1st Edition

Human-Horse Relations and the Ethics of Knowing

By Rosalie Jones McVey Copyright 2023

    This book explores how equestrians are highly invested in the idea of profound connection between horse and human and focuses on the ethical problem of knowing horses. In describing how ‘true’ connection with horses matters, Rosalie Jones McVey investigates what sort of thing comes to count as a ‘good relationship’ and how riders work to get there. Drawing on fieldwork in the British horse world, she illuminates the ways in which equestrian culture instils the idea that horse people should know their horses better. Using horsemanship as one exemplary instance where ‘truth’ holds ethical traction, the book demonstrates the importance of epistemology in late modern ethical life. It also raises the question of whether, and how, the concept of truth should matter to multispecies ethnographers in their ethnographic representations of animals.

    Introduction: #Two Hearts and Tall Tales

    1 Who Belongs in the Horse World Now?

    2 "Learn From the Horse, Don’t Label Him!"

    3 Articulating Equine Characters and Human Virtues

    4 Infantilisation and the Ethics of the Un-real

    5 Qualifying the Centaur

    Conclusion: Never Straight from the Horse’s Mouth


    Rosalie Jones McVey is a Junior Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK. A social anthropologist, her interests lie in the anthropology of ethics, human/animal relations, and cognition. She has worked around the world as a horse trainer for a number of years.

    "I am enthralled...don't know when I have enjoyed a manuscript so much" - Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern, University of Cambridge

    "This is a first-rate book. The ethnography is rich and very sensitively and imaginatively interpreted. And the analysis is consistently penetrating and original... I think certain to be influential." - James Laidlaw, William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

    "This book represents a highly original and subtle accounting of alternative horsemanship in the UK. With insightful interventions into a range of debates, especially within multispecies ethnography and the anthropology of ethics,  Human-Horse Relations and the Ethics of Knowing breaks new ground. It invites us to think again about the relationships of engagement and detachment between horse and rider. Most impressively, it crafts a careful and beautifully rendered description of ideologies of training in practice and gets us to consider afresh the tensions and freedoms expressed through such form of human-animal partnership. A wonderful read." - Adam Reed, University of St Andrews