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Big Sky Yoga Retreats Review: Loved It So Much I Moved Here

Written by Horse Rookie

This equine yoga retreat changed the course of my life…in the best possible way.

Back in 2013, I was working a fast-paced marketing job at a software startup and had for nine years. My family was in Indiana, my job was in Indiana, and my friends were in Indiana. Yet, I found myself dreaming I was anywhere else. So, I did what many women do in my situation: I started browsing the web for vacation ideas. That’s how I came across Big Sky Yoga Retreats (BSYR).

Big Sky Yoga Retreats helps big-hearted yoginis of all levels live out their big sky dreams in Montana, and other amazing destinations. After having attended more than a dozen retreats and eventually moving to Montana, I can wholehearted say these are once-in-a-lifetime vacations.*

*Unless you keep coming back for more like I did!

Big Sky Yoga Retreats offers luxury women’s yoga and horseback riding vacations in the wilds of Montana. Use Referral Code “HRcowgirlup” during registration for a special gift upon arrival!

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Why BSYR Caught My Eye

When it came to traveling (especially solo), it wasn’t my first rodeo.

I’d visited the majority of US states, a dozen or so countries in Europe, Costa Rica, and even visited Puerto Rico once on a whim. But, none of the places I’d been were tugging at my heart strings to return. I wanted something different.


I’ll never forget the amazing women I met on retreat.

Here’s what drew me in:

  1. The Wilds of Montana: I had long felt I would love Montana, though I had never seen it for myself. Something about having fewer people than cows in the whole state was appealing to my introvert side, and the promise of breathtaking scenery was icing on top. If I was tired of big cities and traffic jams (I was), Montana was surely the cure.
  2. The Chance to Reconnect with Horses: Growing up, my life revolved around horses. I took lessons from the age of six through college, but then horses took the back burner to a career and grad school. How had I strayed so far from this passion of my youth? Would it rekindle if given the chance? I wanted to find out.
  3. The Chance to Learn Yoga: My busy-busy brain didn’t crave yoga, but my logical side knew that it should. I’d been on one yoga retreat with a friend a few years earlier… and that was all I’d ever done. Luckily, BSYR welcomed all levels of yoginis—even newbies like me.
  4. The Fun Solution for Solo Travelers: Unlike the other yoga retreat and ranch vacation websites I’d visited, BSYR wasn’t pitching one-size-fits-all masses. They bring small groups of women together so it’s easy to connect with other attendees instead of getting lost in the crowd.
  5. The Story Rang True: The founder, Margaret Burns Vap, had moved to Montana after a corporate life in New York City and Washington D.C. She’d traded in her fast-paced city lifestyle for country living, which sounded right up my alley. I wanted to see this mythical life she’d created and be inspired. (Spoiler alert: I did, and I was!)

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Read Margaret’s Letter to My Younger Self to learn more about her story and how she reconnected with horses in adulthood and what they’ve taught her.

What My First Retreat Was Like

BSYR offers many different retreat styles, but I knew that I wanted to attend one of the equine yoga retreats.

Cowgirl Yoga™ is their signature retreat focused on yoga and the horse-human connection, and it had my name written all over it.

Once I looked through the photos of the Double T River Ranch, where that retreat is held, I was hooked.


I craved inspiration, connection, and relaxation.

I took a deep breath, input my credit card information, and clicked “Register.” #justbookit

Big Sky Yoga Retreats also made our list of the 10 Best Horseback Riding Vacations in Montana.

Packing for a Horseback Riding Vacation

In a nutshell, my advice is “pack everything!” Montana is known for it’s unpredictable weather, and this is your chance to wear all that Western attire you’ve dreamed of.

So pack (or purchase when you arrive at one of the great tack stores in Montana) a cute pair of cowboy boots, simple straw hat, and your favorite pair of jeans right off the bat.

(Margaret also has packing guidance on her website.)

The more jeans and tees I packed into my suitcase, and the more blazers, dress pants, and heels I left in the closet, the more authentic I began to feel. This was a good sign.

Check out Packing for Paradise: What to Wear Horseback Riding in Montana for a deep dive. 

Arriving in Bozeman, Montana

If you come to one of BSYR’s Montana retreats, you’ll probably fly into Bozeman like I did. There aren’t that many flights to choose from each day, and you’ll probably have at least one connection.

Montana certainly didn’t disappoint.

But, the moment I arrived in the lodge-style airport and saw how peaceful (yes, peace at an airport!), quaint, clean, and beautiful it was, I knew I’d made the right decision.

