Mindfulness Meditation with Horses Retreats

Unique and unforgettable transformational retreat, available from March to November, for 5 days enriched by equine-assisted experiential learning

These Mindfulness Meditation with Horses retreats will enable you to connect with my Friesian horses in an enriching, compelling and transformational way and create the long, happy and healthy life you are meant to live. 

I created these retreats with my horses to help you internalise how exceptional, powerful, gifted, beautiful, strong, generous, appreciated, valuable, talented, brilliant, admired, respected, courageous, special, caring and lovable you are.


During the Mindfulness Meditation with Horses Retreats in the sun-drenched south of France, you will first and foremost, be able to rest, relax and recharge your batteries. You will also benefit from attending this retreat because, with the help of my horses, you will develop a new set of skills to help improve the quality of your life.

It’s very easy to get here. Fly or take the train from where you are to Bordeaux or Toulouse. Toulouse is the easiest to access from here. From Toulouse, there is a train to Auch, from there a bus to Nogaro. Easiest is to pick up a hire car in Bordeaux/Toulouse. Or use the carpooling website BlaBlaCar.com to get a lift for less than 20 euros. The best website for planning your trip is Rome2Rio.com.

Due to popular demand, from 2023, these retreats now also include the opportunity to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Embark on a Journey to Greater Confidence, Calm and Connection with a small herd of Friesian Horses

an Esprit Meraki Retreats

Based on Equine-assisted Experiential Learning

These 5-day retreats will enable you to connect with Esprit Meraki’s magnificent Friesian horses in an enriching, compelling and transformational way and help you discover effective strategies to dramatically reduce your stress levels and create the long, happy and healthy life you are meant to live. 

Have you always been fascinated by horses, and longed to connect with them on a deeper level but have always been intimidated by their size?

This exceptional escape to the south of France offers you the opportunity to make that connection and benefit abundantly from the horses’ intuitive and authentic wisdom. You will spend the whole retreat in the presence of these patient, caring, and generous animals. You will be able to breathe with them, touch them, talk with them, walk with them and share your most secret thoughts with them.

 “I created these retreats with my horses to help you internalise how exceptional, powerful, gifted, beautiful, strong, generous, appreciated, valuable, talented, brilliant, admired, respected, courageous, special, caring and lovable you are.

My purebred Friesian horses make these retreats UNIQUE. Friesians are a generous, patient, warmhearted and affectionate breed, par excellence. Especially the mares, who are often powerful, intuitive healers. All activities happen with everyone’s feet firmly on the ground – there is no horse riding during these retreats.” Dr Margaretha Montagu

All activities happen with everyone’s feet firmly on the ground – there is no horse riding during these retreats.

If this resonates, then Dr Margaretha Montagu’s 5-day Master Mindfulness retreats, that foster self-awareness, self-discovery and self-compassion, facilitated by her Friesian horses, might well be the perfect retreat for you.

Embark on a Journey of Self-discovery…

Do you feel uber-stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted? Do you feel mentally and physically drained and unable to cope with the never-ending and ever-increasing demands made of you? If you are in desperate need of a break, then escaping to this 200-year-old French farmhouse, surrounded by horse paddocks on the edge of an ancient forest where you can rest, relax and recharge your batteries in the presence of these magnificent animals could change your life forever.

Mastering Mindfulness – a practice of being present and fully engaged in the present moment, without judgment – with the guidance of Esprit Meraki’s Horses can empower you to

  • increase emotional and social resilience by developing a variety of problem-solving skills as well as crisis-coping skills
  • dramatically enhance your ability to focus and concentrate by training the mind to stay present and resist distractions, thus improving performance and increasing productivity
  • increase self-awareness and find a simpler and more direct path to inner strength and serenity
  • compassionately accept yourself and appreciate your unique talents and abilities
  • free yourself from immobilizing fear by mastering simple techniques to easily and effectively deal with stressful situations with the help of the horses
  • believe in yourself so that you can make the changes you want to make in your life
  • build strong, supportive and long-lasting relationships

This is your opportunity to thoroughly detox your body and your mind, not only by connecting with the horses, but also by walking short sections of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. During this 5-day retreat, hosted in the foothills of the mighty Pyrenées mountains in the unspoiled and largely undiscovered sun-blessed southwest of France, you can get answers to your questions and find solutions to your problems.

