Equinisity Transformational Retreat Review

I’m going to start this review by telling you why I wanted to go on a retreat and why I chose Equinisity. Then I’m going to get into what I loved about this retreat and also what’s wrong, or not so good about it.

You see, I was feeling the need for some alone-time; away from the 15 beings I’m responsible for daily, and a space to sink into and connect with where I was currently at in my soul journey, and where I needed to head towards next. I knew we needed to make some big changes in our life (like moving) but I had no clarity about where to move, or how to make that happen.

So when I heard Taming Wild trainer, Elsa Sinclair was going to be co-facilitating a retreat up at Equinisity, it seemed like a sign. Here’s what Equinisity promises on their website:

“Our Sacred Land is home to a herd of free roaming horses, and our resident Buddha, Tesoro the bull. The 320 acres of enchanted forests, hills, lakes, rivers of underground crystals and magnificent views, is an energetic matrix for personal transformation through higher consciousness, universal love and connection to all life.”

The main draw for Liz Mitten Ryan’s Equinisity retreats seems to be the unique opportunity to interact with her herd of warmblood horses at liberty. To meditate with the horses, to lie down on a massage table and have the horses facilitate healing for you and to pillow a horse’s head on your lap while they snooze. One of Liz’s top videos on YouTube shows just that:

Liz’s other video that has gone viral on Facebook (5 million views and counting) shows the same horses snoring and farting away – love it!

For myself, you’ll know if you read this blog, that I already have a herd of horses with whom I do all of these things and more. So for me, the draw wasn’t the horse experience, it was THE LAND.

I had a growing discontent with boarding my horses on other people’s land and a pressing urgency to find Our Land. But WHERE is it? Is our land in the interior of British Columbia (BC)? Or is it in California? Without going into all the logistics, pros and cons, and feelings of my family members (hubby and I have 3 kids aged 10, 13 & 16), I set my intention for the land and the universe to speak to me.

When Kesia and her Mum walked onto their soul’s land in Northern BC, her Mum burst into tears and Kesia began having visions as the land spoke to her.

So I went to Equinisity primarily to commune with the land; to hear what it had to say to me. I had a discussion with Liz before I came to ensure she knew my goal and wouldn’t be offended if I didn’t participate fully in the horse activities, or if I kept wandering off around the land by myself. Luckily Liz was in full support of my purpose and gave me permission to flex in and out of the group as I was led.

The horses on the land at Equinisity
The herd on the beautiful land at Equinisity

We had a bit of a rigmarole with the accommodations for the first couple of nights – Liz doesn’t allocate anything beforehand, so people with varying needs and preferences have to jockey around and figure things out for themselves. Once we realized that Liz wasn’t going to organize anything, but she also wasn’t going to tell anyone that you cannot do things, we figured out a way to get everyone’s needs met fairly quickly, as much as was possible.

So I ended up sleeping in a dome tent, right on the land. And although I didn’t do much sleeping, the land sure talked to me, the horses gathered round me one night (yes, they snore and fart at night too), and the coyotes the next night (sure wish I’d brought Tiah, my Tahltan Bear Dog), and after 3 nights I had my answer: No, our land is not in the interior of BC.

My Equinisity Home
My Equinisity Home

Since I also felt my Belgian mare urging me to return home (she was very close to foaling), I left, and the 5 hour drive back home allowed me to muse over and cement in my experiences.

I paid $3,000 to sleep in a tent, crap in an outhouse, hang out with some wonderful women (and Elsa’s lovely man), learn some cool stuff from Elsa Sinclair during the day, and be led through some exploration exercises with Liz Mitten Ryan as she drank wine during the evenings. Was it worth the money? You bet!

I’m a big fan of allowing life to unfold, just taking the next step where I’m led, and I’ve never been hesitant to pay for learning or wisdom. It was worth it to me, because that answer is directing the next 2 years of my life; which is already resulting in some exciting events.

I’m not going to comment on Liz’s horsekeeping practices, or the way she interacts with her herd. It was interesting to me because here we had Liz at one end of the spectrum and Elsa at the other, and I was in-between the two. I certainly enjoyed Elsa’s ability to throw herself into new or uncomfortable spaces and open herself to experience. Yet at the same time, not give her power away, and find a way to language things so that both her way and Liz’s way could co-exist. I really admired that.

