Accepted Paper:

Horses, landscapes and hunting: an ethnographic analysis of the collaboration of horse and rider in foxhunting culture.  


Alison Acton (Open University)

Paper short abstract:

'Made hunter' is a term used to refer to a horse proficient in foxhunting, but these animals are not passive constructed entities, nor are they regarded as such within this culture. This paper explores the active engagement of the horse, from the perspective of a rider/ethnographer in foxhound packs.

Paper long abstract:

For around three centuries, modern foxhunting has existed as a culture occupying a rhizomic presence within the English landscape. This paper presents an analysis of the quadripartite synthesis of foxhunting culture, rider, horse and landscape and involves a corporeal and sensory exploration the human/non-human temporal-spatial dynamic. It argues that the horse plays an active role in this nexus.

My fieldwork was unique in that no other overt, in-depth, long-term participant observation has been conducted from the position of a rider within mounted foxhound packs in Britain. The equine focus emerged unexpectedly as I originally participated as a rider/ethnographer in order to understand the nexus between foxhunting culture and the landscape. However, my fieldwork drew me into a collaboration with an unanticipated character in this network; the "made hunter," a horse seasoned for hunting. These animals acted as my equine gatekeepers literally incorporating me into this hunting world.

While many aspects of our lives are characterised by an increasingly alienating 'sequestration of experience'(Giddens, 2006:119) non-human elements still occupy centre stage in the temporal-spatial narrative of foxhunting. As William Cronon (1992:1349) observes, 'human and non-human entities become co-actors and codeterminants…not just of a people, but of the earth itself.' This study examines one aspect of the venatical nexus; that of the timeless collaboration between horse and rider.

Panel P14
Understanding humans understanding horses: constructed and co-created cultures