The Human–Horse Relationship: Human Direct and Meta Perceptions of Its Importance for Performance and Welfare in Equestrian Sport

Tufton, L. R.; Kentzer, Nichola and Kingsley, B.E (2023). The Human–Horse Relationship: Human Direct and Meta Perceptions of Its Importance for Performance and Welfare in Equestrian Sport. Anthrozoös, 36(5) pp. 771–788.



Expanding upon prior qualitative rider–horse relationship research, this quantitative study explored participants’ direct and meta perceptions of the importance of a quality relationship between human and horse for performance and welfare in equestrian sport. A purposeful sample of 204 participants (female = 199, male = 4, undisclosed = 1), recruited via social media interest groups and equestrian organizations, took part in this study, with an average age of 45.9 yrs (range = 18–90 yrs) and reflected individuals from a breadth of equestrian disciplines, both amateur and professional. Participants were asked to respond to a 22-item questionnaire (11 items from a direct perspective [their own] and 11 items from a meta perspective [the horse’s, as understood by the human]) using a 7-point Likert scale, ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree,” for both performance and welfare. Multiple linear regression (MLR) analyses revealed that the predictor variables of closeness, commitment, and complementarity (direct and meta combined) were all statistically significant at the 0.001 level, with all independent variables contributing significantly to the prediction of the importance of the human–horse relationship for performance; closeness (88.4% variability), commitment (88% variability), complementarity (91.5% variability), and for welfare; closeness (78.9% variability), commitment (82.9% variability), and complementarity (88.8% variability). The study outcomes suggest that the quality of the human–horse relationship is perceived by humans to be important for performance and welfare and is central to creating an effective and successful partnership in equestrian sport. However, further interrogation of the MLR analyses indicate that future research and education of applied practice in horsemanship would merit greater focus on human self-awareness and self-regulation strategies to help individuals recognize the role their own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors play in the quality of communication and interaction with their horse.

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