Previous research has suggested that distinct bodily sensations are experienced by athletes during flow states, and could represent a sport-specific characteristic of this phenomenon. This study aimed to enrich understanding about bodily sensations and flow states in sport by exploring this experience in national hunt jockeys.
Photo credit: Sharon Lee Chapman / Fast Track Photography
The interspecies nature of horse-rider partnerships accentuates the importance of bodily awareness in equestrian sports. Therefore, horse racing provided a fertile context in which to investigate bodily sensations experienced during flow states in sport. In-depth, semi-structured interviews exploring the experience of flow in horse racing were undertaken with 10 professional national hunt jockeys (M age = 28.1 years). Data were interpreted iteratively using inductive categorising/thematic and connecting analyses. Present findings suggested that flow states in jockeys produce an idiosyncratic and multifaceted sensory experience, and indicated that altered physical perceptions during flow were not restricted to kinaesthetic properties. Jockeys explained that distinct bodily sensations were experienced during flow states, and described alterations in their perceptions of kinaesthetic ‘feel’, balance, arousal and strength of touch. Each of these bodily sensations was discussed in relation to sensory information received from the horse, and a connecting analysis enlightened the factors underlying the realisation of these unique bodily sensations that accompanied flow states. Findings are discussed with respect to the existing literature on flow in sport and recommendations for future research are outlined. Further, possible considerations regarding the inclusion of bodily sensations as a characteristic of the flow experience in sport are outlined.