58 HORSES, TOURISM AND LEISURE – Contributions by Sylvine Pickel-Chevalier

A new field of research in construction: horses, tourism, leisure and social sciences

It was my own passion for the horses and riding that led to my appointment, upon joining the UFR ESTHUA Tourism and Culture department of the University of Angers as an Associate Professor, to the position of director of the equestrian sports tourism concentration, undergraduate and Master’s Degree programs developed within the UFR in collaboration with the Cadre Noir de Saumur[1]. Through these new responsibilities, I found an extraordinary opportunity to meet a large number of actors within the French equine sector. This gave me the chance to revisit the empirical knowledge of horses that I had acquired through my own equestrian practices, and to turn the latter into an object of socio-economic and cultural study, as part of the evolution of contemporary societies. With the support of Philippe Violier, who encouraged me to develop this field of analysis -still largely untapped, at the time, despite the historic importance of equestrian practices throughout the world – I found motivation to invest in international scientific debate on the evolution of equestrian practices and representations, as redefined by the tourism and leisure society. It is in this context that, in partnership with the IFCE[2] in May 2012,  I organized the international conference Equimeeting Tourisme: Cheval, Tourisme et Loisirs / Horse, Tourism and Leisure at the National Equestrian School (Saumur). The conference marked a turning point in equine research, raising the evolution of equestrian practices around the world to the rank of scientific object. Indeed, although leisure riding predominates in post-industrial societies on an international scale, equine research had until then been largely dominated by the life sciences, interested primarily in improving sports performance. Of course, there was research being carried out on human-horse relations from the perspective of the human and social sciences in different parts of world (Digard, 2007; Roche, 2008; Helgadóttir and Sigurðardóttir, 2008; Chevalier, 2011; Dashper, 2012; Adelman and Knijnik, 2013, 2017.), but these were mostly isolated efforts. Thus, the main objective of the conference was to provide a space for debate and exchange among researchers, as well as other professionals and institutions interested in these issues.

The event led to the publication, in 2015, of a special bilingual edition of the scientific journal Mondes du Tourisme entitled Cheval, Tourisme et Sociétés/ Horse, Tourism and Societies, which I edited, in collaboration with a Canadian colleague, Rhys Evans. My role as scientific director of the Tourism Equimeeting and editor of a special edition of the above-mentioned scientific journal led to the expansion of my enquiry into the socioeconomic but also geo-cultural transformations of the equine sector in France and throughout the world, creating new pillars for my work as researcher.

Horses, leisure and gender: a socio-cultural revolution

In order to understand the profound transformations of human-horse relationships in the contemporary world, I began by working on the ruptures and recodifications of representations and symbols associated with the horse within the emerging leisure society, from the late 18th century until our days. This research of the longue durée led to the publication of an article (“Popular Horse Stories and the Invention of the Contemporary Human-Horse Relationship through an ‘Alter Ego’ paradigm”, Journal of Sports Science, 2017a) and two book chapters (“Le cheval réinventé par la société des loisirs en Occident: une mythologie révolutionnée / The horse reinvented by art in Western society: a revolutionized mythology?” 2015 ; “Représentations et symbolismes du cheval. La révolution contemporaine interprétée à travers les arts populaires et enfantins / Representations and symbolisms of horse. The contemporary revolution through popular and children arts”, 2017).

This also encouraged me to pay particular attention to gender, opening myself up to the work of researchers from other disciplinary fields (such as historians F. Thébaud, G. Fraisse and M. Perrot, or sociologists and anthropologists M. Adelman, C. Tourre-Malen, C. Mennesson, C. Louveau, T. Terret, or K. Dashper, etc.) whose work focused more specifically on equestrian sport and gender relations.  Indeed, the feminization and rejuvenation of the profile of riders on an international scale constitute fundamental components of the redefinition of horse-human relationships, their practices and representations. This compelled me to integrate another nascent field of studies into my work, as a geographer, on the premise that a cultural approach of geography may sometimes makes it possible to go beyond relations conceived only in terms of territories, and to understand the evolution of societies within their particular relations of time and space in a more global way.

In collaboration with a woman colleague from the management sciences, I also engaged in study of the adaptation of equestrian structures in France (Grefe and Pickel, 2015a) and the emergence of new equine economies, more particularly within the context of the development of trade in products and services (“The equine business: the spectacularly growth of a new segment market in France”, 2015b; “Le commerce lié à l’équitation révolutionné? Un secteur bouleversé, entre traditions et innovations / The changed of equine business”, 2017).

