Topic: Gentrification by horse: Assessing the embodiment of horses in rural gentrification processes
Key words: horsiculture, hobby farming, land use change, consumption countryside, photo elicitation
Small-scale ‘horsiculture’ properties are on the rise across northern Europe, reflecting the ‘consumption countryside’ and the growth of the experience economy. Recent analysis of census figures demonstrates a 56% increase in horse numbers in Scotland since 2001. New, often peri-urban, horse-based holdings are typically conversions of former agricultural small-holdings into lifestyle properties. As such, they represent a specific example of rural gentrification. In this paper, I consider the embodiment of horses within gentrification processes. Studies of gentrification typically focus on changes to housing and social standing of the locale. The added dimension of horse accommodation leads to specific patterns of social and landscape change. Qualitative interviews were conducted with the owners of agricultural holdings in Strathben Parish, Scotland. The paper focuses on the 7 households which spoke substantively about their horses, totalling 13 interviews, owing to the use of photo elicitation in second interviews across the group. Findings demonstrate that the materialities of horse bodies lead to specific landscape changes: qualities of pasture, styles of fencing and stables, and new sanded ménages. Maintenance of horses requires daily labour and physicality for their human owners, while also being predicated upon a degree of household wealth to make these resources available. The companion-nature of the human/horse relationships represents relational capital that is additional to the social capital produced through shared affordances of riding clubs, show jumping, eventing and dressage competitions. I argue that consideration of human/animal relations is an important component of gentrification studies.