Handling wild, feral or semi-feral equines in a safe, low stress and effective way is a completely different paradigm to traditional methods. The aim of my workshops is to provide the knowledge and hands on experience that will give participants the confidence and skills to carry out this calm and effective form of handling. The flexible framework can be adapted to fit each particular environment and requirements. It is a mix of theory, planning and practical.
The theory sessions cover the basics of understanding what it means to be an equine. This is an equine centred approach so it is vital to have understanding of their species. We also look into communication and body language, both human and equine as well as some training concepts and techniques. As you’ll appreciate working with unhandled animals can get fast moving so the theory prepares us for some of the situations that we may encounter once we start to interact with them.
The practical is a mixture of information gathering and interactions. Through the observation of the groups, individuals within the groups, their interactions with each other and with humans we start to build a database of useful information. This can then be used when putting together the specific training plan which can be applied as we work. The practical element of the workshop is very fluid so we can respond to the dynamics of what is happening on each day. We can also spend time setting up and then adjusting the existing facilities as the work progresses.
I encourage the collaboration of all the participants as I find that sharing our experiences and ideas so valuable when putting together an appropriate training program and planning for the future. Safety is my number one consideration and this plays the biggest part in my work.
If you would like to see a short clip of me working with the Przewalski’s at the Highland Wildlife Park please take a look here – https://fb.watch/3922C3soD9/
I qualified as an Equine Podiatrist In 2005 and have run my own ‘Whole Horse’ hoof care business since then. I specialise in working with wild, untouched, feral and difficult to handle equines. Finding low stress ways to handle them that also builds trust is the foundation of my work. My goal is to help the horses feel safe and calm enough to be handled by humans. I don’t have set methods or techniques but instead use my experience, alongside adaptability to introduce and then establish straightforward handling.
I have more articles about my work on my blog site. https://touching-wild.blog/
When my keepers approached me about working with Bonny to see if she could apply her skills to the management of our herd of Przewalski’s or Mongolian wild horses, I was a touch dubious. I said that I was happy to allow the experiment to go ahead, with some extra safety protocols in place, but I did not believe that they would be able to achieve anything significant. The idea was that using Bonny’s tried and tested skills with some pretty skittish feral domestic equids, she could create a situation where we could carry-out some simple hoof-care and minor veterinary procedures without the need for the usual anaesthesia. To my astonishment, we quickly started to see some very positive results and the ability to work in very close proximity to an increasing number of our horses has enhanced their welfare and altered how we manage the herd. I have no hesitation in recommending Bonny as she has significantly altered how we now manage our herd of wild horses.
DOUGLAS M RICHARDSON
Head of Living Collections, RZSS Highland Wildlife Park