An application of ‘systems science’ to classical dressage

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Whilst science may provide us with the thinking and tools to develop a greater understanding of the horse as a ‘natural system’, it is argued here that it may be of limited use in our investigation of ‘purposeful human activity systems’ of the sort we engage in with horses. Classical dressage is an example of what may be described as purposeful human activity which is particularly interesting because of its long history and cultural and political influences. The belief by many of its proponents that classical dressage takes the participant on a much
deeper journey than the mere acquisition of riding technique makes the topic increasingly complex. An example is given of the application of the Appreciative Inquiry Method (AIM) into the work of two different, but complementary, classical dressage riders/trainers. AIM is a rigorous but interpretive ‘soft’ systems-based approach that involves exploring and
modelling purposeful human activity and its associated ‘worldview’ through language natural to those involved in the study. Through the use of systems concepts, AIM facilitates a process whereby the investigator influences the process of inquiry as little as possible. The results from the studies allow insight into the thoughts, feelings, motivations and practices of the two ‘experts’. There is no attempt to generalise from the results of the two studies since each study is unique. The work is offered as an illustration of how such a systems approach may generate meaningful ‘data’ that is, by its very nature, personal, tacit, experiential, context-dependent and culturally-embedded. It is hoped that the examples presented here will help to illustrate how ‘Systems Science’ is a valuable and appropriate approach to help us develop an enriched appreciation of the complex relationships between humans and horses.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication8th International Equitation Science Conference
Subtitle of host publicationThe Road Ahead
EditorsHayley Randle, Natalie Waran, Jane Williams
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Event8th Annual Conference of The International Society of Equitation Science - Royal (Dick) Veterinary Centre, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Jul 201220 Jul 2012


Conference8th Annual Conference of The International Society of Equitation Science
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'An application of ‘systems science’ to classical dressage'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this