Experiences of flow in jockeys during flat-race conditions

P. Jackman, M. C. Van Hout, A. Lane, G. Fitzpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Flow is an intrinsically rewarding psychological state associated with an enhanced state of consciousness and the harmonic combination of body and mind. Jockeys often refer to the highly pleasurable experience of racing performances and allude to characteristics resembling the flow experience. Little is known about how the manifestation of the flow experience differs in an equine sport, which features an atypical sporting partnership comprising a human–horse dyad. The purpose of this study was to explore the conditions that (a) facilitate, (b) inhibit and (c) disrupt the occurrence of flow in flat horse racing. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 Irish professional Flat jockeys regarding their experience of flow in horse-racing performance. Based on the raw data responses, higher-order themes and general dimensions were developed to capture the essence of the flow experience amongst Flat jockeys. Content analysis revealed that conditions similar to those which emerged in other studies involving elite athletes were prevalent, which included effective preparation, environmental and situational conditions, experience, physical readiness, trainer/owner interaction, focus, motivation, arousal, confidence and performance feedback. The narratives also revealed the emergence of two conditions unique to equine sports that were termed relationship between horse and jockey and horse demeanour and performance. The optimal horse–jockey partnership was characterised by confidence, optimal arousal and harmony, which emanated from the fusion of conditions pertaining independently to both the horse and jockey. Findings are discussed in relation to previous research on flow and the horse–human relationship. Recommendations for future research and practice are outlined.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-223
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 03 Jul 2015


  • flow
  • horse
  • horse racing
  • jockey


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