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Monday 3rd June to Friday 7th June 2024


Come and spend 5 days immersed in the wild lives of the free-living Eriskay ponies who roam across on the beautiful island of Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides.

This special place has been home to ponies for many generations and how they even reached the island has been lost to the mists of time. The history of the ponies is closely intertwined with the lives and Gaelic culture of the islanders. Eriskay ponies are among the last surviving remnants of the original native ponies of the Western Isles of Scotland.
These ponies are perfectly adapted to the harsh conditions of the Atlantic Seaboard and navigate the challenging terrain with agility and grace. For many generations they were invaluable to the island inhabitants who used them to carry panniers of peat for winter fuel and seaweed from the shore to fertilise the land and they continue to be an important part of Island life. Because the ponies' connection to the island and its people is still kept alive, we have the incredible opportunity of looking at equine culture, human culture and the coexistence of the two.


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 free-living equines 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.

We invite you to explore thought provoking perspectives on horses, horse welfare, and sustainable horse keeping practices. By learning from experienced experts and
through educational observation and discussions we can explore more about horses, our perceptions of them and how they choose to live when they have the freedom to do 


The learning will be a mix of guided lessons, discussions and individual and/or group observations. We will examine how best to implement what we learn from our studies to
 enhance the health and well-being of domestic horses.

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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

Saturday, 2nd June

Monday, 3rd June

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, 4th June

Wednesday, 5th June

DAY 3: Behaviour

Behaviour - horse and human. Rewilding.

DAY 4: Foundations

Strong foundations, relationship before training.

Thursday, 6th June

Friday, 7th June

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 beviewed 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 representativeof 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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Moderate to hard

As we will be exploring the environments inhabited by the ponies, challenging terrain may be encountered so a reasonable level of fitness is suggested as well as appropriate foot- ware. The terrain on the Island is uneven and steep in some places and also incorporates boggy ground. The ponies live on a 185 m hill called Beinn Sciathain  so prepare for some steep climbs whilst looking for them. (Well worth the effort when you see the view from the top!)



By car - this is the most practical option to reach this remote location. Lift sharing between participants will be encouraged. The journey will include a ferry crossing.

By ferry - you can choose to leave from either Oban, Mallaig or Uig on the Isle of Skye to travel across to the island. Booking months in advance is vital as the ferries are very busy at this time of year. If you need advice about planning your trip please contact Bonny who has years of experience in organising ferry logistics.

By train - There is a steam train (Hogwarts express) to the harbour town of Mallaig via Fort William, from where you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Uist.

Flights - You can fly from Glasgow to the neighbouring island, Barra, the only place in the world where the runway is a beach! You can then organise a taxi to get a lift to the ferry terminal to take the short voyage across to Eriskay.




Shared and private rooms in one of two self catering houses:
Aird na Huan and Eriskay Lilt will be available. 

Both houses have amazing views and are close to the beach with the natural world (and ponies!) on your doorstep.


If you would prefer to book your own accommodation this is a helpful website.

This is a very busy season so book early to avoid disappointment.


A short drive across the causeway onto South Uist is the fully equipped Campsite. Bring your own tent and camping equipment, book here.


Meals are not provided but the house has a well equipped kitchen where we can make and share meals. We will have access to a local shop which also sells takeaway meals and very good coffee. The island pub is Am Politician which serves generous portions of delicious food.


Tea, coffee and biscuits provided all other meals to be arranged by the participants themselves.


At this time of year, the weather can range from warm sunshine to wet and windy. We may get very mixed conditions on the same day! You should therefore bring a mixture of clothing including warm fleeces, jackets, hats and gloves. Waterproof walking boots and gaiters will be a necessity.

COURSE COST  5 day course - price per participant


+ Accommodation

(In Private Room)


£987 after 1st March


+ Single Occupancy

(In Shared Room)


£795 after 1st March

No Accommodation

(Rate for the Week)


£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

•    Accommodation in Aird na Huan or Eriskay Lilt
•    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 the Isle of Eriskay

•    Food and drinks

•    Camping or other Accommodation


Collaboration between Touching Wild with Bonny Mealand and
Equine International with Dr Emily Kieson
Comann Each nan Eilean - The Original Eriskay Pony Society

Plus many enthusiastic individuals too numerous to
mention to 
whom we are sincerely grateful.

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Comann Each nan Eilean - The Original Eriskay Pony Society


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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