Objective: To perform a scoping review of the current evidence on the horse-human relationship.
Background: The horse-human relationship has a significant impact on how horse owners care for and make decisions for their horse.
Evidentiary value: Identification of consensus and gaps in current evidence.
Methods: A literature search was performed in CAB Abstracts and Medline using search terms relating to the nature of the horse-human relationship in horses used for pleasure riding. Publications were reviewed against inclusion and exclusion criteria. Original qualitative or observational research studies relating to the relationship between a horse and owner were analysed. Data were extracted on study method and population characteristics.
Results: There were 4,481 studies identified; 27 studies were included in the final data extraction. The studies covered 11 different areas, the most frequent were effect of humans on equine behaviour (5/27), equine training methods and behaviour (4/27) and horses within sport and leisure (4/27). A range of methodologies were used, with the most frequent being thematic analysis (6/27 studies), use of an instrument, tool or scale (3/27) and behavioural scoring (4/27). The majority of studies considered the human’s perspective (20/27), six considered the horse perspective and one considered both the horse and human perspective. No studies investigated the same or similar aims or objectives.
Conclusion: The current evidence on the horse-human relationship is diverse and heterogenous, which limits the strength of evidence for any particular area.
Application: Future research should focus on developing reliable and repeatable tools to assess owner motivations and horse-human relationship, to develop a body of evidence.