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Tools of the Trade or Part of the Family? Horses in Competitive Equestrian Sport

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The horse-human relationship is based on mutual respect and understanding, and the development of trusting partnerships may be particularly important in elite equestrian sport, where horses and humans rely on each other to tackle sporting challenges. The increasing commercialization of equestrian sport is eroding aspects of the horse-human relationship, as the commodity value of sports horses increases and the pressure for quick results threatens the formation of deep bonds between horse and rider. This article presents data from an ethnographic study of competitive equestrian sport in England, including interviews with 26 elite riders, to explore how the changing nature of elite equestrian sport is altering the basis of the horse-human relationship, changing the horse from a trusted partner in sporting pursuits to a commodity to be bought and sold for human commercial benefit.

Affiliations: 1: Carnegie Faculty, Leeds Metropolitan UniversityLeedsUnited


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