Murray State Theses and Dissertations


Events like a global pandemic can negatively impact how organizations and groups function. From a collegiate perspective, this could include limiting or eliminating participation in co-curricular activities that have positive impacts on student experiences. Students use these events to make new friends, socialize and generate a sense of belonging, and gain interactions outside the classroom. In March 2020, a number of mandated restrictions were put into place in the United States in response to COVID-19, and collegiate equestrian teams' ability to practice and show were negatively impacted. Even though some restrictions were beginning to ease as of Fall 2021, many universities and organizations still adhered to selected restrictions in classrooms and at athletic events. The objective of this study was to determine the effect of COVID-19 restrictions on collegiate equestrian team student engagement and morale. Two surveys were conducted, one from December 2020 to January 2021 (Phase 1), and the second from November to December 2021 (Phase 2). The surveys were developed in SurveyMonkey® and distributed to coaches for six collegiate equestrian organizations: Intercollegiate Horse Show Association, Intercollegiate Dressage Association, National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, National Collegiate Equestrian Association, Intercollegiate Eventing, and Intercollegiate Polo. For Phase 1, the survey was open for seven weeks and collected 45 usable responses. For Phase 2, the survey was open for five weeks and collected 24 usable responses. Descriptive statistics were completed using Microsoft Excel, and Chi Squared and Fisher's Exact tests were run using SPSS. In Phase 1, restrictions related to COVID-19 in 2020 resulted in changes to rules for team practices and shows in the Fall 2020 semester. Most common changes related to practices (n=33/45, 73.3%) included limiting the number of people in tack rooms to achieve social distancing (n=21/45, 46.7%) and use of hand sanitizer (n=16/45, 35.6%) while tacking up. For teams that were able to show (n=23/44, 52.3%), the most common changes included health checks (n=5/45, 11.1%) and limited group travel (n=3/45, 6.7%). Most respondents (n=35/45, 77.8%) indicated that team morale was negatively impacted, particularly with incoming freshmen, and most respondents reported reductions in team interaction (n=23/45, 51.1%). Limitations on the size of gatherings and required social distancing, which limited time for interaction during practices and travel to events, may have been partly responsible for lowered student morale. In Phase 2, restrictions related to COVID-19 continued to impact students in 2021. During the Spring 2021 semester, 37.5% (n=9/24) of teams were able to practice but not show. In contrast, all 26 responses (100%) indicated teams were able to do both in the Fall 2021 semester. Compared to Phase 1, the most common restrictions continued to include social distancing and hand sanitizer use, but the incidence of each decreased. From Spring to Fall 2021, social distancing restrictions decreased from 79.2% (n=19/24) to 66.7% (n=16/24), and hand sanitizer use decreased from 70.8% (n=17/24) to 50% (n=12/24). While dedication improved (70.8%, n=17/24), attitude and socialization continued to be negatively impacted (58.3%, n=14/24, and 54.2%, n=13/24, respectively), particularly with incoming freshmen. Zoom group calls for teams to socialize and connect was mentioned several times as an activity that helped keep students engaged. This was also reported to help the freshmen connect with the team and adjust to college life. Should a similar event occur in the future, equestrian team coaches should continue to explore practices that will help keep students engaged and connected.

Year manuscript completed


Year degree awarded


Author's Keywords

Equestrian, COVID-19, COVID-19 student impact

Thesis Advisor

Cheryl A Porr

Committee Chair

Cheryl A Porr

Committee Member

Michelle Santiago

Committee Member

Rafaela De Negri

Document Type