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Legitimizing leisure experiences as emotional work: A post‐humanist approach to gendered equine encounters

Due to changes in lifestyle and work patterns, education and values associated with wellbeing, non‐human animals are now incorporated into a range of human experiences and environments. This research specifically focuses on human–equine relations, examining blurred boundaries between therapeutic and recreational interspecies encounters. It is acknowledged that human–equine relations are often gendered and this research focuses mainly on women's narratives. Viewed through the post‐humanist lens, horses now form kinship and companionship roles, particularly for women, where relations have become mutually emotionally dependent as a result of interspecies communication and embodied encounters. Research utilizes feminist post‐humanist and cultural politics of emotion frameworks associate with the co‐agency on the co‐agency of animals. Embedded in the concept of equiscapes, or post‐humanist leisure spaces, research methods employ qualitative approaches, including in‐depth interviews, participant diaries and multispecies ethnography. Findings reveal how women make considerable investments in equine activities, which develops mutual welfare and wellbeing. Yet, despite these benefits, emotional and other expenditures are justified in work discourses to legitimize them as valuable to themselves, their families and their communities.

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