A 5-day rewilding course on feral-living horses and the prey-predator balance, in Abruzzo, AQ
Join us for a 5-day course, in Abruzzo, the wildest past of Italy, on feral-living horses and on the balance between prey and predator. You are invited to explore this wilderness with us, to better understand the role of the old ways of letting horses out on mountain pastures in the summers, how that fits into new rewilding and conservation concepts. We will of course also try to see it all from the horse’s perspective; how is it to be a feral-living horse in Abruzzo, living alongside both wolfs and bears. What can we learn from studying feral, or semi-feral living horses, in environments where also their predators live? How can we understand the eco-systems they are part of – thinking in terms of balance, co-existence, mutual benefits, knowledge, and respect for each other’s presence? How can we then see humans and our human needs and activities fit into that?
In Italy human history is very visible and present. Due to its topography, with the Apennine mountains running through almost the whole country you also still find very wild places. Abruzzo is the wildest of regions in Italy and is called the wild heart of Italy. It plays a major role in restoring biodiversity and creating safe spaces for wildlife. To do that the local people need to be onboard. The old tradition of letting horses (and cows) out on remote pastures, up in the mountains, gives us the opportunity to study these feral-living horses, and ask ourselves questions such as: What is quality of life for a horse? What is equine welfare? How do horses choose to organize themselves when humans are less present in their everyday life? How do they solve problems? But also questions to better understand what co-existence between humans, domestic animals and wildlife have historically looked like, and what it can look like ahead.
You are invited!
During these 5 days you will meet our local guide and horseman, Gianluca Tullio, who will both talks about and show how he grew up, taking horses up the mountains in the summer, and what he has learned about life and the necessity of taking care of nature and let all animals be themselves. You will meet Dr. Emily Kieson who is a researcher on equine behavior and interactions, who travels the world to study feral-living horses and tries to understand the impact of the environment, humans, and predators play a role in their social interactions. You will also meet Lovisa Cullheim, a wildlife expert, who has been working for many years with wolfs and wildlife rehabilitation and is now eagerly exploring how we can apply co-existence between humans and non-humans, and how horses fit into this equation. And finally on the team you also find Katarina Lundgren, passionate about cognition and psychology in both horses and humans and who is an equine assisted facilitator for human growth, who will remind you that everything you see is filtered through your lenses, biases, preconceived notions etc. That we humans are not mere observers, we are part of nature too.
All four of us are passionate about equine welfare and all love to dive deep into the minds, souls and lives of equines, humans, nature. We guarantee you some very interesting conversations!
May is a lovely time in Italy, but you never know, and we will of course adapt our days to the weather and the whereabouts of the horses and wildlife we will observe.
May 24. Arrive to Abruzzo, near Civita d’Antino and install yourself in your chosen accommodation.
May 25 Day 1. We will take time to set the frame for these days, with who we are and what brought us all here now. Gianluca will introduce you to local horse traditions, you will meet his herd and we will do some initial horse observations and learn about and discuss the terminology we use (feral, domestication, co-existence, rewilding, conservation, etc), and of course – about how you are who watches. In the afternoon, Gianluca takes us up the mountain and we will stay the night up there.
May 26 – Day 2. Dr. Emily Kieson will be your main guide through this day – where we continue to look at horse behavior, practice observing with different methods, we discuss what we see, where research is today, what we know and do not know (yet). We start the day up in the mountains to after lunch get back to the village and the land of Gianluca’s horses.
May 27 – Day 3. Katarina Lundgren set the day with discussions about feral-living horses compared to domestic living horses. What role does horses play for restoring and rewilding? How do we rewild ourselves? How do we facilitate better understanding of handling, co-living, working with horses? We continue our observations, as well as practice our awareness of ourselves as observers.
May 28 – Day 4. Today Lovisa Cullheim will add the perspective of the wildlife biologist. We will head to the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise and will spend the day learning about wolfs and bears, under the guidance of Lovisa and a guide from the park.
May 29 – Day 5. Our last day we will tie it all together. What have you seen? What did you experience? How do you choose to understand it? All of us together will facilitate some more introspective activities, aiming at a better understanding of what we all as individuals bring into rewilding, learning about the wild and how we can apply it when we get home to our respective countries and local environments. The whole team will contribute with their different perspectives and final reflections (which also includes yours as a participant!)
Emily Kieson (Research Director, MiMer Centre) holds a PhD in Comparative Psychology, a MS in Psychology, and a graduate degree in Equine Science. Her research focuses on equine behavioral 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 behaviors to study how horses create and maintain social bonds and how those can overlap with human affiliative behaviors 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).
