Negotiating power, personhood and (In)equality in elite horse‐rider relationships

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The use of horses in equestrian sport raises questions around equine agency and horse-rider engagement. This study examined elite equestrian sporting relationships using in-depth interviews conducted with an international sample of thirty-six elite and sub-elite riders from a range of sporting disciplines. Participants constructed and managed their relationships with horses, minimising the species-gap by describing horses as minded, autonomous, and powerful sporting partners. Horses’ voices and perspectives were reproduced and represented, with nuanced power-exchanges underscored by an intellectually stimulating engagement between horse and rider. Creating a sense of shared power enabled elite riders to understand their sporting engagement with horses as ethical and facilitated the development of close horse-rider relationships. The findings of this study suggest that anthropomorphic understandings of elite horses may be helpful in creating a sense of mutuality between horse and human and may provide a way for equestrian athletes to manage the (in)equality of horse-rider interaction. The language used by riders to describe horses in sport may also have important implications for how interspecies relationships are developed and understood. Conceptions of equine minds must be considered if an elite sporting milieu that values and prioritises the lives and welfare of horses is to exist.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe relational horse
Subtitle of host publicationHow frameworks of communication, care, politics and power reveal and conceal equine selves
EditorsGala Argent, Jeannette Vaught
Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9789004514935
ISBN (Print)9789004510357
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2022

Publication series

NameHuman-Animal Studies


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