Agents of sustainability: How horses and people co‐create, enact and embed the good life in rural places

Helen Wadham, Carrianne Wallace, Tamzin Furtado

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Notions of the good life are often strongly linked to rurality. Existing conceptualisations tend towards an anthropocentric and individualised approach centred on personal wealth, status and happiness. In contrast, this article reframes the good life as an interspecies endeavur, which embeds people and animals alike by recognising their interdependent relational configurations within the wider natural-social environment. Specifically, we bring insights from the concept of buen vivir to bear on research among people who live alongside their horses in rural areas of the UK. We find that horses enhance, enable and mediate people's understanding and experience of the rural good life. In contrast to popular and scholarly conceptions that emphasise privilege and leisure, the interspecies iteration that emerges is characterised by hard work, collaboration and purposeful active learning. This has profound implications in turn for our understanding and experience of sustainability, as these interspecies relations lead participants into a more active stewardship of both the immediate and wider environment.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSociologia Ruralis
Early online date28 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022 The Authors. Sociologia Ruralis published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Society for Rural Sociology.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.


  • Good life
  • buen vivir
  • co-creation
  • human–animal relations
  • landscape
  • sustainability


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