I remember the feeling as my shoulders slowly dropped a few inches and I took my first breaths of crisp Montana air.

I had decided to arrive a day early and stay the night in Bozeman. I’d offered to share a car with two other girls (I didn’t know) and needed to pick them up the following morning for the drive out to the ranch.

Getting my rental car took about five minutes (Is this place for real?!), and I enjoyed driving around the college town of 50,000+ people. Everywhere I looked, I saw towering, snow-capped mountains.

I also saw my first Bald Eagle!

Navigating the town was very easy, and the bustling downtown was right out of a storybook. Best of all, everyone I met was friendly, warm, and welcoming. In return, I found myself feeling settled, friendly, and happy.

Getting to the Ranch

The next day, I picked up two strangers who would soon become friends. As we made the 45-minute drive East to Clyde Park and the Double T River Ranch, I was amazed how at ease we were in each other’s company.

Each of us was traveling solo, and none of us had ridden a horse in years. We weren’t accomplished yoginis either.


I booked the ranch house master suite.

We were simply looking for… something… and we hoped that Montana would help us find it.

As we made our way to the ranch, we must’ve pulled over at least twenty times to take photos and marvel at the scenery. All around us were lush green pastures, bright blue skies, and jagged peaks.

By the time we turned down the gravel driveway at the Double T, I felt like I’d known those girls for years. (People even asked if we were sisters!)

Towering red silos told us we had arrived at our destination, as did the delicious scents of dinner wafting from the converted barn that would serve as our home base, kitchen, and yoga studio.


The Double T River Ranch is pure magic.

I had reserved the ranch house master suite (#gobigorgohome), and it was everything I’d hoped for and more.

The room was perfectly appointed in tasteful, rustic chic decor, the bed is still the most comfortable I’ve ever slept in, and I was only steps away from the barn and horse paddock.

A hammock swung lazily in the breeze outside my window, and I listened to the sound of birds, Aspen trees, and horses nearby. I was home.


R&R Comes Standard.

Guests who weren’t in the ranch house had reserved rooms in the pair of cabins down by the river. Between the beautiful walk, campfire pit, bubbling water, and bald eagle nests, even those of us staying at the ranch house frequented the cabins to hang out by the fire.

Meeting Everyone (Including the Horses!)

Our first day included an introductory yoga class in the restored barn loft, where we stretched our stiff recently-traveled bodies, breathed in the fresh air through the loft screen door, gazed at the horse paddocks, and listened as Margaret guided us through our first Vinyasa practice.


It was the first time I’d been around horses for any meaningful time in years.

Then, it was time for happy hour and a meet and greet with the herd!

We all chatted cheerfully, wine glasses in-hands, as we strolled to the paddock. The wranglers introduced us to each horse, shared their stories, and let us say hello.

Smelling that familiar horse scent (the good kind), stroking their velveteen noses, and gazing into their wise eyes brought me back to my childhood.

We each drew a card and were asked to meditate on it throughout the weekend.

After returning for a nourishing dinner (and dessert—always dessert), Margaret had each of us draw a horse card from The Way of the Horse.

She asked us to meditate on our image throughout the weekend and see what came up for us during the process.

Having Fun While Being Healthy

The next three days were full (but not too full) of Vinyasa and restorative yoga classes*, horse groundwork sessions in the round pen, trail rides, gourmet meals and wine, and amazing women who made me laugh, cry, and wish the retreat would never end.

*PJs and wine welcome!

Each woman bonded with different horses, and my equine soulmate turned out to be a big chestnut gelding named Charlie.


I connected with Charlie because of his sweet spirit.

I would end up riding him on retreats for several years and even considered buying him once I moved to Bozeman permanently. That’s how much I loved him!

I was grateful for all the time we had to hang out with the horses, grooming them, watching them, and simply spending time with them. That weekend reminded me that I still had my deep love for horses—it had simply gone dormant.

Reflecting on the Retreat

It’s hard to explain, but everything about that weekend made me feel like a more authentic version of myself.

I didn’t want to leave Montana and return home. 

Margaret had given each person the essay that accompanied their horse card. We read them on our own time and journaled about how the image and text made us feel and aligned with our lives.


All activities are optional.

During our farewell Sunday brunch, we went around the table and had the opportunity to share about our experience, our horse card, and how the retreat would impact our lives moving forward. (Rookie advice: bring Kleenex.)

At least four women (out of twelve) planned to quit jobs that no longer served them. (I was one of them.)

Other women talked about how the peace they’d found would better their relationships once they returned home.

All of us felt the weekend would change the course of our lives.


