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.
|Title of host publication||The relational horse|
|Subtitle of host publication||How frameworks of communication, care, politics and power reveal and conceal equine selves |
|Editors||Gala Argent, Jeannette Vaught|
|Place of Publication||Leiden, The Netherlands|
|Number of pages||16|
|ISBN (Electronic)||9789004514935 |
|Publication status||Published - 21 Apr 2022|