When first-time director Jacques Belliveau was auditioning actors for the lead role in his new film, one of the actors bit him, and that’s how Kiwi, the mini-horse got the part.
Kiwi landed the role of Reggie, a support animal in Belliveau’s first full-length project.
The semi-autobiographical movie, also written and produced by Belliveau, seeks to erase the stigma around mental health.
The story follows Mitch, played by Belliveau, a young man diagnosed with anxiety and depression who has a problem socializing with other people.
When Mitch quits his therapy sessions, he decides to adopt a highly temperamental miniature horse named Reggie.
At only 7-years-old, Kiwi has not only starred in his movie, he has marched in the 4th of July parade in Washington D.C., takes part in the Raleigh Christmas Parade, visits children’s hospitals but also has an active social media presence.
Tara Needham, who runs a non-profit called ‘Stampede of Love,’ owns Kiwi.
Stampede of Love connects mini-horses with people through equine therapy. Tara and her mom, Mary Needham, raised and trained Kiwi and four other horses in their backyard with two goats.
Kiwi also has an honorary degree awarded at the UNC Health Library. What is that degree, you might ask?
The degree is in ‘Library Shenanigans,’ recognizing several years of visiting staff, students, and staff during finals week at the library.
Lynn Gunther ran the program to provide animal therapy. The events were a hit, drawing around 500 people from around the campus the first time it took place.
“I hope he takes off and brings awareness to mental health issues, plus what the benefits are that animals can provide,” she said.