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.