Arobridge Equine First, in Clevedon, southeast Auckland, has built a sound reputation for its equine-related events and work-shops, in particular, its emphasis on equine assisted therapy. Owner, Kathy Marx, set up the facility in 2009 after a brief illness in 2007 saw her spend a lot of time with her horses, the peace they generated helping in her healing process.
Realising she was calmer and more relaxed, she felt sure other people could benefit from the same experience and help. Then, in 2008 she was, by chance, invited to an event introducing Eagala – (the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association). She enrolled, trained and became a certified Eagala Equine Specialist.
“I worked in this role until 2013 then, through reading books by Linda Kohanov and Shelley Rosenberg, I discovered Eponaquest Worldwide which I felt could expand my knowledge in this field.”
Kathy invited Shelley Rosenberg to come and introduce Eponaquest to New Zealand. Shelley agreed and as a result Kathy began a new journey studying Eponaquest methods in equine assisted therapy and embarking on an apprenticeship travelling and studying with four other New Zealanders and two Australians under Linda and Shelley’s tutorship, in Arizona, Australia and then New Zealand. In 2014 she graduated as a Certified Eponaquest Instructor – with a Riding Focus Instructor (RFI) qualification. Today she is focused on the services provided at Arobridge Equine First in the Ness Valley.
Can you explain in brief what equine assisted therapy is?
Equine Assisted Therapy is working with horses to offer a great alternative for people who don’t respond well to ‘talking therapy’. It is active, outdoors and very stimulating. Horses can bring about an emotional response to a situation which enables people to recognise it as valuable information and learn the skills required to make one small change in their life, leading to further changes when required. Horses don’t talk, they use body language to communicate within the herd and during interaction with humans. By observing and developing an understanding of the horses silent communication helps us to:
Trust our own intuition and awareness
Build emotional strength and agility
Set effective boundaries
Body scans – use the body as a sensing device
Recognise authenticity – true self and false self
Roles within a herd in comparison to our human role(s)
Recognise and move beyond conditioned behaviours and thought patterns
Develop essential skills for building authentic community
Who benefits from this type of Equine Assisted Therapy?
It can help Individuals, families, teams, groups, schools; anyone with a problem or issue.
What exactly is Eponaquest?
Eponaquest is made up of educational programmes, workshops and private sessions which employ horses in teaching people leadership, assertiveness, personal empowerment, relationship, team building, intuition, and emotional fitness skill. Whether you are interested in human development or equine facilitated learning, or both, the Eponaquest approach allows people to experience what it means to truly thrive in life, offering tools to open other worlds of creativity, insight, and empowerment, expanding one’s vision, helping to reconnect to nature, to the herd and to the community.
Did you grow up within the equestrian community – pony club, hunt, or perhaps, horse in the back paddock? If not how did you end up following this equine path?
No, I didn’t go to pony club, hunt or have horses until I was 48 years old… I ride for fun and for the great partnership and relationship I have with my horses. I teach and train humans and horses in focused riding.
What are your particular qualifications in relation to the work you do at Arobridge?
I am a certified Eponaquest Instructor (RFI), Eagala trained Equine Specialist, Meditation Coach
How much of your job is down to training and how much is just good, old fashioned ‘horse sense’?
Training is always important with natural horsemanship, where possible, to ensure the safety of our clients as many of the EAL sessions are done on the ground and no riding is required. In the RFI sessions, Eponaquest-focused riding techniques are used.
How many therapists do you have working at Arobridge and do they all provide the same type of guidance or do the same type of work?
Arobridge has five facilitators. As well as myself there is Carol Drew, trained counsellor NZAC, counselling supervision, group facilitation, certified Eagala (Mental Health), Karitane honours (1974), celebrant, hospice (3 years); Wendy Nicholas, Eagala Equine Specialist, naturopath, medical herbalist, qualified practitioner of Arvigo Mayan Abdominal Therapy, holistic pelvic care, massage and reiki, yoga teacher; Lorraine Blackwell, Arobridge herd manager, whose experience with horses spans more than 30 years, now working with the Arobridge Kaimanawas in Equine Assisted Therapy. Lorraine is currently training to become a NZFE Level 3 coach. Arobridge Hoofcamp facilitator and ?Hooves and Hero’s Instructor; Caroline Walker, Arobridge Hoofcamp facilitator, has assisted in many Arobridge events, has recently completed a National Certificate in Mental Health and Addiction Support and completed a massage course through the NZ College of Massage.
How many horses is Arobridge home to and do you keep any particular breed?
The main breed is Kaimanawa and we have eight wild horses adopted from various musters between 2007 and 2018. Also Cherokee (Apaloosa), Cherry (Pinto), Diva (part Arab).
You also host Hoofcamps what exactly are these and when are they held?
The Hoofcamps are school holiday programmes held at Arobridge for children who either adopt a horse for the week or bring their own. Each Hoofcamp has various activities from feeding, grooming, care and welfare,and caters for beginners to a more advanced riding ability where focused riding is taught.
There is lots of fun and games throughout the week until Friday when family and friends are invited to a celebration parade to finish.
You have a programme called Hooves & Heroes what is this and who does it involve?
The Hooves & Hero’s members are a group of children who wish to continue learning the skills taught at Hoofcamp.
What other activities do you offer?
We also offer workshops:
10 x one-day workshops being a mixture of Eponaquest, Eagala , Arobridge and meditation with horses
Corporate team building using the roles within the herd
For all teachers and healers, mental health workers, social workers, care givers and nurses
Mother and daughter days working with our Kaimanawa mares and their foals
All workshops are due to start in November 2018. These will be advertised in “Events” on Arobridge Equine First – see www.arobridge.com
If you could raise any animal or grow any plant what and why?
Kaimanawa horses – they are brilliant therapy horses.
If you could be Prime Minister for a day what is the first thing you would do and why?
I would provide funding for an Equine Assisted Therapy Facility complete with training facilities for horses and equine facilitators to help people help themselves through the magic of horses.
If you could ask any three people (living or dead) to diner who and why?
Queen Elizabeth 11 as she understands and is supportive of the ability of horses to help people, and I am sure we would have some very in-depth and interesting conversations.
Sir Ray Avery as he is always forward thinking, is genuine in wanting to help humanity, and is influential enough to help find funding or put me on to the right people to help brand and grow the face of Equine Assisted Therapies
A World War 1 Veteran of NZ Mounted Rifles to explain and give an insight of the procurement, training and life of an Army horse (Kaimanawa) used in combat during the First World War.