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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Experience Spring Hill Ranch in Exeter

Dec 26, 2016 11:00AM ● By Jordan Venema

Ballerina Cowgirl

January 2017
By Jordan Venema
Photos: Michelle Smee

The first thing you should know: don’t call it a spa. Lilly Hart explains, “To me, that indicates somebody who wants to come and be indulged.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the retreats offered by Hart at Spring Hill Ranch in Exeter are intended to incorporate elements of healthy living and an active lifestyle.  

“That’s what I want to do: make a fitness and relaxation retreat for women in the valley that’s affordable, so we can have a place that, I would argue, has a world-class trainer and dancer, and that’s in a natural environment,” says Hart.

Hart isn’t only a certified yoga and dance and Pilates instructor, though. The third-generation Exeter native had a professional dancing career in Las Vegas, where she also operated a horse ranch in the foothills of Red Rock Canyon. Just call her the Ballerina Cowgirl. “I love Vegas because it’s a cowboy town and a dance town, so it was the perfect place for me,” she says.

At 65 years young, Hart admits, “I thought this time of my life wouldn’t be this exciting.” Even after 25 years of dancing in Vegas, having moved back to Exeter seven years ago, Hart hasn’t missed a step. Drawing on her experience and desire to continue an active lifestyle, five years ago, she began offering fitness and relaxation retreats at her Spring Hill Ranch. 

Hart has a long history of teaching yoga – more than 40 years, she says. “I taught ballet and yoga and Pilates at the University of Nevada for 20 years, and I have two degrees from there: a Bachelor of Science in dance education and a Bachelor of Arts in dance performance. I even created a program there in the late ‘80s called Ballet Fit.”

Hart now brings her expertise to a very different environment from the bright lights of the Vegas Strip, though the setting is no less spectacular. Nestled in the foothills with a wide view of the Sierra Nevadas, Hart invites guests to Spring Hill to stretch or ride or dance or swim in the solitude and privacy of a natural setting.

Hart describes the ranch as “natural, very organic. We have our own chickens, and garden, and beef, and I make breakfast, and I encourage people to go and explore.” 

“The reason this place is called Spring Hill,” she continues, “is because there are natural springs when it rains, and we converted our pool into a pond, like a lake with a concrete bottom that fresh water flows through all the time.” It’s all part of a holistic lifestyle that Hart wants to encourage, without charging typical spa rates.

“We do individual and private fitness retreats,” says Hart. “Half-day, full-day, overnight and weekends. You can be fit and healthy and engaged in this world no matter what your age. Our lifestyle today is making us sick, and it doesn’t have to be that way.” 

One end of the spectrum is the half-day retreat for $125, with guests receiving a massage and fitness class of their choice. At the other end is the overnight retreat for $295, which includes lunch or dinner, and breakfast, two classes and a massage.

Classes range from kettle bells to Pilates, and aqua aerobics to yoga. Hart also raises Missouri Fox Trotter horses and created “a program that I call equine enrichment therapy, which basically uses the horse to explore different areas of your life that you feel you need to have a better handle on.”

Spring Hill Ranch currently has a small studio, though Hart is building a larger studio that “will have most gym equipment, all the Pilates equipment, a beautiful yoga and dance studio with a deck all the way around it so we can do yoga outside.” 

Inside or outside, the choice belongs to the guest. The point besides a healthy, holistic workout is to create a retreat that is unique and specialized to each individual guest. Also, something nearby, “so when someone comes for a half day, she can take a hike with me, get a massage, take a class, and then be home in time for dinner.”

31359 Dahlem Drive, Exeter

(559) 589-4143 •

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