,628 respondents. Our study indicates that practitioners of self-organized sports are not unique in using social network sites (SNS) to exchange and attain knowledge about their sport; equestrians in general are shown to be frequent users of SNS such as Facebook and Instagram. Although our results show a few significant differences in SNS use in relation to age; the riders in the different age groups have surprisingly similar views of their SNS use in relation to attaining information about the horse. ‘Stable cultures’ and the organized structure of equestrian sports appear to create boundaries determining where a ‘good equestrian’ should seek information about horse-keeping. However, the organized structure and traditional nature of this sport do not stop equestrians from turning to SNS.
About the Authors
LOVISA BROMS is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sport Sciences, Malmö University. Broms has an academic background in Sport Management and has extensive experience as project manager within national and international sport. Her thesis will focus on social media, culture, and sport with specific focus on equestrian sports, skateboard and basketball. With her contribution “Negotiating Authenticity: A study of young equestrians and social media”, she was a finalist and 3rd prize winner of the ECSS Young Investigators Award at the annual conference in 2020.
MARTE BENTZEN is an Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences, lecturing in Sport and Health Psychology and Adapted Physical Activity. Common features in Bentzen’s research have been how contextual characteristics influence individuals in terms of experienced demands and motivational support. Within the contexts of sport, work, rehabilitation and school, she finds it of importance to enhance research-based evidence in how to support individuals so they will both have the energy and desire to continue to be in the context, seek challenges, and experience meaningfulness.
SUSANNA HEDENBORG is a Professor of Sports Science and an Associate Professor in Social and Economic History. Hedenborg has her academic background in economic history, but has examined sport from historical and contemporary perspectives. Particular focus has been placed on changes in children’ and youth sports as well as sports from a gender perspective. In Hedenborg’s research, equestrian sports have received special attention. Hedenborg is the president of the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science and the Swedish Antidoping Foundation.
AAGE RADMANN is an Associate Professor at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. He is a sport sociologist focusing on media, youth culture, gender and violence in sports. Radmann is currently working on research projects related to Swedish and European supporter culture; women and football; sport tourism; PE and digitalization; stable cultures; Covid-19’s impact on sports; sport and poverty in Romania; and how social media affects the sports landscape.