Accepted Paper:

Learning to communicate: the triad of (mis)communication in horse-riding lessons  
Katherine Dashper (Leeds Metropolitan University)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on ethnographic study of horse-rider training, I consider how meaning is co-constructed, lost, negotiated and embodied through formal horse-riding lessons via three beings – horse, rider, trainer. Efforts to reach collective understanding operate at verbal, physical and emotional levels.

Paper long abstract:

Relationships between horses and humans are complex and multi-faceted, incorporating a wide variety of practices and purposes. In this presentation I consider the systematic training of horse-rider partnerships through formal horse-riding lessons in order to begin to consider how communication and meaning are transmitted, negotiated, understood and misunderstood across species, temporal and spatial boundaries. The horse-riding lesson is a complicated field of communication between trainer, rider and horse, and encompasses a variety of verbal, physical and emotional cues. Based on hours of observation, observant participation, interviews and reflection, I consider various ways in which species boundaries are negotiated and sometimes broken down, and how the riding lesson is a sensory experience for all three partners in the process.

The horse-riding lesson is an interesting context in which to consider questions of inter- and intra-species communication, as all three partners are continually communicating and receiving a variety of messages, instructions, responses and feelings. The presence of the trainer complicates the usually didactic relationship between horse and rider, and is intended to facilitate horse-rider communication and improved performance, via the 'expertise' of the trainer. However, this process is a complex interplay between verbal language, bodily cues (conscious and sub-conscious) and wider environmental cues and can lead to misunderstanding as often as to improved outcomes. In this presentation I consider how rider, trainer and horse attempt to reach some sort of consensus in relation to this complex communicative process and the implications this has for our understanding of inter and intra-species communicative becoming.

Panel P093
The meaning of horses: perspectives on intra-species communicative becoming