Elsa loved working with the herd at liberty (outside the closed paddock) in the big fields and she gave us some cool exercises to try and demonstrated some of the training techniques she uses with wild mustangs.

Elsa Sinclair teaching at Equinisity. This enclosed paddock area is where the horses do healings and snooze together
Elsa Sinclair teaching at Equinisity. This enclosed paddock area is where the horses do healings (see the massage tables in the background?) and snooze together in the barn

What’s wrong with Equinisity

So now that I’ve told you about the good stuff at the retreat, let’s talk about the not-so-good stuff.

The primary reason I’m writing this post is to provide information that is currently not available on Liz’s website, nor in the information she sends you after you register for a retreat, that really does need to be accessible.

There were two people at the retreat with significant mobility issues. And one who had to urinate up to 4 times a night – you’re going to see why this is relevant, so stick with me!

What is not made clear by Liz beforehand, is that the tent-cabins – which are the normal accommodations – are built at least 2 minutes hike away from the toilet, which is down a pine needle covered trail at a fairly steep elevation (slippery):

Trail to the outhouse at Equinisity
Trail from tent-cabins to the outhouse at Equinisity

Anyone with any knee or back issues is going to have hard time navigating those trails in the daylight, and in the middle of the night, forget it! For that reason, Liz provides pee pots inside each of the tent-cabins (part wooden structure, part tent). So you get to either hike to an outhouse – no, not a compost toilet, just a hole-in-the-ground outhouse with a toilet seat – or pee into a chamber pot inside your tent-cabin; which you share with a roommate.

Equinisity Tent-Cabin - Sleeps Two
Equinisity Tent-Cabin – Sleeps Two

And god help you if you need to poo in the night – just you, your flashlight and the coyotes howling. Not that there is anything wrong with rustic experiences. Millions of people adore camping. I’m simply pointing out that I would have greatly appreciated knowing all this before I booked, and most importantly, if I was injured or handicapped with mobility issues, it is vital to know this stuff beforehand.

So let’s continue on. The other logistic that is not made clear is the large amount of walking you will need to do to get to and from:

  • The cookhouse – where you have your meals and evening discussions
  • The horse’s area
  • Your tent-cabin
  • The latrine & shower house

As an example, you cannot even see the cookhouse from your tent-cabin. One woman who had trouble walking ended up driving her car as far into the trailhead as possible to reduce the distance. Sometimes there is an ATV available to give you a ride, but not often.

In my opinion, you need to be able to walk along a trail in your local park for 20-30 minutes to be comfortable getting around during an Equinisity Retreat. If you’re in pain after 5 minutes of hiking a gentle trail, you’re going to seriously suffer here and possibly worsen your injuries.

Part of the trail from tent-cabin to cookhouse at Equinisity
Part of the trail from tent-cabin to cookhouse at Equinisity

When I queried Liz about this she said, “Oh the land is healing, we’ve had people come here who could barely walk, and by the time they go home they’re walking all over.”

I give that credence, because I know few things are as healing as land and sunshine. But I also can tell you that the 2 people at my retreat with mobility issues got worse and either didn’t venture out, or got given rides in vehicles. So again, you can feel into your body, and what your body needs, and make your own decision. I am simply providing the information that I feel is missing from the Equinisity website.

The Showerhouse
The Showerhouse

Aside from the 2 outhouses, there is also a separate propane-powered shower house with a pump you turn on to get the water coming in from the tank. Again, this is the same distance from the tent-cabins as the outhouses. And what ended up happening is that most of the people could not cope with either, so they got to the cookhouse early (which had a normal bathroom with flush toilet) and showered and had their morning dump, one after the other.

As a result, the cookhouse ran dangerously low on water by Day 3. Each building has a water tank which needs to have water trucked out to it and filled. At the same time, the pump was malfunctioning at the shower house – so a few people had to wait a day or so to shower.

Again, nothing wrong with rustic, but personally I think the fee is a bit steep for the accommodations provided. On the other hand, horses are expensive to maintain, so perhaps that balances it out.

Thankfully, the food was good. But there is no actual chef, just people pulled in who can cook. And as apparently happens often at Equinisity, most of Liz’s staff had quit just before we got there. There is one meal served for lunch and one for dinner; main (fish, or lasagne, or barbecue chicken, etc), salad, breads/crackers, sometimes cheese, and chocolate or nuts for dessert. Breakfast you forage for yourself from supplies in the cookhouse kitchen.

