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The Horse’s Tale: Narratives of Caring for/about Horses

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In this paper, we report on a study of people who keep horses for leisure riding; the study was based on a qualitative (discourse) analysis of written comments made by people keeping horses, focusing on how they care for them and how they describe horse behavior. These commentaries followed participation in an online survey investigating management practices. The responses clustered around two significant themes: the first centered around people’s methods of caring for their animal and the dependence of such care upon external influences like human social contexts. The second theme centers on the “life stories” people constructed for their horse, usually to explain aspects of the animal’s behavior; in particular, many spoke in terms of a rescue narrative and saw their horses’ lives as being much better now than in the animal’s (imagined) previous life situation. We argue that decisions about equine well-being are made within specific social communities, which create consensus around particular ideas of what is good for horses (or other animals). To ensure the well-being of animals means taking these communities and their knowledges into account.

Affiliations: 1: University of Chester, Email:; 2: University of Chester; 3: Newcastle University


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