Your home-from-home, for 5 days (or longer!) will be an authentic, much-loved French farmhouse, surrounded by sunflower fields, ancient woods, lush meadows and fertile orchards.

The Master Mindfulness with Horses retreats are the perfect way to get back in control, secure in the knowledge that you can handle any stressful situation, so that you can become the very best version of yourself, live your best life, and do whatever it is that you were put on the planet to do!

…to a happy, healthy and serene New You

Imagine sitting under 200-year-old lime trees, comfortably ensconced in a sun-lounger, listening to the birds chatting away happily in the trees, sipping a scrumptious, ice-cold glass of fresh-pressed juice with the perfume of wildflowers and herbs scenting the air while a gorgeous Friesian mare is contentedly munching on her hay within touching distance.

Fast forward.

You are back home. The alarm goes off, it’s time to get up and go to work. You jump out of bed, excited about what the new day may bring. You slept well, deeply and without interruptions, and you wake up feeling fully rested and refreshed. Bursting with energy, you sing on your way to the shower and smile at your reflection in the mirror…

Are you ready for an unforgettable retreat that will leave you feeling vibrantly alive, full of joie de vivre, deliciously indulged and profoundly relaxed from the top of your head to the tips of your toes?

This retreat is for you, if you
1. are a busy professional who feels overworked, overwhelmed and exhausted, and close to burnout, and you want to avoid permanent damage to your physical and psychological health,
2. want to develop effective coping strategies that can be incorporated seamlessly into your personal and professional life and empower you to make a difference in other people’s lives,
3. aim to live a long, happy, healthy and fulfilling life, full of purpose and meaning – in alignment with your unique talents, values and ideals.

Find out what others have to say about these retreats:


Meet Your Retreat Leader: Dr Margaretha Montagu

I have two passions in my life: horses and stress management. After working for 20 years as a medical doctor in a variety of specialities including psychiatry and general practice, I came to the conclusion that many diseases have their roots in the stress my patients have to endure. I decided that prevention is better than cure, and studied a number of alternative therapies including Mindfulness Stress Management, Hypnotherapy, Life Transition Coaching and NLP, and eventually combined my education and experience to create the master mindfulness with horses retreats that I now lead at my house in the southwest of France.

After having successfully navigated several major life transitions myself, I now specialise in helping other people get through challenging life changes like divorce, retirement, redundancy, starting a business, changing careers, moving to another country etc.

Dr M Montagu MBChB MRCGP MedHypDip NLP Master Pract Cert Prof Life Coach Cert Counseling Cert EAGALA Cert

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If you are ready, with the guidance of my horses, to discover effective stress management strategies that you can easily incorporate into your daily life, that will allow you to deal with whatever challenges come your way, then the Mindfulness and Meditation with Horses Retreats are exactly what you have been looking for.

What is included in this retreat:

  • 4 nights’ accommodation in a cool, light, airy room in an authentic half-timbered French farmhouse in the heart of the Cotes de Gascogne wine region in the south-west of France
  • Lush towels, homemade soaps, salts and candles, make every bath/shower a sensual experience
  • Discussion about the best books to read about equine-guided learning
  • Stargazing and communing-with-the-universe Yoga Nidra practice (there is barely any light pollution here)
  • Equine-facilitated Mindfulness and Equine-guided Meditation sessions (including Equine-assisted Experiential Learning)
  • Potentially life-changing Camino de Santiago de Compostela walks with an introduction to walking meditation
  • Scrumptious fresh food locally sourced with access to a selection of herbal teas and coffee 24/7
  • Wild swimming in a crystal clear lake in the middle of an ancient oak forest
  • Forest bathing (also called shinrin-yoku or “taking in the forest atmosphere”) – an opportunity to immerse yourself and reconnect with nature

Imagine how different your life will be in a year’s time if you decide to create a more meaningful, rewarding, impactful and fulfilling life for yourself, by connecting with my awesome Friesian horses, while attending this retreat. Contact me at welcome2gascony@gmail.com asap to enquire about availability.

What is NOT included:

  • Transport from your home to Esprit Meraki and back
  • Personal Health Insurance and/or Travel Insurance (we highly recommend insurance cover in case you need to cancel)
  • Classic Massages: for additional pampering, you can book a massage bien-être, out on the lawn, or on your own terrace, and give yourself over to Sarah’s magical hands, while the lavender bushes dispense 100% natural aromatherapy.
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • One dinner in a local restaurant – to boost the local economy post-COVID (cost 15-30 euros, depending on your choices) but also to test-drive intermittent fasting in a social situation
  • To facilitate transport arrangements, or to explore the region, you are welcome to arrive a day or two early or leave a day or two after the retreat – we offer bed-and-breakfast accommodation on a day-to-day basis, starting at 89 euros per room per night, but only to our retreat guests. Non-participating partners are very welcome, there is a lot for them to discover and do in the immediate vicinity.

