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30th March


3rd April


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​​​​Come and spend 5 days in the spectacular landscape of the Cairngorms National Park. Immerse yourself in the wild lives of the free-living Konik horses who roam free on the RSPB Insh Marshes reserve and the Takhi (Equus Prezwalski) who live at the Highland Wildlife Park (HWP).

The Takhi are an iconic success story for the role of zoos in biodiversity conservation and you will have the rare opportunity to meet these endangered equines and their Keepers. You will also get to see and learn about the award winning handling methods that have been successfully developed here which make any necessary handling safe, low stress and enjoyable. You will also learn about their wild lives on the Mongolian Steppe.

The Insh Marshes herds are helping to restore the largest floodplain fen in the UK. They thrive on rough forage such as rushes, grasses and reeds. These hardier plants would shade out sensitive habitats without the natural grazing processes and ground disturbance that the ponies provide.

Once a vitally important breeding site for some of our threatened UK bird species like the Curlew, Redshank and Lapwing the landscape is being restored by the impact of the ponies. Since their arrival in 2019 the ponies have opened up new habitat for the unique flora and fauna that was once abundant in this dynamic floodplain eco system.

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 experience the richness of this perspective.
In addition to our guides 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 so.

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.





This is an outline of the structure of the week. The delivery of the course will be determined mainly by the weather. On the days that we visit the HWP there there will be some free time to explore the rest of the park, see the varied Tundra species who live here and discover some of the work this remarkable place is invoked with.



29th March 2023

Arrive and settle in.

Day 1:  Orientation 

Thursday, 30th March 2023

Environment - ecology, conservation,
history, historical significance and culture.

Day 2:  The Art of Observation 

Friday, 31st March 2023

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


Day 3:  Behaviour 

Saturday, 1st April 2023

Behaviour, horse and human. Rewilding.

Day 4:  Foundations 

Sunday, 2nd April 2023

Strong foundations, relationship before training.

Day 5:  Summing Up 

Monday, 3rd April 2023

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

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Your Hosts

Your Hosts

Dr. 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



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 horses 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:



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


Terrain Grading

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. Marsh land and uneven footing are prevalent so comfortable wellies would be ideal, waterproof walking boots and gaiters would be another option. The HWP has exceptional facilities for those with compromised mobility. If you have concerns about the access issues please get in touch and we will assist as best we can.


By Train - there is a station at Kingussie where we can collect you from and take you to the location. Book your tickets here - Trainline. If you are travelling from London, Crewe or Preston you can have the very special experience of travelling on the Caledonian Sleeper Train.

By Bus - there is a bus stop in Kingussie where we can collect you from and take you to the location

By Air - there are airports at Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness. All of which have bus and train links to Kingussie.

By Car - Postcode: PH21 1NT



Shared rooms in the self catering Soillerie House will be available.

Basic camping in a beautiful native Birch Forest. Outside toilets and showers. There are some good local wild swimming spots where you can go to refresh and invigorate too! Bring your own tent and camping equipment.

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

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


Kingussie is the local village which has a small supermarket, local shops, cafes and hotels. Meals are not provided but the house has a well equipped kitchen where we can make and share meals. There are also some very nice restaurants and takeaway options for evening meals.


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

Weather in the Cairngorms

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.



Maximum Participants - 12

Course plus Accommodation 6 nights in
ie House - £940pp
Camping/other accommodation - £


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 Soillerie House and camping

•    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 Kingussie
•    Food and drinks
•    Other accommodation

“A wonderful and unique opportunity to step off the treadmill and take time to reflect on how horses choose to live their lives. This course is a must for anyone with a genuine interest in horses, humans and how we fit together.”


Course Sponsors



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

  • RSPB Scotland - Insh Marshes

  • RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

  • The LIFE 100% for Nature project, funded by the LIFE programme of the European Union

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


International Takhi Group

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