Devon Fowler bonds with Liam at the Huntcliff stable. (John Ruch)

For over 50 years, the Huntcliff stables have been a place where people bond with horses. 

The exclusive enclave in Sandy Springs’ northwestern corner began construction in 1968 in a bend of the Chattahoochee River around the Cherokee Country Club with an equestrian center and horse trails. Today, it attracts lifelong local riding lifestylers like Jen Fowler and daughter Devon, 14. Liam, their quarterhorse/thoroughbred mix, is among the 28 horses and ponies that call the center’s stables home.

“I just love the ability to feel the freedom to horseback riding,” said Devon during a recent visit to the center. “It gives you the sense you can do anything. But you also get to talk to your partner.” 

The center is operated by Go With It Farms, owned by Canton resident Halliea Milner. The human-animal bond is what draws people to the core business of lessons and camps, she says. 

“It’s the average person that wants to ride a horse and has a passion for that connection,” said Milner. Riders get to “be in touch with nature,” she says. And a “calm connection” can come from riding with the “powerful” animals, an experience that she says can release endorphins and lower the heart rate. 

Halliea’s daughter Sidnee, 13, is a nationally ranked championship rider in “eventing,” a sport that combines jumping, cross-country and dressage, or trained maneuvers. The center attracts other competitive riders, Halliea says, but cultivates a casual atmosphere more like a barbecue than a training facility. “We call it our barn family,” she says, emphasizing the human connections that riding also creates.

Sidnee Milner, daughter of Go With It Farm owner Halliea Milner, gives a head-hug to her Welsh pony Vista at the Huntcliff equestrian center. (John Ruch)

For champs like Sidnee, the bond with the horse is also part of the attraction. “I can feel what the horse wants to do and what it thinks, almost,” she said.

Sidnee also enjoys the varying personalities of her three horses, Vista, Petey and Beau. “Vista is definitely a little more sassy than the other two are,” she said. “Petey is a little sulky and a little shy.” As for Beau, “He’s all about the food.”

Vista, a Welsh pony, is also the one who recognizes the Milners’ car when they arrive and lets Sidnee hold her head in her arms.

Devon’s horse has plenty of personality, too. “Liam’s such a goofball. He’s such a ham, too,” she said. And there’s horse-horse bonding going on as well; Liam’s best friend is a stablemate named Faldeus.

The Fowlers moved to Huntcliff in 2018 specifically for the center, where Liam already had been boarded for about a year while the family lived elsewhere in Sandy Springs. Jen grew up riding in Lake Forest, Illinois, and is passing the tradition along to her daughter.

The equestrian center sits right on the Chattahoochee at the end of a bumpy road called River Run. Its upkeep was always an expensive proposition for the Huntcliff homeowners association, and its fortunes and facilities have waxed and waned over the years. Halliea says that when she took over the operation of the center about three years ago, it was nearly vacant. Some of the old horse trails winding through the subdivision are now overgrown, says Devon. Today, the Fowlers are the only Huntcliff residents who stable a horse there, though some other residents come for lessons.

But times may be changing again. Devon says there’s movement to clear out some of the trails. Jen says that other horse owners are looking to move into Huntcliff. After all, once you have the horse-human bond like Devon and Liam, you can’t get enough.

“I pretty much come and see him every day,” she says.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.