Aging Animal Bodies: Horse Retirement Yards as Relational Spaces of Liminality, Dwelling and Negotiation

Alex Franklin, Nora Schuurman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
56 Downloads (Pure)


This paper investigates how animal aging and ill-health are managed, spaced, interpreted and experienced within a horse–human relationship. It does so by exploring the active construction of ‘retirement’ as a legitimate category within the life course of an animal. The analysis is concentrated around the emergent spaces of horse retirement yards. Conceptualising retirement yards as liminal spaces of transition and transformation, particular consideration is given to the role of the yard manager in creating a good retirement for the horse. This includes negotiating and narrating figurative and bodily processes of animal aging with the distant owner. The paper reviews the yard manager’s careful enactment of re-wilding in the shaping of aged and unsound equine bodies, but also their authentic inter-weaving of practices of domestication. Balancing re-wilding and domestication, in both figurative and bodily form, appears central to securing dwelling-in-retirement on a retirement yard and therefore, successful animal aging. In accordance with the non-uniformity of liminality, however, the relational care practices which permit dwelling-in-retirement require daily attention. They remain subject to multiple potential sources of disruption, including those which extend well beyond the aged or unsound state of the individual animal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-937
Number of pages20
JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
Issue number7
Early online date24 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2019


  • Animal aging
  • animal retirement
  • domestication and wildness
  • dwelling
  • human–animal relations
  • liminal space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development

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