“It takes one bad apple”: livery yards in Scotland - a case study

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


This paper discusses research which aimed to explore and understand the factors that contribute to, or hinder, a healthy or quality livery yard environment (defined as rented stabling/field accommodation) for both equines and the humans who are involved with them.

The equine industry in the UK is abundant and growing and arguably makes a substantial contribution to the economy. There are almost one million horses in Britain in private ownership, but many owners do not have the facilities at their own home to stable their equines. As a result, they use the services of a livery yard to board and look after their horses. Choosing a livery yard is a challenging and emotional activity which some horse owners say they ‘dread’. Similarly, the experience of being at a livery yard can be difficult and - at times - even traumatic.

A qualitative research approach was adopted in this study. Four ethnographic case studies and ten narrative interviews were undertaken so that the research could benefit from both an emic and an etic perspective.

This paper will explore the influence that the challenging nature of livery yard life and intra-yard relationships can have on both horses and their humans. Ostensibly, yard inhabitants want to care for/enjoy their horses, but the reality is that livery yards can be intensely status-riven, competitive and unpleasant places to be. The relationships among the actors (including the yard owner, the workers, the clients and the horses) can embody extreme negativity which can, in turn, impact on horse (and human) welfare. The discussion here will focus on the ethical perspectives of horse care in the livery yard context by firstly reflecting on how my own horse responded during her stay at a livery yard as my ethnographic research partner, and secondly, by considering evidence from the wider results of the research which illustrate some of the impacts of the fraught connections of the livery yard/horse care nexus.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016
EventEquine Cultures in Transition: Human-Horse Relationships in Theory and Practice: Changing Concepts of Interaction and Ethics - The Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry , Stockholm, Sweden
Duration: 27 Oct 201629 Oct 2016


ConferenceEquine Cultures in Transition
Internet address


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