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Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey today brought Conservation Spokesperson Sarah Dowie to view first-hand how Waimakariri’s healing horses are making changes in human lives.

The mini horses were all rescued and rehabilitated before starting their new lives helping young people and people with disabilities through a partnership between Mini Ha Ha Horse Haven and Salta Horses.

Deirdre Ryan, director of Salta Horses, says the idea to team up with Jen Hepire, founder of the Mini Ha Ha Haven Trust, came after a “lightbulb” moment when she was looking at how to help young people in Christchurch.

“At about that time I was expanding my equine-assisted therapy, learning and development business, Salta Horses. I mainly use our big horses at our facilities in West Eyreton but when the opportunity came up to work with some young people in Christchurch, I had a lightbulb moment about bringing the ponies to the people. So now when access is a barrier to participation for potential clients, two or three of Jen's little ones take a ride into town and do their great therapy work with our clients.”

Doocey said he routinely visits local businesses to see how they’re doing and was impressed to hear about the innovative partnership between the horse rescue haven and the equine-assisted therapy service.

“I love highlighting what we do well in the Waimakariri and I wanted to share this wonderful initiative with my colleagues. The idea of rescued horses being given a new life to help young people lacking confidence, whether at school or in social situations, or battling disabilities, is a great solution,” Doocey said.

Ryan said the partnership was born three years ago. “I was so impressed not only with Jen’s passion but the astounding results she was getting in rehabilitating these little horses that had all kinds of health issues. Jen has since become a real champion and educator for the care and wellbeing of minis in particular.”

No horses are ridden in the Equine Assisted Growth and Development (EAGLA) registered service, which includes a mental-health professional and equine specialist, as well as the team of horses, Ryan said. “All work is done on the ground with the horses free in a fenced-off space or paddock.”


Mini Ha Ha Horse Haven founder Jen Hepire, Salta Horses founder Deirdre Ryan, Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey, Conservation Spokesperson Sarah Dowie and volunteers of Mini Ha Ha Horse Haven in Fernside.


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