“In Harmony with the Herd” Stress Relief Retreat

Are you a professional woman who has realised that you need to take some time out to rest and relax, before your sky-high stress levels permanently damage your health? Do you want to significantly improve your stress management skills?

Knowing how to manage stress is crucial for maintaining physical and mental health. Poor stress management may lead to conflict, communication breakdowns, and emotional distancing. Effective stress management techniques can foster healthier relationships, help us communicate more effectively, and navigate conflicts more constructively. Stress can impair cognitive function, attention, and decision-making abilities, leading to decreased productivity and performance. Managing stress effectively can enable us to stay focused, maintain mental clarity, and perform optimally in various areas of life.

Horses can help you to dramatically improve your ability to handle stress.

At the end of this retreat, you will feel

  • Physically: Vibrantly alive, bursting with energy, fully rested, profoundly relaxed, rejuvenated, refreshed with all your batteries fully recharged
  • Mentally: Centred, grounded, reassured that you can handle stress, motivated to make the changes you want to make, find solutions to your problems and overcome your challenges
  • Spiritually: Serene, inspired, uplifted, purposeful, and peaceful

If you yearn to connect and communicate with horses, dramatically lower your stress levels and walk a section of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, then this is the retreat for you.

Reconnect with Nature

The retreat is hosted at a picturesque farm in the south-west of France, surrounded by rolling hills, lush meadows, ancient woods, and the calming presence of my Friesian and Falabella horses. During this retreat, you will learn how to access a state of deep relaxation and inner calm, with horses as your guides. You will also discover the powerful connection between your own energy and that of the horses, learning how to harness this energy for deeper self-awareness.

During the retreat, you will have the opportunity to:

  • Engage in guided meditations with the horses, designed to deepen your awareness of yourself and the world around you.
  • Learn more about the communication strategies of a small herd of Friesian and Falabella horses enabling you to enhance your own communication skills
  • Explore the natural beauty of the region by walking part of the Camino de Santiago, giving you the chance to experience the tranquillity of the great outdoors.
  • Enjoy healthy, delicious meals made from locally sourced, organic ingredients.
  • Stay in a 200-year-old farmhouse, on the edge of an ancient forest, in comfortable accommodation, surrounded by the peaceful sounds of nature.

This homestay retreat is led by Dr Margaretha Montagu, who is passionate about creating a safe, supportive, and transformative space for you to rest, relax, discover how to manage stress effectively and connect with her magnificent Friesian and mischievous Falabella horses.

So, if you are ready to embark on a journey of self-discovery, book your spot now and experience the transformative power of horses for yourself.

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 and Falabella horses make these retreats UNIQUE. Friesians are a generous, patient, warmhearted and affectionate breed, par excellence, and often powerful, intuitive healers.” 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 In Harmony with the Herd retreats, which foster self-awareness, self-discovery and self-compassion, facilitated by her Friesian and Falabella 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.

Mindfulness Meditation with Horses – 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 relax 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.

The In Harmony with the Herd 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!

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

If you are ready, with the guidance of my horses, to discover an effective stress management strategy that you can easily incorporate into your daily life, that will allow you to deal with whatever challenges come your way, then this In Harmony with the Herd Retreat might be exactly what you have been looking for.

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 and irresistible Falabella horses, while attending this retreat. Contact me at welcome2gascony@gmail.com asap to enquire about availability.

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
  • Equine-facilitated Mindfulness and Equine-guided Meditation sessions
  • Potentially life-changing Camino de Santiago de Compostela walks with an introduction to mindful walking meditation
  • Scrumptious fresh food locally sourced, served during brunch and dinner, with access to a selection of herbal teas and coffee 24/7

What is NOT included:

  • Transport from your home to Esprit Meraki farm and back
  • Personal Health Insurance and/or Travel Insurance (we highly recommend insurance cover in case you/we 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 meal in a local restaurant – to boost the local economy post-COVID (cost round 15-30 euros, depending on your choices)
  • 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 119 euros per room per night, but only to our retreat guests – depending on availability. 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, 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, one opening onto its own patio where guests can sit and soak up the sun with a cool drink and a good book.

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. Two centuries-old Lime 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 5 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, a celebration of the wonderful variety of fresh local produce available from the 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.

Only a limited number of participants will be able to attend a In Harmony with the Herd 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, treat yourself by investing in your future and attend this unique retreat for 899 euros for a single bedroom and 1699 euros for 2 people in a double bedroom. Maximum of 4 participants per retreat. Please note: the retreats start at 18h00 on Saturdays and end at 11h00 on Wednesdays.

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 Savoir Vivre Vignettes 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

Description frequently updated.