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'Horses for Courses': An analysis of equine sports regulation and disciplinary procedures regarding the non-human athlete

By Jonathan G Merritt

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Sports governing bodies and international sports federations are very powerful organisations within their sphere. The governance of these sports has created a hegemony which does not necessarily serve the interests of those engaged in sport (the ‘ruled’), but instead those who ‘rule’ sport. A key part of governance is the disciplinary mechanism and the control of cheating within the promotion of integrity. The central tenet of such governance is the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Code, and separate rules within the same aim is the concept of strict liability, modified to ‘presumed fault’ and is predicated on the concept of human autonomy. The elite sport horse is now socially constructed as a non-human ‘athlete’, as it is no longer a bulk source of power for industry, agriculture, or warfare. However, the contribution that the horse industry makes to the UK leisure economy is considerable at £7bn annually, before associated gambling is even considered. Worldwide, there are more than 80 sports involving horses as participants but the current hegemony regarding the maintaining of integrity is not working. Sports involving horses are unique in that they involve teams of human and non-human athletes. This thesis considers equine-based sport globally, but concentrates on the Olympic equestrian sports and horse racing as examples to demonstrate the inequities and inadequacies in the governance and disciplinary status quo, with respect to those non-human athletes, which impacts on the associated human. This is not an animal rights treatise, although animal welfare considerations do play a part in the discourse. Rather, this research takes a Gramscian perspective to examine the problem and define whether the problem is systemic and, further, if it is, why it has remained without radical alteration. Ultimately, a new hegemony is proposed in dealing with cases of cheating with much greater integration of, and reciprocity between, the various equine sports governance structures.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2017
Pages 325
Degree PhD in Law
Language English
University De Montfort University
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Equine sports
  3. Horse racing
  4. Horses
  5. open access
  6. Sport animals
  7. Sports
  1. open access