One last tip: The retreat package instructs you to bring a sweater for the evenings, which was not sufficient for the weather we had (in July). Those of us who brought down-filled jackets were zipped up in them during the evenings and for a few of the days too. The weather in Canada is unpredictable and can change in a heartbeat, so you would need to bring clothes for both sweltering hot and very cold weather.

Which reminds me – many people didn’t sleep well due to the cold, so you really need to bring a toque for the nights. What saved my bacon was that I snagged an extra blanket from the closet in one of the bedrooms at the cookhouse and made a tent with it to cover my head, and an extra sleeping bag to go over top of the one I brought (yes, you have to bring your own bedding too). Thank god I also brought a hot water bottle with me (yes, I’ve done a lot of traveling so have a few tricks up my sleeve). So I filled that just before bed from the kettle at the cookhouse, stuffed it under my coat and got it in my sleeping bag pronto. Ah… toasty warm all night!

Note: there is an entire closet in the cookhouse filled with extra blankets and sleeping bags and you can just help yourself – don’t wait for someone to tell you about it, or ask you if you need extra bedding.

Oh and before I forget, there was no horse riding. On the first night, many of the participants mentioned they were really looking forward to riding the horses at liberty – as shown in all of Liz’s videos and the photos on her website. However, Liz then informed us that her horses that could be ridden by ‘normal’ people were all too old or injured, and the younger horses were trained to respond to subtle cues like change of seat, or turning the head. So they were too sensitive to let anyone else ride.

So all interaction with horses was done on the ground. Again, nothing wrong with that! But it should be made clear that what you see in the videos and the photos on the website is no longer what you get.

The best thing about Equinisity

Aside from being able to commune with the land – land that is truly wild and magical and not overrun with humans and their accoutrements – I SO enjoyed my time with Tesoro, the steer. We had a time of learning each other’s language and then I asked permission to sit on his back.

He agreed – for about 10 minutes – and then asked me to get off (which I did). I’ve always loved cattle, but have not lived with any (yet!) so this was probably special for me in the same way the horses are special for guests who don’t live with horses. One of the other gals snapped this photo of us:

The adorable Tesoro
The adorable Tesoro

The other thing that was notably great about the retreat was the caliber of women attending. Normally at any retreat or workshop you get at least 2 or 3 seriously dysfunctional people with a lot of pain directed outwards at other participants. Which you just accept as part of life; or any normal human grouping. But for whatever reason, this group was just lovely; vital, alive and open. Yes, some of us were dealing with some heavy issues, but everyone was owning their shit and not trying to put it on anyone else.

So I super enjoyed getting to know the other women there and most of us have stayed in contact and even visited each other since! Here’s two of the fabulous ladies I met at the retreat, who came by a few weeks later to visit our new foal:

Jacquie & Amanda with Baby Juno
Jacquie & Amanda with Baby Juno

From what I heard other people saying in the three days I was there – the land and the horses were the biggest take-away’s for them. And I’m thankful Liz Mitten Ryan has opened her doors to make these powerful elements available to people who would otherwise not have the chance to experience either.

If you’ve attended an Equinisity Retreat, I would love to hear about your own Equinisity experiences in the Comments section below. And feel free to give your name, or comment anonymously; whichever feels good to you. Or, if you’ve been on a different equine-centered retreat that you really loved (or hated), please tell us about it!

Jini Patel Thompson is a natural health writer and Freedomite. She began riding at age 2 in Kenya, and got her first horse at age 8 in Alberta, and so continues a life-long journey and love affair with these amazing creatures.

Equinisity Transformational Retreat Review

18 thoughts on “Equinisity Transformational Retreat Review

  • August 28, 2016 at 10:39 am
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    Hi Jini, a very thoughtful and well expressed commentary on Equinisity.
    Apara ( a participant)

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  • August 28, 2016 at 11:51 am
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    Great review! You did such a good job of giving equal time to pro’s and con’s. Like you, I’m interested in reading about the experiences others have had at Equinisity retreats so I hope they will share in comments.