Defining equine tourism, as a potential vector for the sustainable development of territories

I was also interested in the capacity of equestrian tourism to generate sustainable development of territories, especially in rural areas, as such activities take root, as well as their potential (or lack thereof) to promote policies for the preservation of natural spaces. This work resulted in the publication of an article (“Can equestrian tourism be a solution for sustainable tourism development in France?” in the Canadian revue Loisir et Société / Society and Leisure (2015) and two chapters in edited volumes within the framework of comparative approaches (“Riding to sustainable rural development? Promising elements of sustainable practices in equine tourism in rural areas”, 2014; “Les exploitations différenciées du développement durable. Le cas du tourisme équestre en Pays de la Loire et du surf en Aquitaine / The diverse uses of sustainable development. The case of equestrian tourism in Pays de la Loire and surf in Aquitaine”, 2014).

I pursued these reflections by extending them to the problem of equine tourism, to which I gave a scientific definition as “a movement inscribed in the leisure sphere and which takes place outside the temporality and spatiality of everyday life”, and whose activities relate to an equestrian practice or an activity revolving around an equine (horse, pony, donkey, mule) through visits or events” (Pickel-Chevalier, 2015, p.13). In this context, I sought to examine their potential to create an equine tourism cluster. In collaboration with colleagues in geography and in management sciences, I looked at the specific case of Saumur, which gave rise to two articles, (“Naissance d’un cluster touristique équin? L’exemple de Saumur (France) / Birth of an equestrian tourism cluster in France? The case of Saumur”, Mondes du tourisme, 2015) and a research report (“Cluster touristiques sur le thème du cheval à Saumur/Touristic cluster about horse in Saumur”, Revue Espaces tourisme et loisirs, 2016). This case study compared the conceptual approach of the cluster and more precisely, of the tourist cluster, to its possible applicability to the case of equine tourism involving development and regional planning strategies.  It led to a post-doctoral program on the topic, co-financed by the IFCE and Angers Tourisme Lab.

Tourism and equestrian heritage: exploring a process of mutual construction

Finally, I am also particularly interested in the challenges of perpetuating traditional equine practices, as they become part of processes of heritage development. In this context, I examine the role of tourism and leisure in the dynamics of conservation of equine heritage, between transmission and innovation (Lazzarotti, 2011). Equestrian traditions, like other traditions (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 2012), are constantly reinvented through processes that integrate endogenous and exogenous influences (Heinich, 2009). I did specific research on horse riding in the French tradition, added to the UNESCO heritage list in 2011, publishing my findings and reflections in an article (“L’équitation française et sa patrimonialisation dans la société des loisirs/Equitation in the French tradition and its heritagization in the society of leisure”, EspacesTemps.net, 2016) and a book chapter (“Globalization and Equestrian Cultures: The case of Equitation in the French Tradition”, 2017b). I furthered these reflections in the study of the reconversion of national stud farms in France, written up in two articles, “Tourism and Equine Heritage in France: the case study of the Cadre noir de Saumur and the Vendée Stud” published in the international journal Current Issues in Tourism in 2019, and “Le tourisme, agent de conservation patrimoniale des Haras nationaux en France? De la perpétuation à la reinvention/Tourism as agent of conservation of national studs’ heritage in France? From perpetuation to reinvention”) which came out in 2020a, in the journal économie Rurale.

The scientific and intellectual emulation of this international and often specifically European work, in connection with the evolution of human-horse relationships and practices in the contemporary world, led me to create the HORSUS (Horse and Sustainability) team, which today brings together 28 researchers of 14 different nationalities. As a group, we have submitted two European Horizon 2020 projects which seek to capture the dynamics of conservation – between perpetuation and reinvention – of equine heritages in Europe, integrating the challenges of development and regional planning (2015 and 2017). I continue these projects today in the aftermath of my recently edited dossier for the journal Mondes du tourisme, devoted to the topic of Tourism and Intangible Horse Heritage (2020). In my introduction to the articles that make up the dossier, I define the notion of equine culture as “ a system of practices and representations related to equines, shared by a community that unites around it. Equine cultures go beyond but also include the notion of equestrian culture, centred more specifically around equitation. In other words, the concept of equine culture is a broad one which covers the whole range of relations constructed around horses and equids, in their diverse functions (ridden, driven, under rein and saddle, at liberty, etc.) and representations.” (Pickel-Chevalier, 2020b, p.1). My introduction in followed by six contributions that analyse the interactions between tourism, intangible heritage and equine cultures in seven different countries, in addition to a text of my own, a comparative study of three European classical riding schools (Saumur, Jerez and Lisbon). “Tourism as an agent of reinvention for European equestrian intangible heritages. The case of three great public Classical Riding Schools” (Pickel-Chevalier, 2020c)

