Equine International, in collaboration with Touching Wild, partners with a number of organizations around the world to offer unique educational excursions to amazing locations to study feral and wild-living horses and equids. All courses offer insight into equine ethology, behavior, welfare, and how to bring this knowledge back to our own domestic animals. Each course brings in professionals and specialists in the area and portions of the proceeds support research at Equine International, local efforts in Rewilding, conservation, wild equid welfare and management, and environmental efforts. Each course combines sustainable ecotourism and conservation travel with a passion for horses and the roles they have in our history, cultures, and landscapes
We are excited to invite you to join us on the first Learning Wild course on the island of Skyros in March 2024. Skyros, one of the Greek islands in the Agean sea, is home to the Skyrian horse, one of the rarest horses in the world.
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 Skyros Course which will take place in mid-March 2024, we will work closely with Amanda Simpson from the Skyros Island Horse Trust - Friends of the Skyrian Horse to better understand the exceptional history of the Skyrian horse; a breed that has been immortalised in history and myth and is a living representation of the richness of Greek history. As an animal with such a unique role in history, the Skyrian horse is a symbol of how we can move forward with a greater respect for nature while still honouring the past.
We will discuss the history of these horses on the island as well as their role in the landscape, place in the culture and relationships with the people on the island. Historically, Skyrian horses have roamed the tiny island and played a large role in the ecosystem. There are still Skyrian horses living freely on the southern areas of Skyros and we will visit some of these locations to explore the vegetation and landscape that has served as their home for thousands of years and see if the free-living horses that still roam there are visible in a way that allows us to observe them without disrupting their natural behaviours.
This is an outline of the structure of the 4 days.
The delivery of the course will be determined
mainly by the weather.
The Art of Observation
Equine evolution, physical and behavioural
Putting together a simple ethogram.
Regenerative grazing, conservation grazing and the possibilities of sustainable environmental practices with horses as part of the landscape. We will explore the ways communities can come together to improve both economic and environmental growth and the potential for this here in Skyros.
Working with Amanda and her volunteers at the Skyrian Horse Trust to contextualise their history and heritage, understand the cultural and historical changes which have led to restricted grazing for the Skyrian horses and the need to preserve the breed in a more domestic setting. We will learn about the ways in which the Trust is working to provide enrichment and behavioural needs to replicate and mirror the Skyrian horses natural environment while also improving the soil health.
Human & Horse
Through group discussion we will contextualise and evaluate our observations and learning, along with bringing our unique local, regional and global perspectives to explore the ways we can translate what we have witnessed and learned here in Skyros with the settings, situations and environments we live and work to improve equine welfare, horse:human relationships, improved environmental practises and more by sharing ideas and interdisciplinary collaborations.
As we will be exploring the environments inhabited by the ponies, challenging terrain may be encountered so a reasonable level of fitness is suggested
March is the first month of spring in Skyros - weather can be changeable and packing accordingly is recommended. A summary of weather expectations can be found at www.holiday-weather.com/skyros/averages/march/
TRAVEL TO SKYROS
The airport of Skyros is located on the northern side of the island, in the region of Agios Petros. It operates only domestic flights from Athens and Thessaloniki. There are no charter flights to Skyros from other countries. The flight time from Athens to Skyros is 40 minutes and the main flight operators to Skyros are:
TRAVEL IN SKYROS
There are taxi services to get around the island and we will have a small minibus to take us around.
We have a limited amount of accommodation available in shared houses, book early to secure your bed.
We also offer an option for the cost of the course only with no accommodation provided.
Local places to stay can be found at:
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.
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).
Early Bird Rates are available until March 1, 2024. Rates for the course (without accommodations) are 400 GBP. Rates that include accommodation are 640 GBP for a shared room (twin beds) or 875 GBP for single room. Click here to see the official learning wild site or use the link below to register now.