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Monday 1st July to Friday 5th July 2024


We are delighted to invite you to the first Learning Wild event in collaboration with the Fell Heritage Trust in Cumbria this July 2024. In the heart of the Lake District the semi-wild herds of Fell ponies have helped create the landscape and are part of the heritage and history of the area.

Learning Wild courses are designed to provide a unique experience for participants from around the world to explore the role of free-living equids in cultures, environments, and histories in a variety of international locations. We attract participants from a wide range of careers and backgrounds which allows us to facilitate conversations that engage with all levels of society and create opportunities to engage with the local community and needs of the horses and culture in which we are hosting the courses. We firmly believe that, by providing a space in which people can learn about the unique traits of the horses we are visiting, they can better understand the role these horses play in the history of the landscape, the local culture, and the environment. We believe that, by providing these experiences and perspectives on horses we can move forward to encourage greater biodiversity, with horses as part of the dynamic ecosystems that can improve the health of our planet.

Join Dr. Emily Kieson as she conducts research in the social lives of horses and explores applications to domestic equine welfare and developing stronger friendships with our own horses.


Share the experience and enthusiasm for the observational study of feral ponies with Bonny Mealand who is passionate about enabling others to learn from the richness of this perspective. In addition there will be local experts and representatives from relevant organisations.

For the Learning Wild Cumbria Course which will take place in July 2024, we will be working closely with the Fell Heritage Trust -  to learn more about the characteristics of this unique breed, the links between people and ponies throughout history, the contribution of the ponies to conservation grazing and the work of the Cumbrian hill farmers who are the stewards of these important ponies. The venue for the event will be Gowbarrow Hill Farm, where regenerative and sustainable agriculture is practised to preserve and restore natural landscapes through low impact farming.

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This is an outline of the structure of the week. The delivery of the course will be determined by where the ponies are in the landscape and the weather.


Arrive and settle in

Sunday, 31st June

Monday, 1st July

DAY 1: Orientation


Ecology, conservation,
history and culture.

DAY 2: The Art of Observation

Equine evolution, physical and behavioural. Putting together a simple ethogram.

Tuesday, 2nd July

Wednesday, 3rd July

DAY 3: Behaviour

Behaviour - horse and human. Rewilding.

DAY 4: Foundations

Strong foundations, relationship before training.

Thursday, 4th July

Friday, 5th July

DAY 5: Summing it up

What we have learned and how we can 
best implement this to improve the lives of equines.

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Bonny Mealand (Touching Wild) qualified as an Equine Podiatrist in 2005 and has been committed to understanding, implementing and promoting a whole horse approach to health and well-being ever since. Bonny specialises in working with wild, free-living equines and “difficult” domestic equines by building trust and helping them learn to be handled in a low stress way.


A short clip of Bonny working
with some Takhi (equus prezwalski) can be viewed here -

BBC Inside the Zoo.


Bonny is committed to constantly learning as much about and from equines as possible. Believing that it is possible to define what a life of quality looks like at both a species and individual level. She then uses this perspective to implement a high standard of welfare into their domesticated lives.


She is also a retained Firefighter, Somatic Yoga and Mindfulness Teacher and BHS Welfare Advisor and is a MSc student at the Dick vet (University of Edinburgh) studying  Equine Science.


To learn more about Bonny’s
work please click here:

Touching Wild  |  Facebook  |  Instagram


She is also the UK representative
of the world renown Equine Ethologist Lucy Rees


Emily Kieson (Equine International) holds a PhD in Comparative Psychology, a MS in Psychology, and a graduate degree in Equine Science.


Her research focuses on equine behavioural psychology, equine welfare, and horse-human interactions as they apply to both horse owners and equine-assisted activities and learning programs. Her current research focuses on equine affiliative behaviours to study how horses create and maintain social bonds and how those can overlap with human affiliative behaviours to create authentic lasting friendships between horses and humans.


She also has a passion for supporting sustainable systems of horse management and husbandry that promote physical and psychological welfare of the horse while simultaneously supporting sustainable ecosystem practices on small and large scales (for both feral and domestic equids).