I will soon be publishing a book on this theme research, about the three classical riding schools in Europe (The Cadre noir de Saumur; the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and the Portuguese School of Equestrian Art) at ISTE publishing (Cheval, Tourisme et Patrimoine. De la mise en tourisme des écoles de tradition équestres européennes).

In the context of these diverse projects, I was elected president of the Scientific Committee of the French Mission for Equestrian Culture, which, under the aegis of the French Ministry of Culture, aims to promote the preservation of equine cultures and equine traditions in France and around the world. My objective is therefore to continue, through national and international collaborations and continental projects such as Horizon Europe, to explore the complexity of processes of co-constitution of tourism and equine heritage, in all their remarkable diversity.

 

Written by Sylvine Pickel-Chevalier, UFR ESTHUA Tourism and Culture, University of Angers, France
Read Sylvine’s letter to future generations of tourism researchers

References

Adelman, M. &  Knijnik, K., (2013). Gender and Equestrian Sport: Riding Around the World, New-York: Springer.

Adelman, M. & Thompson, K. (2017). Equestrian Cultures in Global and Local Contexts, New-York: Springer.

Clergeau, C., Pickel-Chevalier, S., Violier, P., et Grefe, G., (2015). Naissance d’un cluster touristique équin ? L’exemple de Saumur (France), in Pickel-Chevalier, S. and Evans, (ed) Cheval, Tourisme et Sociétés/ Horse, Tourism and Societies, Mondes du Tourisme, Hors-Série, juin 2015, Paris, pp. 188-204.

Chevalier, V. (2011). Conflits dans le monde sportif. Le cas de la Fédération Française d’Équitation. La Vie des idées, 25 novembre 2011. ISSN : 2105-3030. http://www.laviedesidees.fr/Conflits-dans-le-monde-sportif.html

Daspher, K., (2012). ‘Dressage is full of queens!’ Masculinity, sexuality and equestrian sport, Sociology, 46(6), 1109-1124.

Digard, J.P. (2007). Une histoire du cheval. Paris: Actes Sud.

Evans, R., et Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2014). Riding to sustainable rural development? Promising elements of sustainable practices in equine tourism in rural areas, in Daspher K., (2014), Rural Tourism: An International Perspective, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge, pp. 375-389

Fraisse, G. et Perrot, M. (dir) (1991). Histoire des femmes en Occident. Tome 4, Le XIXe siècle, Paris: Plon.

Grefe, G. et Pickel-Chevalier, S., (2015a). De la transformation des établissements équestres en France lorsqu’ils intègrent la société des loisirs et de consommation, in Pickel-Chevalier, S. and Evans, (ed) (2015), Cheval, Tourisme et Sociétés/ Horse, Tourism and Societies, Mondes du Tourisme, Hors-Série, juin 2015, Paris, pp. 136-149

Grefe, G. et Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2015b). The equine business: the spectacularly growth of a new segment market in France, in Vial C. and Evans R. (ed), The New Equine Economy in the 21st Century, EAAP Editions, Wageningen Academic Publisher, pp.61- 76.

Grefe, G. et Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2017). Le commerce lié à l’équitation révolutionné ? Un secteur bouleversé, entre traditions et innovations (l’exemple français), in Leroy du Cardonnoy E et Vial C. (ed), Les chevaux : de l’imaginaire universel aux enjeux prospectifs pour les territoires, Presses Universitaires de Caen, p.189-205.

Helgadóttir, G. & Sigurðardóttir, I. (2008). Horse-based tourism: Community, quality and disinterest in economic value. Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality, 8(2), 105–121.

Heinich, N. (2009). La fabrique du patrimoine. De la cathédrale à la petite cuillère, Paris : Edition de la maison des sciences de l’homme.

Hobsbawm, E. & Ranger, T. (ed.) (2012). The invention of tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lazzarotti, O. (2011). Tourisme et patrimoine, Histoire, lieux, acteurs et enjeux, Paris: Belin.