This was the first horse card I drew on a Big Sky Yoga Retreat.

Extending My Stay

Along with several other women, I decided to extend my stay and do the optional add-on trail ride the following Monday.

I returned to Bozeman Sunday evening, met up with a few of my new friends for dinner downtown, then got up early the next day for our trail ride.

We spent the day exploring the wilds of Montana by horseback, including a picnic lunch and plenty of photo ops!


Charlie and I enjoying our trail ride.

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Realizing I Wanted More

One of the signs of a truly wonderful vacation is wanting to return. (Many of Margaret’s clients have attending more than 10 retreats!)

I didn’t want to return for vacation though. I wanted to live in Montana.


I never wanted to leave…

I knew it almost as soon as I got home, but it took several years for me to make it happen.

In the meantime, I made annual trips back to Bozeman for Cowgirl Yoga, Cowgirl Yogatography, and B-LUXE Cowgirl Yoga. Plus, I went on the first Cowgirl YogaCosta Rica Retreat!

Every trip strengthened my resolve. I would move to Montana.

Making It Happen

In 2015, I finally got up the nerve to quit my job and start my own virtual marketing agency that would allow me to work remotely from anywhere.

By 2016, I rented a house in Bozeman, packed up whatever fit in my car (including the dog, of course), and drove to Montana for good.


Me with my first horse Rem!

It’s been several years now, and I can say without hesitation that moving to Montana was the best decision I’ve ever made.

  • I’m my own boss and make my own schedule.
  • I’m surrounding by stunning scenery and 360-degree mountains.
  • I’m part of a wonderful friend community.
  • I’m the reason my parents decided to retire in Bozeman. (They love it, too!)
  • I’m able to help teach groundwork at Big Sky Yoga Retreats.
  • I’m finally a horse owner!

Bottom Line: Best. Decision. Ever.

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My Top 3 Equine Yoga Retreats

You don’t have to move here to soak up some Montana magic. (Though I highly recommend it ;))

Check out the Big Sky Yoga Retreat schedule, and watch how a few days of true R&R can transform your own life.

Big Sky Yoga Retreats offers luxury women’s yoga and horseback riding vacations in the wilds of Montana. Use Referral Code “HRcowgirlup” during registration for a special gift upon arrival!

Here are my top picks for equine yoga retreat rookies:

LUXE Cowgirl Yoga™ Retreat“]

  • Where: Double T River Ranch, Clyde Park, Montana, USA
  • When: Summer and Fall
  • How Long: 4 Days / 3 Nights (Optional: Add-On Monday Trail Ride)

The word “LUXE” is in the name for a reason, and the Double T River Ranch has luxury in spades. This is Big Sky Yoga Retreats’ signature offering, and it’s the retreat I first attended.

It’s perfect for yoginis of all levels, and you don’t need any horse riding experience to fit right in.

Click to see when it’s offered

B LUXE Cowgirl Yoga™ Retreat

  • Where: B Bar Ranch, Emigrant, Montana, USA
  • When: Summer
  • How Long: 4 Days / 3 Nights (Optional: Add-On Monday Trail Ride)

If you want quintessential Montana mountain majesty, moose sightings, and rustic chic luxury (that’s more chic than rustic), try this retreat.

You’ll be nestled in the Tom Minor Basin, enjoy yoga on the lodge’s sprawling back porch, and connect with horses with a 100-year-old barn as your backdrop.

Click to see when it’s offered

Click to see a deep-dive review of this retreat

LUXE Cowgirl Yoga™ & Creativity

  • Where: Grey Cliffs Lodge, Three Forks, Montana, USA
  • When: Summer
  • How Long: 4 Days / 3 Nights (Optional: Add-On Ranch Time)

If you want to fill your creative funnel even more on vacation, this is the retreat for you.

In addition to daily yoga classes and horse time, you’ll enjoy onsite pottery classes, flower arranging workshops, journaling, drawing, and more.

Click to see when it’s offered

Bonus: Cowgirl Yoga™ Patagonia

Want an epic adventure you’ll never forget? Big Sky Yoga Retreats offers a week-long hiking and equine yoga retreat in Patagonia!

Note: You should have some prior horse riding experience and be fit enough for rigorous hikes. 

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Just Book It!

Having now attended more than a dozen Big sky Yoga Retreats—not to mention quitting my job and starting my own business so I could move to Montana—I hope this review inspires more women to nurture their bodies, minds, and souls through these amazing adventures.


Take my advice: Just book it!

Big Sky Yoga Retreats Schedule

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About the author

Horse Rookie

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!