Enough free time is available for relaxing and recharging your batteries. None of the activities is mandatory. If you prefer to skip an activity and just relax and commune quietly with the horses in the garden, you are more than welcome. The program is not set in stone and might be adjusted according to outside temperatures.


La Maison Meraki sits in a sunny clearing next to a great and ancient forest, like a little old lady gathering her shawl around her bony shoulders. She has been here for at least 200 years, from her elevated position she looks out over the treetops to the mighty Pyrenées mountains. Who knows who has ventured over her threshold, maybe D’Artagnan himself, the chateau where he was born is only a few kilometres away. Yes, this is indeed Gascony, land not only of milk and honey but also of divine wines, persillade, garbure, foie gras, cèpes, duck confit…all less than two hour’s drive southeast of Bordeaux.

Maison Meraki is a half-timbered house that faces southeast, towards the sunrise, typical of all Landaise fermettes. She has her back to the sunset, where the cold winds and weather come from in the winter. The house is U-shaped, with a central, secluded courtyard, where lavender perfumes the air in the summer. There are two guest bedrooms downstairs, each opening onto its own patio where guests can sit and soak up the sun with a cool drink and a good book. There is a third bedroom upstairs, with glorious views of the surrounding woods, meadows, vineyards and sunflower fields.

The heart of the house is the kitchen-sitting room, delightfully cool in the summer, and extended by a shaded patio into the courtyard and snug and warm in the winter, heated by a Godin wood burner. Three centuries-old Line trees guard the eastern flank, and even older, majestic oak trees hold court in the paddocks surrounding the house.

I renovated Maison Meraki slowly and carefully. I have respected its humble origins and kept it dans son jus, comfortable but unpretentious, so if you want to experience unadulterated French farm life, this is the retreat for you. If you are looking for 8 days in a luxurious chateau, it is not.

En plus, this is a French farmhouse, unlike any you have visited before. Even though I am a Frenchwoman through and through, I was born in Africa, so the interior is decorated, the meals flavoured, and the garden is scented by the warm spices and fragment herbs of the country of my birth.

Cuisine de Gascogne

Nowhere in France is the French Paradox more prevalent than in Gascony. A paradox, because despite frying just about everything in duck fat, and washing undeniably rich dishes down with copious amounts of Cotes de Gascogne and Saint Mont wines, the people from this region live long, some of the longest in Europe, and healthy lives.

Not to be outdone, at Maison Meraki you will be able to investigate this paradox first-hand. The food is simple but delicious and my aim is to feed your body as well and as generously as your mind. Meals are a celebration of the wonderful variety of fresh local produce available from my garden as well as from the local weekly fresh food markets. Both brunch and dinner are served al fresco, weather permitting.

Vivre Vert – Slow and Sustainable Tourism in the Southwest of France

It is important to me that the retreats I offer, do as little damage to the environment as possible, while at the same time contributing to the local community’s economy. I feel more like the custodian than the owner of this property – I feel extremely privileged to live here. As its custodian, my intention is to look after Maison Meraki to the very best of my ability and to preserve it for generations to come. In the meantime, I share the exceptional natural beauty, the rich cultural heritage and the nurturing tranquillity of this open- and warmhearted house with my guests without harming the natural environment and helping environmentally aware local producers at the same time.

***BONUSES*** You will have access to:
-the 30-page e-book “Make Your Next Retreat Your Best Retreat Ever” that you can use to enrich your retreat experience
-detailed instructions on how to keep a travel diary, so that you can benefit from what you learned for years after your retreat
-an online course that will help you put into practice what you have learned from the horses by journalling

Only a limited number of participants will be able to attend a Master Mindfulness with Horses Retreat every year.

To ensure everyone gets individual, quality attention and the time to ask questions, I limit my groups to a maximum of 4 guests and I host a limited amount of these retreats per year – which means you will need to reserve early to be one of the few fortunate guests who come here this year.

