This paper explores how the human–animal relationship is used to inform the construction of expertise about how best to manage relationships with animals. It pays particular attention to how the material practices of horse training can be understood as performative of human–animal relationships, animality, and the boundary between humans and animals. Drawing on an analysis of commercial videos of natural horsemanship, the paper shows how acts of animal counterperformance are actively used by some trainers to strengthen a performance and, in so doing, enhance the construction of expertise. Setting counterperformance in the context of space, though, the paper also highlights the ongoing ‘risky’ and unstable nature of human–animal relationships and the potential this creates for the performance of expertise in human–animal relations to be challenged.
- human–animal relationship