Horse Empowered – Gabriella Vamvakidis of Copperwood Trail

Gabriella Vamvakidis will help you find a connection to nature you never imagined.

Interviewed By Bianca Ricci

If you want to go off the beaten path, Copperwood Trail in Stouffville will transport you to luscious green meadows, picturesque landscapes and the triumphant sound of galloping horses.

The feeling at Copperwood Trail is the feeling of being home. Owner Gabriella Vamvakidis’s bungalow invites you in to become part of the family. “I kind of feel that it is like what I do on a daily basis with friends or family,” says Vamvakidis.

Located on a rustic farm, Copperwood Trail is a family-owned ranch that promises an escape from city life. This is no regular farm, though. Specializing in equine therapy, Copperwood Trail promotes horse and human harmony.

“Being around [the horses] is very calming and therapeutic,” said Vamvakidis.

Copperwood Trail allows you a chance not only to connect with nature, but also to connect with one of its most majestic creations. The four horses at Copperwood each have their own personality and energy.

There’s Copper, a Welsh pony that was the farm’s first horse and from whom the farm gets its name. Spartacus, the herd leader, is a Friesian-Percheron cross and a gentle giant. Zeppelin is a Rocky Mountain and is super friendly. And Santana is a Morgan who is goofy and mischievous.

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Certified in equine-assisted learning (EAL), a kind of psychotherapy involving horses, Vamvakidis helps facilitate the interaction between you and the horse. A physical connection is expected; what is surprising is the emotional connection that forms.

“It’s not like a petting zoo,” Vamvakidis says. You are interacting and communicating with the horse — forming a bond and learning about yourself in the process. As you build this relationship, “you work on your self-confidence, you work on how empowered you feel, or how you trust yourself to do something,” Vamvakidis says.

Rather than riding the horses — an activity Copperwood Trail does not offer — you embark on a journey to connect or reconnect with nature on a unique level. You undergo a self-evaluation. “It’s a great connection back to stuff that we don’t get to experience anymore, but in a real way. It’s not a hike, or a zoo; you’re right in with them and interacting with them,” says Vamvakidis.

“You work on your self-confidence, you work on how empowered you feel, or how you trust yourself to do something”

Copperwood Trail offers a variety of programs and welcomes first-timers. The Barn Buddies program is great for young children and for sibling and cousin bonding. The Coffee in the Country program is for groups who want to have an outdoors outing away from the city. Beginner/Intro to Horses is for those who want to learn about horses and how to take care of them. The Recreation program is just for fun and great for the entire family. And the EAL lessons allow people to spend some one-on-one time with a horse and to learn valuable life lessons.

Vamvakidis encourages first-timers to have a one-on-one experience: “I’m always pleasantly shocked and surprised when I have a woman with me and we’re one-on-one and there’s tears, but in a good way. It’s an emotional connection that people don’t expect.”

Not only do they connect you to nature, the EAL lessons are also particularly helpful for adults and children with specialized needs. “The more we [had children with specialized needs], the more we realized that a lot of children that would come on the autism spectrum really loved it,” says Vamvakidis.

The major draw of Copperwood Trail is the opportunity to spend time alone with a horse and think. To connect to your surroundings and explore your mind. The process is very similar to meditation, which has become a staple in stress relief. One new program at Copperwood Trail is Group Meditation.

The very first group meditation took place outside, near the stables, and consisted of 12 women and a life coach. During the meditation, “the horses came and stood around the circle. It was almost as if the horses were supporting and participating,” Vamvakidis recalls. This is the emotional relationship you can expect at Copperwood Trail.

A recurring theme at Copperwood Trail is empowerment. “People come here feeling a lot of things that they’re not sure about. Working with the horses helps bring self-clarity. [It] forces you to be aware of why you are nervous, and when you change, they change. It’s an ‘in the moment’ thing. You notice: when you change, the horse responds. That in itself is a very empowering experience,” Vamvakidis says.

Copperwood Trail allows you to escape the strain of city life and explore the empowered wild stallion in you. Vamvakidis puts it best: “I think that’s why people like coming here. It’s an escape from every day. Time to chill and get away from everything.”

You can learn more about Copperwood Trail at

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Brandon Harripersaud

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