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  • August 28, 2016 at 10:18 pm
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    I had a lovely experience up at Equinisity a few years ago. It wasn’t a formal retreat, more an open house weekend for people to experience a taste of what was on offer. It was wonderful, especially lying on the healing table being supported by an energy worker and the horses.

    I did have a chance to ride one of the horses briefly in the arena, but it took a while for her to give permission for me to mount her. I did just a few laps around the round pen, her heart wasn’t in it.

    We did a lovely tour of the property, found where the fairies live, etc. Beautiful land. I’d have been happy to just sit out there for hours looking over the land.

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    • September 1, 2016 at 12:49 am
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      Did you stay overnight at Equinisity Liz? Or just go up for the day? And I agree, the LAND is pretty darn awesome!

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  • September 1, 2016 at 12:52 am
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    Thanks Apara and K! And yes, I’d like to hear from others too – the good, the bad, the ugly! It’s all helpful for those trying to decide where to spend their money and whether they will get what they want/need from the experience.

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  • September 1, 2016 at 4:55 pm
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    I went alone for a week about five years ago. It was early November and as I said I was alone so I stayed in the house at the entrance. I think this is the cookhouse you speak of?
    I was immediately struck by Liz herself – the child archetype so dominate! ….. and horrified by her relationship with the horses……. very dysfunctional parent/child – child/parent. ….. nurturing gone wrong. I “asked” the elder mare and she clearly told me this was none of my business – it was Liz’s journey and asked me not to interfere. Liz asked me several times to work with the horses and even ride – but could not hear me or see what I saw. I did not want to ride – that wasn’t the reason I had come – so I mostly asked to walk the land ……. alone. The horses didn’t want to interact with me. …… all I ‘saw’ from them was stuffed cotton ‘toys’.

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    • September 3, 2016 at 6:02 pm
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      Thanks for sharing Cathy. There were 3 lame horses when I was there and I too asked one of them if I should attempt to discuss solutions or different ways of horsekeeping with Liz (e.g. low sugar hay, walking track, etc.). He told me that same thing – that this was Liz’s journey and my help was not wanted.

      Fortunately, I was prepared for the ‘nurturing gone wrong’ phenomena before I arrived because Liz has a video on her YouTube channel that shows her doing treat-based play with one of her horses and I was on the edge of my seat wondering if he was going to attack her, or not. The horse was clearly angry, only performing the movements to get the treats, but mad that he was being bribed, etc. and the video shows Liz laughing and completely unaware of his agitation or aggression. I love Emily McDonald’s writings on using “low-frustration treats” like grass chaff, rather than carrots to prevent exactly this kind of frustration/anger.

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  • September 16, 2016 at 5:07 pm
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    You were so diplomatic in your post, it’s impressive. I had two friends attend this summer and both came back saying they would never recommend it. Both ended up helping the horses there so it seems they were open to some help/support. In retrospect, they both felt they went just to assist the horses.

    One of my mentors warned me of this place (she attended years ago) so I haven’t had a pull to go, despite the beautiful healing table video that inspired my own work. I feel like it’s such a shame because healthy land, healthy horses, and a healthy facilitator could be one of the most powerful places on Earth for people to learn and grow. It seems the exact opposite from everything I’ve heard. When my clients ask me about it, I tell them to check with their intuition and that I can’t recommend it. There are other incredible retreat centers with horses that deserve people’s money and attention.

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    • September 19, 2016 at 10:06 am
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      Thanks so much for your honest feedback. Another friend of mine – who knows many people who’ve gone – said the experience was split pretty evenly between those who loved it and those who were seriously disappointed.

      In an ideal world, yes, this would be in place:

      “I feel like itโ€™s such a shame because healthy land, healthy horses, and a healthy facilitator could be one of the most powerful places on Earth for people to learn and grow.”

      However, what struck me during this experience – and dialoguing with the other attendees in the weeks that followed – was that the universe doesn’t care! The universe will take us with our flaws, our blindspots, our addictions, our dysfunction and mine the gold out of us. So even though there are a number of points that are not ideal, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that Liz has opened this land up and made the herd available to others – and the universe will work through the land and through the herd, regardless of whatever else is muddying the water.

      Sometimes difficulty and strife are the best teachers, sometimes being forced outside our comfort zone, or safety zone is a valuable experience, sometimes the flawed teacher is the best catalyst for learning and self-empowerment. Sometimes the gold is not in the experience, but in the people you meet there. Sometimes the lesson is in learning when to say no!

