A scoping review of the current literature exploring the nature of the horse-human relationship

  • H. G. R. Clough School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, LE125RD
  • John Burford School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, LE125RD
  • Amanda Roshier School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, LE125RD
  • Gary England School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, LE125RD
  • Sarah Louise Freeman School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough, Leicestershire. LE12 5RD



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Objective: To perform a scoping review of the current evidence on the horse-human relationship.

Background: The horse-human relationship has a significant impact on how horse owners care for and make decisions for their horse.

Evidentiary value: Identification of consensus and gaps in current evidence.

Methods: A literature search was performed in CAB Abstracts and Medline using search terms relating to the nature of the horse-human relationship in horses used for pleasure riding. Publications were reviewed against inclusion and exclusion criteria. Original qualitative or observational research studies relating to the relationship between a horse and owner were analysed. Data were extracted on study method and population characteristics.

Results: There were 4,481 studies identified; 27 studies were included in the final data extraction. The studies covered 11 different areas, the most frequent were effect of humans on equine behaviour (5/27), equine training methods and behaviour (4/27) and horses within sport and leisure (4/27). A range of methodologies were used, with the most frequent being thematic analysis (6/27 studies), use of an instrument, tool or scale (3/27) and behavioural scoring (4/27). The majority of studies considered the human’s perspective (20/27), six considered the horse perspective and one considered both the horse and human perspective. No studies investigated the same or similar aims or objectives.

Conclusion: The current evidence on the horse-human relationship is diverse and heterogenous, which limits the strength of evidence for any particular area.

Application: Future research should focus on developing reliable and repeatable tools to assess owner motivations and horse-human relationship, to develop a body of evidence.


Open Access Peer Reviewed

Author Biography

Sarah Louise Freeman, School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham, College Road, Sutton Bonington, Loughborough, Leicestershire. LE12 5RD

Professor of Veterinary Surgery


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