Your Investment

Does this sound like the retreat of a lifetime? If it does, spoil yourself by investing in yourself and your future by attending this unique retreat for 1299 euros for a single bedroom and 2499 euros pp for 2 people in a double bedroom. Please note that these retreats include equine-assisted experiential learning, and are therefore more expensive. Maximum of 4 participants per retreat. Our retreats start at 16h00 on the day of arrival to 12h00 on the day of departure.

So seize this exceptional opportunity to attend a retreat here at Esprit Meraki now…a warm welcome awaits you amidst the Armagnac, Saint Mont and Cotes de Gascogne vineyards in the sun-blessed southwest of France.

Ready to make a reservation? To pay your deposit and secure your booking, please contact us with the dates of the week that suits you at welcome2gascony(at)gmail.com.

Subscribe to my Retreat Mailing List to be the first to know about any last-minute or early-bird special offers on my retreats.

Cancellation Policy


To secure your booking, a non-refundable 25% deposit is required. As the group is very small, only a paid deposit will guarantee your attendance. If your retreat is fully booked, you will be offered a place on the waiting list. Your deposit is transferable to another person for the retreat you booked, subject to approval.

Final Payment

The balance of payment is due 30 days prior to the start of your retreat. Reservations made less than 30 days before the retreat starts, must be paid in full. Please note: Due to the extensive and expensive preparation that goes into each of these retreats, I cannot offer refunds, so I highly recommend that you purchase adequate travel insurance to cover any unanticipated changes in your travel plans. Any cancellation made in writing less than 30 days before the retreat starts, or once the retreat has started, will result in a total loss of funds. Depending on availability, you can choose to transfer your booking to another date without incurring any additional fees, within the same calendar year.

I reserve the right to cancel the retreat if it is not meeting the retreat minimum (if I do so your deposit is refunded in full). I reserve the right to determine if you are a good fit for this retreat (if not, your deposit will be refunded in full).  I reserve the right to cancel the retreat for personal reasons (if I do so your deposit/full payment will be refunded in full).

This cancellation policy is firm therefore please do not make any travel arrangements until you receive your registration confirmation.

Please read our terms and conditions

Privacy notice

We take your privacy seriously. Your email address is not passed on or sold to any third parties whatsoever, you are not subscribing to any mailing lists and we promise to only use your details to contact you directly ourselves.

Your Best Retreat Ever

Deciding to go on a retreat is a great idea, but it can be nerve-wracking to choose the perfect retreat. You do, after all, want to get the most out of the dream experience of your choice. So, before you set off on your next retreat adventure, in my Make the Most of Your Next Retreat ebook, you’ll find the top tips I use to make sure I get the most from each retreat I attend.

This workbook will show you how to make your next retreat your best retreat ever. You can subscribe to my Best Retreat Ever mailing list and receive a free copy, or you can buy Make the Most of Your Next Retreat on Amazon.

More about Equine-facilitated Mindfulness

Equine-facilitated Mindfulness is a variant of Equine-assisted Experiential Learning, a results-focused approach to personal development that enables you to develop more successful problem-solving skills, communicate more effectively, build healthier relationships and significantly increase your self-confidence.


“This new discipline helps even and especially those who have never been anywhere near a horse to boost their self-confidence dramatically. No riding is involved, all activities take place with participants feet firmly on the ground. All activities are followed by a debriefing session led by an experienced equine-assisted coach (moi) and a horse expert. Reasons for participants’ choices and behaviour, and the horses’ reactions to said behaviour and choices are discussed and parallels are drawn with real life. I have worked as a medical doctor for many years. I have yet to come across a more effective discipline to help people become more assertive, confident and positive about their future. So it is with great enthusiasm that I invite you to join me at our house in the south of France, 90 minutes south-east of Bordeaux, where we host our Connect with Horses residential equine-assisted personal development workshops.” Dr Margaretha Montagu

Maybe YOU have always loved or been intrigued by horses but are too scared to approach them? Or maybe you have had unfortunate experiences with horses but always remained drawn to them? Or you might be a horse rider who wants to overcome your fear of riding after a horse riding accident?

Equine-facilitated Mindfulness can help you:

  • communicate more effectively,
  • build stronger and more satisfying relationships,
  • feel better about yourself and dramatically increase your self-confidence,
  • be more assertive,
  • gain a solid sense of self-worth,
  • eradicate limiting beliefs that block your progress,
  • enhance your problem-solving skills,
  • thrive on change and challenges,
  • free yourself from immobilising fear,
  • discover and define your purpose in life,
  • deal with stress and avoid the dangerous effects, stress may have on your mental and physical health,
  • re-evaluate your life from a new perspective.

