When Hillary Schneider discovered her life’s work as an equine mentor and equine guided coach, she knew she could help people. To do so, Schneider created a retreat on 40 acres of picturesque land she bought in Whitecroft, BC, which is near Kamloops.

“I work with women using the medium and wisdom of horses to support them in gaining clarity and confidence in their leadership and purpose,” Schneider explains, adding she also mentors and trains other aspiring equine-guided coaches.

Her ranch offers several programs including private retreats, and three-days weekend programs such as Women Who Run with Horses with four dates set in 2022, the first in April.

When Schneider heard from guests that they wanted to take home a piece of what they learned from the horses, she started thinking. She also wanted to reach those women who couldn’t travel or afford to come to her, so she created something to give to all the women who reached out – a set of equine Tarot Cards she’s called the Horse Medicine Herd Wisdom Deck.

To design them Schneider collaborated with local artist and photographer Zuzy Rocka.

“I wanted to create a deck that could share the wisdom of my horses for anyone,” Schneider explains. “It’s a way for me to continue to honour and share the teachings of each horse in my herd, including the ones that we have lost.”

The artwork is stunning. Rocka, who was born and raised in BC, is not a rider, but an avid snowboarder and mountain biker. Still, she discovered Schneider’s ranch driving by one day. Then a mutual friend showed Schneider her photos and a friendship was born.

Hillary Schneider with Aponi. (Zuzy Rocka Photography)

Rocka was excited by the Tarot card project. To create them she used some photos that Schneider supplied, as well as her own photos taken of the herd as reference. Rocka then used drawing and painting filters and effects in Photoshop to create the final images. “I used photos of some kraft textured paper as the background as well, and photos of gold leaf foil to add golden accents through the images,” she explains. “I chose backgrounds that matched the personality and energy of each horse that I felt fitting.”

Tarot cards have been in use since the 15th Century for specific card games, but are mostly used today for divination purposes as depicted in countless films and television series. The deck of cards has images on them from which people “read” to take specific meanings or even to answer questions such as they might ask a psychic medium.

Like traditional Tarot cards, the Herd Wisdom Deck comes with a guidebook which offers instructions on how to use the cards, including how each horse message offers reflection of how to apply that wisdom in your own life.

“Many people use a tarot or oracle deck as a medium to get wisdom or clarity on what is going on in their life so it could be used as a card of the day, where you can pull a card with intention of what do I need to focus on today,” says Schneider. “Or it can also be to help us gain insight into what is going on with us internally, or in relationship you can pull a card to get clarity on what is needed as solution or to find clarity on what is happening on a deeper level.”

Schneider stands behind what she does and the programs she’s created at her retreat are targeted towards empowering women. Anyone can come, and no horse experience is necessary.

She says that the women who sign up for her retreats feel a connection or are drawn to horses. “The work I do with my herd is not about activity or exercises, but experiencing the wisdom of horses through their lens,” she explains. “We go into the herd to see what the horses have for us, horses as prey animals and are sensitive to reading our energy and so they respond to what we bring into their space,” she says, echoing what many equine therapists also ascribe to. “I believe the power of this work is not about humans manipulating the experience but rather learning from horses in their natural environment, the horses naturally will give us what we need.”

Schneider describes two horses in her herd and what they reflect and offer humans. There is Luna, a blue roan mare with a black mane that came to the ranch this past fall. “Her name is reflective of what we think she teaches us, which is paying attention to how the lunar cycles affects us, and also honoring our own cycles in the passages we take in our lives.”

Then there’s Aponi, the herd’s lead mare who was a rescue from the 2017 wildfires in nearby Williams Lake. “Aponi is a big energy especially for women,” Schneider explains. “As the lead mare and how she holds herself she gives us the permission to be in our potency, to not diminish ourselves in anyway, to make others comfortable, she radiates her dominance and is a reminder that being in our power is inspiring to others.”

All of the retreat experiences are done on the ground at liberty, with an emphasis on learning how to be safe with horses. “Witnessing and experiencing horses in their space can teach us much about how we honor our own energy, boundaries, what our impact is,” Schneider says.

“And how to trust what is coming to us instead of feeling like we have to control everything.”