Magic in the mountains-Therapeutic properties of horses and nature

The main lodge sits surrounded by forest and mountains. Photo Jean Strong.
The main lodge sits surrounded by forest and mountains. Photo Jean Strong.

Just off of a snowy dirt road connecting Sun Peaks to Adams Lake and Barriere, there’s a ranch with red roofs tucked in the woods.

If you were to turn up the driveway you would be greeted by friendly dogs, a flock of chickens and Hillary Schneider waving at you from the covered porch of a large lodge.

It’s here where Schneider has lived for almost a year after moving from Ladner, B.C., bringing her family of animals with her. Now she shares the 80 acre property with a herd of 15 horses, two dogs, a coop of chickens and a number of staff members who run Epona Rise Retreat Centre.

Schneider dreamed of owning a property with horses while she grew up in Ontario attending summer riding camps and working at barns to spend time around the animals. After learning about horse breeding at Olds College in Alberta, she moved home before coming west with her first horse, Indra.

“I felt called to come out here,” Schneider said. “I had an intuition.”

Schneider called the Lower Mainland home for a number of years working as a coach before she, Indra, and eight other horses she had gathered, made the jump to the ranch near Kamloops.

She had never spent time in the area but said the property is everything she envisioned as a young girl who wanted to live her life connected to horses.

Now, Schneider said she wouldn’t have it any other way.

There was a steep learning curve to managing the accommodation and business sides that Schneider had to learn quickly.

She has also added seven more horses to the herd comprised of trail horses, retired horses, horses rescued from slaughter or those adopted from other bad situations.

“I can give them a second purpose,” she said. “I spend time with my horses every day. I feel fortunate I can give them a nice home.”

The centre brings guests from all over the world to a peaceful valley where they can spend as much time as they need connecting to nature, to the horses and to themselves.

“Horses are a natural mirror for people,” said Schneider. “A certain horse might resonate with a certain person and there is a symbolism in that connection.”

Schneider poses with two of the older horses in her herd. Photo Jean Strong.
Schneider poses with two of the older horses in her herd. Photo Jean Strong.

The herd is used in her special retreats that can serve many purposes. Sometimes it’s someone searching for their purpose in life, other times it’s a business leader looking for ways to improve.

Guests spend anywhere from two hours to all day in the 55 acres where the horses roam.
Schneider helps guests learn about functional herd or group dynamics, body language, self-awareness and more. These are all lessons she sees clients carry with them throughout their work, lives and relationships long after they leave the ranch.

“The experience is everlasting,” she said. “They can come back to it later, it
is transformational.”

The ranch, which includes eight luxury cabins and the lodge with an industrial kitchen and open living area, also welcomes skiers, weddings, birthdays or retreats. Work-away students from around the world visit from anywhere between a few weeks to a few months to work but also to experience life in the area.

Schneider said the community has been very welcoming since she took over the property, which was previously operated as a guest ranch.

“I have totally been blown away by the community. People are just really good people out here.”

She is hopeful and excited for her future at the ranch.

“It is so fulfilling to help them (the clients). I have these moments where it is just surreal. It is what I love, I am never not in awe.”

For more information on the ranch visit