More about Equine-facilitated Mindfulness

More about Meditation with Horses

Equine-guided meditation is a mindfulness meditation method that is practised in the presence of one or more horses. Initially, when I started sharing this practice with my retreat participants, I decided to call it equine-facilitated meditation. My intention was that it would be a focused form of meditation, the horse serving as the focal point, instead of a candle, for example. I thought that the horse or horses would facilitate meditation in a passive way. I did not intend that the horse or horses would take an active role as in actually guiding the meditation.

Meditation with horses, as equine-guided meditation is also known, can simply involve spending time with horses in a quiet, peaceful way. The focus is on being present in the moment, observing the horse’s behaviour, cultivating a sense of peace and connecting with nature.

Meditation with horses can be a powerful way to reduce stress and anxiety. The horse’s presence can serve as a grounding force, helping to quiet the mind and bring the person into the present moment.

The meditation may also involve guided imagery or visualization exercises, such as imagining oneself as a horse or imagining riding on the back of a horse.

Equine-guided meditation is sometimes used as a component of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a therapy that is effective in reducing stress and anxiety. While research on the benefits of equine guided meditation specifically is limited, many people find it to be a powerful and transformative practice that helps them to cultivate greater peace, presence, and connection in their lives.

To help my retreat participants reach that state of thoughtless awareness when the mind is calm, yet completely alert that I understand meditation to be, I usually start an equine-facilitated meditation session by directing them to a peaceful spot somewhere near the horses. I begin by asking them to concentrate on their breathing. At first, we breathe normally, gradually letting our breathing slow down until it is regular, smooth and slow.

I then ask them to focus their attention on one of our horses. I encourage them to engage all their senses and even imagine that they are in fact a horse, that they can see, hear, smell, feel and even taste what a horse sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes. I suggest that they imagine how it would feel to have four legs, four hooves and a tail. I ask them to imagine that they are seeing the world through a horse’s eyes, physically, mentally and sometimes metaphorically,

I encourage them to look at their individual problems as a horse would look at a problem, as a member of a herd, interdependently and individually. Sometimes, when I personally reach out to the horses, they respond in kind, offering me solutions to problems from their perspective. Guests are often surprised to find that when they are sitting near the horses, it is much easier to quieten their minds and enter the meditative state than it is at home. Especially if they do not have much meditation experience.

Horses’ ability to be at once fully present in their bodies, in their environment as well as in the moment, facilitates mindful meditation by giving us a perfect example to follow and to focus on. Our workshop participants found the sessions very useful and continued to practice equine-facilitated meditation at home, by imagining that they were still in the paddock with the horses or by watching a Youtube video made for this purpose. So it worked quite well, until the day I decided to add a loving-kindness meditation at the end of the session.

That day, everything changed. We were a small group, not more than six. We were sitting in a circle in the paddock closest to the lake. Belle, Bass, Aurore and Tess were with us in the paddock, grazing peacefully nearby. I lead the loving-kindness meditation, starting with the focus on each individual. I then moved the focus to a loved one. I then moved the focus to the horses. I asked the participants to send waves of loving-kindness to Belle, our boss mare. Before I had voiced the second sentence, Belle had walked over to us and was standing just outside the circle. She had never approached a circle before. It was intimidating because we were sitting flat on the ground and Belle is enormous: 1m65 at the withers. As I started the third sentence, she came over to me and made it quite clear that she intended entering the circle…

More about Equine-guided Meditation

Get in Touch

Thank you for visiting my website and blog. Enquiries of all kinds are welcome. I will respond to all e-mails asap, so if you don’t hear back from me within 24 hours, please contact me again (sometimes e-mails disappear into black holes in cyberspace!)

I hope you enjoy browsing this site and return often. The site is updated frequently. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to send me some feedback. I am always interested to hear the views of my visitors (positive or negative).

Please don’t hesitate to contact me should you require any further information. I speak English, French and passable Dutch – please feel free to write to me in any of these languages.

For general enquiries, please contact me at welcome2gascony@gmail.com.

Privacy notice: We take your privacy seriously. Your details are not passed on or sold to any third parties whatsoever, you are not subscribing to any mailing lists and we promise to only use your details to contact you directly ourselves.