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Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull

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Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull

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Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull

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Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull

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Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull

Many living with companion animals hope for “good relationships” based on trust, mutuality, and cooperation. Relationships develop from mutual actions, yet research often overlooks nonhumans as mindful actors within relationships. This is a study of horse/human dyads, using multimethod approaches intended to include horses as participants. We ask: can “good relationships” be observed, especially when the pair know each other well? We studied familiar/unfamiliar pairs, negotiating simple obstacles, to explore qualities of cooperation between pairs. Interviews with human participants elicited perceptions of horses’ “personalities” and reactions. We analyzed video recordings of interactions and also showed them to external observers. We identified differences in attention, tension and coordination: familiar pairs were more coordinated, mutually attentive, and less tense, and they showed less resistance. That is, some relationships displayed discernible qualities of “working together.” We cannot know nonhuman animals’ experiences, but knowing how they behave says something about their agency within interspecies relationships.

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Crossing Boundaries

Investigating Human-Animal Relationships

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Edited by Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull

Many people feel strong bonds with nonhuman animals, and these relationships are central to much emerging scholarship in human-animal studies. Yet to study relationships is not straightforward; research often focuses on how humans affect animals or vice versa rather than on the relationships themselves. Partly, this is a consequence of the history of disciplinary divisions, particularly between natural and social sciences. In this book, contributors from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds reflect on the methodological challenges they face, and how they go about studying relationships between people and animals. The book provides fascinating insights into how research on human-animal relationships can rise to the challenges of interdisciplinarity, and help us to understand the animals with whom we bond.