Given that the role of the horse and ethical questions regarding their treatment have become a source of dispute, the aim of this study was to explore how riders express, and understand, the role of their horse in the context of equestrian sport. The data consists of semi-structured, in-depth interviews with 27 amateur riders (15 Swedish and 12 Polish) who practised sports dressage. Riders’ quotes reflect a tension between the way riders have historically perceived the role of the horse in equestrian sport as predominately objects, and contemporary attitudes that considered animals as having their own mind and consciousness. The data also show that there is a lack of words for describing the role of the horse in dressage riding.