University Of Tasmania

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Exploring human-horse relationships in Australian thoroughbred jumps racing

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-22, 02:50 authored by Ruse, K, Kerry BridleKerry Bridle, Aidan DavisonAidan Davison
This study explores the nuanced values and attitudes about horses held by participants of Australian thoroughbred jumps racing. The research question was “how do people describe their relationship with individual horses and what do they value about this relationship?” Twenty three semi-structured interviews, median duration one hour, were conducted during May and June 2015 with trainers, jockeys, owners, strappers and pre–trainers and racing officials. Interviews were recorded on a digital hand held recorder and professionally transcribed for narrative analysis and coding of emergent themes using NVivo 10 (QSR International). Participants used anthropometric language to describe their relationship with individual horses and the majority of participants ascribed agency to the horse. Emergent themes included the horse as family, as companion, as co-worker, as competitor; and as athlete. Emotions expressed by participants included pride, trust, empathy, affection and love for individual horses as well as grief and grieving related to separation and or death. Conflict behaviours such as biting or bucking were frequently accepted and regarded as part of the relationship dynamic, both physically and emotionally, creating individuality in the horse-human relationship, rather than being perceived as conflict related behaviours. Such behaviours were regarded to be part of the horse’s ‘character’. Participants’ descriptions were characterised as reflecting tacit, personal and embodied knowledge of their horses. Participants used anthropomorphic language to express their love and affection for their horses and to ascribe personality to individual horses. There was limited understanding that some behaviours tolerated within the relationships and regarded as part of the individual horse’s personality were behaviours indicative of conflict, and therefore potentially affecting horse welfare. We suggest educating industry to better understand the significance and causes of such behaviours may improve longer term welfare outcomes for horses.


Australian Research Council


Publication title

Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research








Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)



Place of publication

New York, USA

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in human society

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