Katarina Lundgren is the director of MiMer Centre, a growth facilitator, project leader, certified trauma sensitive mindfulness instructor and a cognitive scientist offering various equine assisted interventions. Katarina travels globally and educates people on equines, equine welfare, equine-human interaction, how to work with equines in therapy and learning programs, trauma sensitive mindfulness, and stress and trauma. Her passion is researching and spreading knowledge and to advocate for better and more accessible trauma sensitive and informed services, as well as better equine welfare, based on thorough understanding of the horse.
Katarina is cross disciplinary in mind and heart, forever curious and expressive.
Lovisa has long experience working with different types of animals. Following her BSC in Journalism and Communication, she decided to study ethology and zoology and pursued a career working with predators (mainly wolves) around the world.
Today, she works as a zookeeper focusing on Nordic animals while also expanding her knowledge about the world of equine-assisted interventions. One of her special interests is rewilding and working towards creating a world rich with wilderness.
She believes that creating opportunities where people can experience wild nature and wildlife is necessary to cultivate an emotional bond and sense of responsibility for the future of our planet.
Her goal is to integrate nature and animal-assisted mental health interventions into the rewilding movement and to facilitate experiences that inspire a sense of belonging. She has recently taken a training in Wildlife Tourism through Rewilding Europe.
Lovisa is a member of the advisory board at MiMer Centre.
"I'm Gianluca Tullio, I was born in Avezzano in 1983. I grew up in Civita d'Antino, where I lived until the age of 20 and then moved to Rome for study and work reasons. After studying Visual Arts I dedicated myself to the profession of photojournalist which I still do as a freelance for national and international photojournalistic agencies. I have never abandoned the passion for horses which, thanks to the help of my uncle Gabriele, I was able to keep.
The horse has been fundamental for me, since the age of five it has accompanied me on a path of growth and inner awareness that has influenced the way I approach the world. Equally important were the mountains and the magical places where I grew up, these remained wild and are still capable of giving a great sense of freedom. In recent years, the need to regain possession of this dimension to make it known and discovered by my two children, Filippo and Valerio, has become more and more overwhelming."
Read more about Gianluca and his place in Civita d'Antino, where also part of the course will take place: Horse’s Land - The Sustainability Farm
Easy to moderate. As we will be exploring the environments inhabited by the horses challenging terrain may be encountered so a reasonable level of fitness is suggested as well as appropriate footwear. Abruzzo is hilly and the terrain up in the mountains and in general in nature can be uneven and steep in some places. The peak of the mountain top is around 1700 masl.
There are several international airports in Rome and one in Pescara. Easiest is to rent a car at the airport and drive to Civita d’Antino. The drive from Fiumicino Airport Rome (the biggest one) takes a little less than 2 hours (162 km). There is a train station in Civita d’Antino and we can also pick you up there, though we recommend you to have access to your own car, or even better share a care with other participants (We will also be driving to the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise).
Accommodation is not included in the price. You can find several nice B & Bs, self-catering options, agriturismos (farm stays) and rooms in the area through Booking and AirBnB.
Local Facilities and meals
Meals are not provided, but you can easily find local groceries to prepare lunches and snacks and we highly recommend you try out the local cuisine in the restaurants. The village Civita d’Antino has a small, but very good restaurant.
Tea, coffee, and biscuits provided all other meals to be arranged by the participants themselves. Bring your own water bottle and travel mug for tea/coffee!
The spring in Abruzzo is usually very nice, but there are no guarantees. The temperature normally in May is around 25 degrees during the day. Evenings and nights are chillier. Civita d’Antino is situated at 900 masl, so it is cooler than Rome. Up the mountain it can be quite cold, so bring warm clothes for the night we stay there. As well as a good sleeping bag and sleeping mattress. The sun can also be quite relentless, so to not get yourself burned, bring sunscreen, caps, sunglasses etc, everything you know you usually need to protect yourself from the sun.
Maximum Participants: 12
Price: 880 Euro
Early Bird rate: 780 Euro if you book before April 10.
Charity, student, researcher, and low-income concessions available
Payment plans available.
All details on the booking page.
Included in the Course Cost
The following costs are included in the price of the course:
- All the educational teaching and materials
- All local guides
- Tea, coffee, biscuits
Not included in the Course Cost
- The following costs are not included in the price of the course:
- Travel to and from Civita d’Antino, travels to and from the National Park
- Food and drinks (other than the above mentioned)
Current guidelines for the local areas will be followed.
This Course is Made Possible by:
- Collaboration between MiMer Centre Equine - Human Education and Research Centre and Touching Wild with Bonny Mealand
- Horse’s Land - The Sustainability Farm, in Civita d’Antino, AQ, Italy.
- Plus many enthusiastic individuals too numerous to mention to whom we are sincerely grateful.
A Percentage of the Fees will be Donated to:
Rewilding Apennines: www.rewilding-apennines.com
See you soon!