Louveau, C., (2006). Inégalité sur la ligne de départ : femmes, origines sociales et conquête du sport, Clio, 23, p. 119-143.

Mennesson, C. (2005). Être une femme dans le monde des hommes. Socialisation sportive et construction du genre, Paris : L’Harmattan.

Perrot, M., (2011). Histoire des femmes et féminisme », Journal français de psychiatrie 2011/1(40), 6-9.

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2015). Can equestrian tourism be a solution for sustainable tourism development in France?, Loisir et Société / Society and Leisure, Volume 38, Issue 1, 2015, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières, Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07053436.2015.1007580?journalCode=rles20#preview

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2016). L’équitation française et sa patrimonialisation dans la société des loisirs, EspacesTemps.net, Travaux, 26.07.2016, http://www.espacestemps.net/articles/lequitation-francaise-et-sa-patrimonialisation-dans-la-societe-des-loisirs/

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2017a). Popular Horse Stories and the Invention of the Contemporary Human-Horse Relationship through an ‘Alter Ego’ paradigm, Journal of Sports Science, David Publishing Company, New York, Volume 5, Number 2, Mar.-Apr. 2017 (Serial Number 19), 119-137, ISSN: 2332-7839. http://www.davidpublisher.org/Home/Journal/JSS

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2017b). Globalization and Equestrian Cultures: The case of Equitation in the French Tradition, in Adelman M. and Thompson K (dir), Equestrian Cultures in Global and Local Contexts, Springer, NY, USA, pp.81-104.

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2019). Tourism and Equine Heritage in France: the case study of the Cadre noir de Saumur and the Vendée Stud, Current Issues in Tourism, https://doi.org/10.1080/13683500.2019.1706459

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2020a). Mise en tourisme des Haras nationaux. De la perpétuation à la réinvention? Economie Rurale, Société française d’économie rurale, n°374 (octobre-décembre), pp. 35-51,  http://journals.openedition.org/economierurale/8247

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (ed) (2020b). Tourisme et patrimoine immatériel du cheval. De la conservation à la réinvention, Mondes du Tourisme, n°18, dec 2020. https://doi.org/10.4000/tourisme.2989

Pickel-Chevalier, S. (2020c). Tourism as an agent of reinvention for European equestrian intangible heritages. The case of three great public Classical Riding Schools, in : Tourisme et patrimoine immatériel du cheval. De la conservation à la réinvention, Mondes du Tourisme, n° 18, dec 2020, https://doi.org/10.4000/tourisme.3019

https://journals.openedition.org/tourisme/3019.

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Pickel-Chevalier, S. and Evans, (ed) (2015). Cheval, Tourisme et Sociétés/ Horse, Tourism and Societies, Mondes du Tourisme, Hors-Série, juin 2015, Paris, 270 pages. https://www.tourisme-espaces.com/doc/9365.cheval-tourisme-societes-horse-tourism-societies.html

Pickel-Chevalier, S. et Grefe, G. (2015). Le cheval réinventé par la société des loisirs en Occident ; une mythologie révolutionnée ? (XVIII-XXIe siècle) in : Pickel-Chevalier, S. and Evans, (ed) Cheval, Tourisme et Sociétés/ Horse, Tourism and Societies, Mondes du Tourisme, Hors-Série, juin 2015, Paris, pp. 26-49.

Pickel-Chevalier, S. et Grefe, G. (2017). Représentations et symbolismes du cheval. La révolution contemporaine interprétée à travers les arts populaires et enfantins, in : Leroy du Cardonnoy E et Vial C. (ed), Les chevaux : de l’imaginaire universel aux enjeux prospectifs pour les territoires, Presses Universitaires de Caen, p.109-128.

Pickel-Chevalier, S. et Violier, P. (2016). Cluster touristiques sur le thème du cheval à Saumur. Un objectif possible mais lointain, in : Revue Espaces tourisme et loisirs, Clusters de tourisme. L’enjeu du décloisonnement, n°330 mai-Juin 2016, pp. 91-101. ttps://www.tourisme-espaces.com/doc/9615.cluster-touristique-theme-cheval-saumur-objectif-possible-mais-lointain.html

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Tourre-Malen, C. (2006). La féminisation des sports et des loisirs équestres: une avancée? Paris: Belin.


  1. Highest national school of classical riding in France.
  2. French Institute of the Horse and Riding

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Women’s voices in tourism research by Antonia Correia and Sara Dolnicar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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