Multimodal human-horse interaction in therapy and leisure riding
Horseback-riding in general, and equine-assisted therapy in particular, are widely used for leisure and rehabilitation purposes. However, few scientific studies on human-horse interaction are available. The aim of this article is to provide a description and analysis of multimodal human-horse interaction in riding sessions. Video and audio-recordings of riding sessions, interviews with the riders and observations were done in a small riding school in Western Sweden. A combination of linguistic and ethological methods is used for data analysis. The recordings are transcribed, and the sequences when human-horse interactions occur are analyzed using activity-based communication analysis and ethograms. The following typical sub-activities of riding session are distinguished and considered: “greeting horse”, “care of horse before riding”, “tacking”, “mounting horse”, “waiting for co-riders,” “riding lesson”, “dismounting horse”, “care of horse after riding” and “saying goodbye to horse.” The analysis shows that the riders use vocal verbal, visual and tactile signals when they communicate with the horses. The riders tend to communicate more verbally while caring before the ride compared to after the riding lesson. The horses’ reactions are complex, comprising tactile (e.g. touch with the muzzle), visual (e.g. lifting legs, moving in the box/stable, ear and head movements, movements of the tail, etc.) as well as auditory ones, (e.g. snorting).