Accepted paper:

From the horse's mouth...


Valerie Will (University of the West of Scotland)

Paper short abstract:

All was lost - but "failure" was merely the beginning. This paper considers the serendipitous insights gained from recruiting an equine research assistant who didn't want the job.

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers the failures and affordances related to involving a horse as an ethnographic research partner. My research aimed to explore service quality/health within the equestrian livery yard (rented stable accommodation) sector. I planned to situate a horse at a livery yard so that together we could experience all aspects of livery yard life and culture from an insider perspective. The horse who became my research partner - Zorca - was recruited at the Cavan Horse Sale in Ireland and during the summer prior to beginning the ethnographic study, I spent time at home with her getting to know her personality and learning her likes and dislikes. However, I became aware that I was uncomfortable at the thought of moving her to a livery yard - but this was the research I had envisaged and I felt obligated to move forward. I selected the livery yard carefully but, despite meticulous preparation, my vision of having an equine research assistant failed monumentally. Following her move to the livery yard, Zorca was incredibly unhappy and I had to withdraw her from the study because of the impact on her physical and emotional wellbeing. My research had failed - I was an equine ethnographer without an equine and at this point I felt all was lost. This paper considers the serendipitous insights I gained "from the horse's mouth" and how, instead of being the end, this "failure" was merely the beginning.

panel P56
The ethnographer's slip: fail again, fail better