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"Loving-knowing" women and horses: Symbolic connections, real life conflicts and "natural horsemanship"

By Nikki Savvides

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Since the late nineteenth century, female authors have suggested that Western women and horses have an innate connection. Often, the connection is categorized in terms of female “empowerment” and “liberation,” with the rise of female equestrianism playing an important role in overcoming women’s oppression and status as incomplete “others” in masculinized society. In this paper I analyze the symbolism of woman-horse relations in Western literature and culture. I argue that the symbolic “connection” between women and horses has had important sociopolitical outcomes in terms of the status of both female and animal others. I also argue that such symbolism does not necessarily translate into real life, in which woman-horse relations often involve elements of danger and conflict. By interpreting and analyzing interviews undertaken with Australian horse-owning
women, I show that literary and cultural representations rely on romanticized views of both horses and women that do little to elucidate the complexities of interspecies
relations, or to contribute to a practical framework for cooperative training relations between humans and horses. Using the work of feminist theorists concerned with human-animal relations, I argue that understanding other species requires both emotional responses to animals and experience-based knowledge of relating to other species. I also argue that gender-specific ways of relating to horses limit broader engagements with these animals and suggest that all humans, regardless of gender, have the potential to develop cooperative relations with animals through the discipline of training. 


Date 2011
Publication Title Humanimalia
Volume 3
Issue 1
Pages 60-76
ISBN/ISSN 2151-8645
Publisher DePauw University
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals in culture
  2. connections
  3. Equestrians
  4. Horsemanship
  5. Horses
  6. Human-animal bond
  7. Mammals
  8. Pet ownership
  9. Women