Social licence to operate. Everyone’s talking about it. Public approval to do the horse sports. What is the public approving exactly? Being nice to horses? Recognising their sentience? Acknowledging their animal rights? What are their rights? How do people understand “sentience”? What difference does it make if an animal is sentient or not? Emotions – everyone’s talking about animals having emotions these days…. Or is it everyone? Where are the echo chambers or the silos? How are they divided up?
And that’s the public approval. What do the public know about horses? Is it any different for those within the horse-owning, “horse-using” communities? What are they approving and how do they know?
“The Good Life” – that’s a term we’re hearing in so many academic multispecies, interspecies conversations. What does it mean for a horse to have “A Good Life”? What about the human element? What’s their Good Life as one half of a horse-human dyad? How do we evaluate an intersubjective Good Life for the horse and rider, horse and trainer, partnership?
It’s ripe for some qualitative research isn’t it, semi-structured interviews, thematic analysis, explore how meaning is made of the lifeworld, the lived experience…. But hang on, how do you interview a horse? So, therefore, for all the good intentions of finding out how horses experience their more, or less, “Good Life”, how exactly can we do that? Rely on observations relating to standards and measures set by animal welfare science? Yes, quantitative, scientific research and models can take us a long way in establishing criteria against which the in groups and out groups of horse sports can evaluate domains of welfare assessment that include mental state…
But I want to divert from the quantitative methods and find a way to truly get inside the lived experience of both the horse and their rider as they negotiate their individual and combined meaning-making when participating in equestrian activities. So that’s exactly what I’m doing in my PhD, and I’m delighted that Yogi Sharp, the Equine Documentalist, has invited me to share my findings so far, in his Winter Webinars series. Please join me on Sunday 5th March at 5pm UK time, at the link below.
Don’t forget to check out the other webinars in this series, and The Equine Documentalist’s other well-researched and interesting educational material.
Please share with your interested groups🙂