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Isle of Eriskay


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Come and spend 5 days immersed in the wild lives of the free-living Eriskay ponies who roam free 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 pannier 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 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.

This course invites you to explore thought provoking perspectives on horses, horse welfare, and sustainable horse keeping practices. By engaging with local communities, 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.



The delivery of the course will be determined by
where the ponies are in the landscape and the weather..



3rd June 2023

Arrive and settle in.

Day 1:  Orientation 

Monday, 5th June 2023

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

Day 2:  The Art of Observation 

Tuesday, 6th June 2023

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


Day 3:  Behaviour 

Wednesday, 7th June 2023

Behaviour, horse and human. Rewilding.

Day 4:  Foundations 

Thursday, 8th June 2023

Strong foundations, relationship before training.

Day 5:  Summing Up 

Friday, 9th June 2023

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

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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 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 185.6m hill called Beinn Sgrithean 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.



Shared rooms in the self catering house Aird na Huan will be available. The house enjoys a commanding position overlooking the North Atlantic with the natural world (and ponies!) on your doorstep.


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


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.