To learn more about Emily and Equine International please click here:
Equine International

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From a very young age of 3 or 4 growing up on my fathers farm in Ireland I watched the working partnership the farmhands had with the farm horses which were still doing most of the jobs on the farm in the early 1960's. By the time I was 8 we were living in Cumbria and my chosen breed was a Fell Pony for their working versatility and clever nature from growing up on the wild fells and learn common sense from the herd that helped them to be a working friend you could trust when trained to ride and drive and work the land which was my interest in the breed. From 1979 I have had a Fell pony or two in my life making my living for over 10 years with them. Woking with my partner on a organic smallholding with pony power, Carriage driving instructor, Curator at The Black Country Museum to establish a working carters yard, showing the public all the different jobs the ponies did in the year1900 in Dudley as a living Museum in the West Midlands. From that I went on to farm for 20 years in France on the Charente Limousine near the mountains of the Massif Central region with sheep and Breeding Fell Ponies under the Globetrotter prefix. Fell ponies get there name from the Cumbrian fells that the live on and need to stay there for their wilder side that makes them the breed they are.


In 2017 a small group of hill breeders with myself founded the Fell Pony Heritage Trust.

In 2018 we came home to Cumbria to help the declining hill breeders and hill herds who look after the core of the breed and to work with them to give a strong voice to their cause to keep the Fell Pony on the Fells.




As we will be exploring the environments inhabited by the ponies, challenging terrain may be encountered so a reasonable level of fitness is suggested.



The Lake District can be cool and wet even in the summer. It can also be hot and sunny. Layers including waterproofs are recommended along with stout walking boots.


The event will be hosted at Gowbarrow Hall, Watermillock, CA11 0JP. The nearest train station is Penrith (North Lakes) which is 11km away. Lift sharing between course participants is recommended.



Accommodation is not included in the price of the course.

1. Camping/Caravan/Glamping
The Quiet Site Glamping and Camping - The Quiet Site, Ullswater, Lake District
Ullswater Holiday Park - Camping in Pooley Bridge, Ullswater

2. Hotels
Another Place - The Lake, Another Place, The Lake
Leeming House Hotel - Ullswater Bed & Breakfast Deal

3. Holiday Lets
Ullswater View Apartment (walking distance) - Serviced Apartments in Penrith
High House Cottages (also probably walking distance)

There are lots of options in the village, so if none of the above are suitable or available, then participants can always search for places in Watermillock or even Pooley Bridge, which is slightly larger and has some small shops etc.



Gowbarrow Hall Farm is a family run farm on the south facing shores of Ullswater in the Lake District. The farm is under the management of Sam and Claire Beaumont, as the third generation. They are passionate about maintaining the natural beauty of the landscape and enriching the wildlife that falls within it.


They are caring for the environment and are conscious of how farming fits within the wider global issues that our planet is facing.

For quarterly updates on what is happening on the farm and to hear about the regular events they hold, you can click below to sign up to their mailing list.

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COURSE COST  5 day course - price per participant



£600 after 1st March

Maximum Participants - 16
Charity, student, researcher and low income concessions available


INCLUDED in the Course Cost

The following costs are included in
the price of the workshop:

•    All the educational teaching and materials

•    Tea, coffee, biscuits

NOT INCLUDED in the Course Cost

The following costs are not included in
the price of the workshop:

•    Travel to and from Cumbria

•    Food and drinks

•    Accommodation


Collaboration between Touching Wild with Bonny Mealand and
Equine International with Dr Emily Kieson

and the Fell Pony Heritage Trust

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Learning Wild courses are kept small to allow for higher levels of participation by atendees. Once a spot has been paid and reserved, it is no longer available for other potential participants and we oten have to turn people away. As a result, we have strict cancellation policies. For UK-based events participants wishing to cancel can get 50% of their paid amount refunded if they cancel before 30 days prior to the event. There is no refund given if participants cancel within 30 days of the event.

Any participant wishing to cancel may request that their non-refundable payments be carried over to a later Learning Wild course. The location and date of the Learning Wild course to which the credit can be transferred does not have to be declared at the time of cancellation. Individuals wishing to apply credit to a Learning Wild course should contact the course schedulers as soon as they know what course to which they would like to apply the credit. Learning Wild does not reserve spots in courses for any participant there are no guarantees of spots for people holding credit.

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