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Lynda Birke

Abstract

This paper explores how horses are represented in the discourses of "natural horsemanship" (NH), an approach to training and handling horses that advocates see as better (kinder, more gentle) than traditional methods. In speaking about their horses, NH enthusiasts move between two registers: On one hand, they use a quasi-scientific narrative, relying on terms and ideas drawn from ethology, to explain the instinctive behavior of horses. Within this mode of narrative, the horse is "other" and must be understood through the human learning to communicate and through appropriate training. On the other hand, NH enthusiasts—like many horse owners—seek to emphasize partnership. In this type of discourse, people portray their horses as almost human. The tensions between these two ways of talking about horses reflect contradictory ideas about control versus freedom in relating to horses, especially as related to emotions expressed by caregivers (owners) about their relationships with horses.

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Lynda Birke

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Lynda Birke

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Lynda Birke

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Lynda Birke

Abstract

This paper explores the many meanings attached to the designation,"the rodent in the laboratory" (rat or mouse). Generations of selective breeding have created these rodents. They now differ markedly from their wild progenitors, nonhuman animals associated with carrying all kinds of diseases.Through selective breeding, they have moved from the rats of the sewers to become standardized laboratory tools and (metaphorically) saviors of humans in the fight against disease. This paper sketches two intertwined strands of metaphors associated with laboratory rodents.The first focuses on the idea of medical/scientific progress; in this context, the paper looks at laboratory rodents often depicted (in advertising for laboratory products) as epitomizing medical triumph or serving as helpers or saviors. The second strand concerns the ambiguous status of the laboratory rodent who is both an animal (bites) and not an animal (data).The paper argues that, partly because of these ambiguous and multiple meanings, the rodent in the laboratory is doubly "othered"—first in the way that animals so often are made other to ourselves and then other in the relationship of the animal in the laboratory to other animals.

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Lynda Birke

Abstract

This paper examines the rise of what is popularly called "natural horsemanship" (NH), as a definitive cultural change within the horse industry. Practitioners are often evangelical about their methods, portraying NH as a radical departure from traditional methods. In doing so, they create a clear demarcation from the practices and beliefs of the conventional horse-world. Only NH, advocates argue, properly understands the horse. Dissenters, however, contest the benefits to horses as well as the reliance in NH on disputed concepts of the natural. Advocates, furthermore, sought to rename technologies associated with riding while simultaneously condemning technologies used in conventional training (such as whips). These contested differences create boundaries and enact social inclusion and exclusion, which the paper explores. For horses, the impact of NH is ambiguous: Depending on practitioners, effects could be good or bad. However, for the people involved, NH presents a radical change—which they see as offering markedly better ways of relating to horses and a more inclusive social milieu.

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Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull

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Series:

Lynda Birke and Jo Hockenhull