Horses and humans: Delving into our working relationship

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Kendra Coulter, associate professor in the Centre for Labour Studies.
Kendra Coulter, associate professor in the Centre for Labour Studies.

A multi-year project on horses and care work is to be undertaken by Canadian researcher Kendra Coulter after she was named the 2017 recipient of Brock University’s Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence.

Coulter, associate professor in the Department of Labour Studies at Brock in Canada’s Niagara region, is recognized globally as a leader in the study of human-animal labour.

The award recognizes Coulter’s outstanding contributions in her field and encourages her position as a path-breaking scholar in research about animals. With it, Coulter says she will deepen her expertise in human-equine labour by conducting a multi-faceted and multi-year project on horses and care work.

“Through this research, we can gain insights about how work is changing, but also about how it could be changed to improve both human and equine lives,” Coulter says.

Kendra Coulter
Kendra Coulter

Central to Coulter’s research is the concept of humane jobs, which she has developed to highlight work that benefits — or may benefit — both people and animals.

“Despite the significance of horses to the past, present and future of this land we now call Canada, there is a shortage of research on equine cultures and human-horse work in particular,” Coulter says. “There are also some popular misconceptions, including that horses are only for the upper class.”

There are about a million horses in Canada and more than 150,000 direct and spin-off jobs related to equine activities.

Coulter explains that her research will consider “a constellation of overlapping yet distinct areas of care work.”

“Veterinary work is changing in noteworthy ways. The work done to care for horses every day in stables is crucial, yet is often undervalued, as well as understudied,” she says. “Equine-assisted therapy is a newer but growing field, and horses are often seen as co-workers. It has interesting challenges and possibilities.”

In the study, Coulter will be examining veterinary labour, daily work in stables and the expanding area of equine-assisted therapy.

Coulter’s previous work includes leading a first-of-its-kind study on the working conditions of animal cruelty investigators; her gender wage gap and retail research is widely consulted, and she has been invited to speak to academics, advocates and practitioners around the world.

Coulter has used royalties from Animals, Work and the Promise of Interspecies Solidarity, to create an academic award for students in her Animals at Work course.
Coulter has used royalties from Animals, Work and the Promise of Interspecies Solidarity, to create an academic award for students in her Animals at Work course.

Her books include Animals, Work, and the Promise of Interspecies Solidarity and Revolutionizing Retail: Workers, Political Action, and Social Change.

Revolutionizing Retail won the Canadian Association for Work and Labour Studies (CAWLS) Book Prize in 2015.

With the royalties from Animals, Work and the Promise of Interspecies Solidarity, Coulter created an academic award called the Promise Prize for Top Achievement in the Study of Animals at Work for students in her unique Animals at Work course.

Coulter is also being inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars this year.

The Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence, open solely to Brock tenured and tenure-track faculty, recognizes the excellent scholarship of Brock University’s faculty members.

Chair holders are active scholars who have demonstrated excellence and who will continue to make significant contributions to the advancement of their field.

Recipients of the Chancellor’s Chair for Research Excellence can undertake a specific three-year programme of research leading to a significant development in their scholarship, including a scholarly monograph, or a state-of-the-art review that might lead to a seminal series of scholarly lectures.

Each awardee will give at least one public lecture on their research to the Brock University community.

Article courtesy The Brock News.

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