The Changing Role of the Horse: From Beast of Burden to Partner in Sport and Recreation

By Georgina K. Crossman and Rita Walsh.

Published by The Sport Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

From 1870 to 1910 the numbers of horses used for agricultural purposes in Great Britain steadily rose, before a notable reduction when these horses were commandeered for military service during World War I. During the 1920s numbers dramatically declined as the horse’s contribution to the agricultural industry, assisting in the cultivation of land and crops, was no longer required and the development of the internal combustion engine diminished the horse’s role in transport. As a result of these changes the way in which the public viewed the horse altered and the role of the horse began to transform. Since World War II the horse has become a recreational and sporting animal, rather than a beast of burden. Estimates suggest there are presently in excess of 1 million horses in Great Britain, with around 4.3 million riders. This paper focuses on the transformation of the horse, explaining its socio-economic importance in Britain and examining how the Government’s view of the horse has changed during this time.

Keywords: Horse, Horse Industry, Equine, Equine Sector, Beast of Burden, Policy Network, Government

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.95-110. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 827.419KB).

Dr. Georgina K. Crossman


Georgina was awarded her degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Politics from the University of Exeter, England, in September 2010, where she was part of the Centre for Rural Policy Research. She has a long standing interest in horses and the horse industry.

Rita Walsh

Senior Lecturer in Agricultural and Equine Business Management, School of Business, Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, UK