      So I agree with you, it is good to present the feedback and information, yet encourage people to check their own intuition about whether an experience might be helpful or useful for them.

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  • September 17, 2016 at 8:27 am
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    Hi Jini, I went in June for a full week. I slept in a cabin tent the entire week and used the outhouse and showers all week as well. Thank you for writing your experience with the pros and cons of your trip. It was a very cold week with some warmer days so we were able to shed some layers during the day. Personally I had no problems with the weather, the amount of walking, or the bathroom experiences. I do live in an area with all 4 seasons and I travel a lot. Its true that Liz does not put certain things on her website about the land, weather, and tents but you are in British Columbia, you know you are in an area with A LOT of land, and you know you are sleeping in tents. In turn, you know what the weather can be like, you know you need to be of a certain mobility, and you know you need to be ok with camping. I don’t understand why certain people would go on this retreat with that information. This is my personal feeling obviously. This comment is not meant to make anyone angry, I’m just being honest. I had no idea what to expect on such a retreat so I was prepared to expect anything. Thats also a huge lesson, don’t expect anything.

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    • September 19, 2016 at 9:56 am
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      Hi Jody, There were many people there who were not from BC and had never been to Canada. Everyone said they got something really positive and worthwhile from the experience though. So even if you are pushed out of your comfort zone it can be a net positive. This post is meant to provide those missing logistics so people understand what they’re paying for and what they might need to bring.

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  • August 27, 2017 at 4:18 pm
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    I used to work for Liz for about a year. I have all kinds of scary stories… but I feel a public forum is inappropriate as I have very few positive things to say. I am totally willing to discuss in private… I could write a novel. Scary is the best word I can sum it all up with.

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    • August 27, 2017 at 11:17 pm
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      Thanks for your honesty. I’ve talked to a number of people personally who’ve had negative encounters. But here’s the interesting thing: Not one of them wants to speak up publicly BECAUSE they don’t want to dissuade anyone from going. Our group experienced this same phenomena. For whatever Liz’s personal issues and struggles, I give her full kudos and gratitude for opening her land and horses up to other people. The land and the herd don’t actually need Liz (or any of us) to be able to work their magic. So regardless of human behaviour, many (most?) attendees get what they came for and the end result is a net positive. I’ve also noticed that since I published this post, she has updated her website to include much better descriptions and photos of the facility, so people with physical difficulties will be forewarned. So that’s a very good thing!

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  • August 29, 2017 at 11:09 am
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    First of all I’m sure you will remove this but I just have to set you straight. You didn’t come to an “Equinisity’ retreat but an Elsa Sinclair at Equinisity retreat. I have stopped providing a space for other practitioners because it becomes a bastardization of the message. You are right that the land and the horses bring forth the important connection with spirit through a heart connection. There are those that come here and they are probably about 3% who don’t resonate with that. To be fair you should (and I will post under reviews) read the hundreds of positive reviews that talk about life-changing results brought about by that interface with nature that was so uncomfortable for you. I don’t quite understand why you have decided to encourage a bitch session by the few who have mostly just touched down here in another capacity such as short time staff who see it from another perspective (that of the have nots) but the answer is clear in what the land and horses told you “No, our land is not in the interior of BC.” We are in another dimension where unconditional love and connection to higher consciousness is our mantra. Those who dwell in the 3D world of the human ego can only view it through the distortion of their own minds. Liz Mitten Ryan

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    • August 29, 2017 at 5:59 pm
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      L O L…. Liz still in denial and tries to blame the practitioner.
      God bless you Liz, I hope you learn TRUE unconditonal love one day.

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  • July 24, 2018 at 8:07 pm
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    Yes, blaming the victim is a hallmark trait. I will post my recent experience very soon. Thank you for this forum

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  • July 31, 2018 at 10:53 am
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    I am very concerned about the horses. I saw a video of them sleeping lying down. Doesn’t seem normal. Are they being drugged? I would like an animal welfare group to check out this place.

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    • August 2, 2018 at 3:43 am
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      Don’t worry, horses NEED to sleep lying down like that Roberta. They all do. It is when they get their deep REM sleep. They also snore ๐Ÿ™‚

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