Why Do People Own Horses?: The experiences of highly involved dressage horse owners in the United Kingdom

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference abstract


Horse ownership is simplistically defined as the possession of a horse. However, it is understood the human horse relationship is more complex than mere ownership of an object. When investigating the relationship, horses receive more attention than the human. Missing from the knowledge base is the underlying motivation of humans to own horses, which could inform behavioural change techniques. Using an inductive, qualitative approach twenty-one dressage horse owners ranging in age, experience, and professional affiliation with horses were interviewed. Two core themes emerged. The core theme ‘Getting Into Horses’ explained people’s initial attraction to horses and how they became horse owners. The core theme of ‘Horse-Human Interaction’ explains how horses are motivating through acts of caregiving and using the horse. These themes come together to form a novel theory of horse ownership motivation. The horse ownership theory introduced in this study is explained by utilising four other theories. Biophilia explains the initial attraction to horses. Self-determination theory explains how horse ownership is fulfilling of humans’ basic psychological needs of autonomy, competency, and relatedness. Attachment theory and achievement goal theory work in conjunction with self-determination theory to further explain why human-horse interactions are fulfilling of relatedness and competency needs. In conclusion, horse ownership is motivating because of the autonomy that possession of the horse facilitates. The autonomy provides humans with the ability to control the decision-making regarding the horse, which motivates humans through a sense of competency and perception of a relationship. Thereafter, ownership protects the human-horse relationship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEquine Cultures in Transition
Subtitle of host publicationPast, Present and Future Challenges
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Motivation
  • Self-determination theory
  • Human Animal Relationship
  • Attachment Theory
  • Achievement


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