Equines and their human companions

Keaveney, Susan M.
Journal of Business Research (In Press)

Previous research related to marketing describes deep emotional bonds that develop between humans and their pets (primarily cats and dogs). Another multi-billion-dollar international market that needs exploration flows from the highly-involving bonds between humans and their horses. Horses are not pets, but the study of equine relationships with humans generates insights into animal-companion interactions. This article reports results of an interpretive phenomenological investigation of the relationship between humans and their horses, using participant observations, in-depth interviews, and written open-ended questions including the critical-incident technique. Analysis of the data first addresses a priori themes from the animal-companionship literature and identifies themes found, themes with a twist, and themes not found. The article then discusses seven emergent themes unique to human–horse relationships — including physicality, partnership, bonding through adversity, flow experience, communitas, spirituality, and life lessons.