The Elusive “Feel”: Exploring the Quality of the Rider–Horse Relationship

Tufton, Lauren R. and Jowett, Sophia (2021) The Elusive “Feel”: Exploring the Quality of the Rider–Horse Relationship. Anthrozoös, 34 (2). pp. 233-250. ISSN 0892-7936

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This qualitative study explored how riders perceive and understand the relationship with their horse. Participants included ten elite female riders with a mean age of 40.6 years, five of whom competed in Eventing and five in Dressage with an average of 30.9 years’ competitive experience, and their chosen horses (mean age: 11.8 years). The average duration for the relationship between horse and rider was 6.8 years. Each rider–horse combination completed a flatwork training session, which was video recorded. Riders were asked to watch their video back and provide a commentary of their direct (their own) and meta (their horse’s, as understood by the rider) perceptions of their interaction including descriptions of the characteristics that underpin the relationship. The riders’ verbal reports were transcribed in full, and then examined using a thematic analysis. The analysis was both deductive and inductive, a process known as abductive reasoning. The subthemes were generated inductively through initial coding and then afforded deductively to the rudimentary framework of the 4Cs model of quality relationships: Closeness, Commitment, Complementarity, and Co-orientation. Closeness represents individuals’ feelings, and subthemes included respect, trust, appreciation, and emotional bond. Commitment represents individuals’ thoughts, and subthemes included will, attentional focus, motivation, and effort. Complementarity represents behaviors, and subthemes included cooperation, reciprocity, support, and personality. Co-orientation represents mutual knowledge and understanding, and subthemes included self-awareness, shared knowledge, optimal learning, and empathic accuracy. Additionally, subthemes were induced to new themes outside of the rudimentary framework: Welfare, with subthemes of psychological wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and treatment/therapy, and Performance, with subthemes including groundwork, judgment, relaxation, and harmony. The overarching theme of Rider–Horse Psychophysiological Confidence underlined the importance of quality rider–horse relationships to performance and welfare, for both horse and rider. An adaptation of the 4Cs relationship model is offered as an educational framework for the rider–horse relationship and opportunities for future research are highlighted. This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Anthrozoös on 1st March 2021, available at It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.”

Item Type: Article
Keywords: rider horse relationship
Depositing User: RED Unit Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Dec 2021 09:36
Last Modified: 01 Oct 2022 03:00

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