MEET THE TEAM

HORSES AND DONKEYS

BLUEBERRY

“Blue” is a confident, gregarious soul and specialises in looking after our smaller cerebral palsy riders. He is versatile -he also helps children with a variety of other special needs like ADHD, as well as teaching our young able bodied riders. He takes his work seriously, but loves jumping and frolicking with the herd in his free time.

BO

Bo came from the Society for Animals in Distress (SAID) in Vorna Valley. He needed a change of career from being a coal yard pony in Tembisa, and became an equine therapist at our centre, thus beginning his journey to helping people in different ways. He has proved to be a self-assured and steadfast pony, being an enormous support when working with outreach programmes especially. He tends to be a little skeptical at first but when he decides to commit, he does so wholeheartedly.

COSMOS

“Cozzie” is a quiet, gentle old lady who is deeply engaged with her work. She transmits a great comfort and understanding through her own stillness and her many years of experience of being with humans and doing therapeutic work. She is very much loved by our little kids, and she is a safe haven for very anxious children or adults.
KINDLY SPONSORED BY THE FLORAL AFFAIRS CLUB

DIAMOND DIEGO

Diego, the newest and also youngest member of the herd, is a fiery chestnut with a gentle heart. He is currently being rehabilitated by the herd to find his place as a horse, and educated by Natalie to be able to do the therapeutic riding work within our human context. He will be perfectly suited to carry and teach our small, younger riders in the years to come!

HERCULES

This elegant grey relates to his disabled charges with great sensitivity and intellect. His slim build and long rhythmic stride make him an ideal mount for our di-plegic and hemi-plegic riders. We can rely on him to hold some of our most disabled riders, despite the difficulty of the task. He has bonded closely with Spirit and Sheba, and when our lovely Friesian mare Melodie comes into season, he is a gallant partner for her too.

LADY WONDER

Wonder is a spirited young lady with much potential- while she is taking part in much of the varied work we do, she is still set back by some injuries to her body from the long gone past. She shows a strong character which is tempered by gentleness and generosity. Rather than doing outreach programmes, she has shown a keen interest in teaching all our varied riders.

MELODIE FAIR

Mel brings a new dynamic to the herd through her elegance and vivacious nature. Along with Spirit and Sheba, she is the other apple of Hercule's eye. Melodie is steadfast in her gentle mothering behaviour, both within the herd and with humans. She shows a quiet curiosity towards people in general, and a deep understanding in particular to our disabled children. She carries our larger, more sensitive children.

NOBLE BURGUNDY

Noble is a handsome, athletic horse with a jovial and friendly character. He will not tolerate being made to feel uncomfortable and in this, he holds great teachings for his riders, pushing his riders to reach their full potential as people through clear and correct riding and relating with him.

PEAT

Peat’s main hobby is food, and his second favourite hobby is also food. Outside of this particular love, he works mostly with our mentally challenged and autistic riders. His broad build and steady stride also make him very suitable for riders with ataxia and balance issues. He is one of our most educated horses in the sense of a classical dressage foundation, and teaches this to some of our children.

PEPPER

Our young Pepper is a lovely roan gelding. He is a handsome 7-year old with a very open, gentle and curious nature. He has had a good education from his uncles Blue and Peat, and Natalie has also had some input – he is now regularly taking part in therapy riding lessons, alongside our other equine facilitated work, which he has been a part of for much longer. After lessons, he seeks out his good friend Melodie, who is always a source of comfort to him.

SHEBA

Sheba is the ultimate lady and is always ready to pose for the camera. She is pretty and of a more refined-and sometimes very fiery- character, bringing warmth and support to her riders. She has some serious physical issues from the past, which we are still trying to get to the bottom of, and so her therapy riding work is somewhat limited. Instead, she shows up for our outreach groups and equine facilitated work, where she shares her lovely feminine energy with all of us.

SHERRY

This older mare works with our smaller riders with cerebral palsy, but also has a wonderful rapport with those who do not or cannot ride. She is extremely patient with children who just want to touch or talk to her and enjoys their efforts at grooming her. She is actually quite shy, but is firm friends with Sunny and they spend most of their free time together. This duo also takes on the challenges of travelling to the odd expo or indoor exhibition, to show the work that we do.

SPIRIT

Spirit shows the wonderful free forward movement, that her name suggests. She is a good all-rounder, although she does not like being in situations with high sensory stimulation; this overwhelms her. She is very supportive of her riders, and since she is so responsive to subtleties, she is ideal for riders without much muscle power. She holds a very matriarchal energy within the herd, aware and concerned of the overall situation and safety of all the herd members. Her lifelong mate is Hercules, who is often by her side when they are in the paddock.

SUNWILLOW SUNBIRD

“Sunny” is an introverted and thoughtful individual. He is the anchor for Sherry’s life and work, and the two of them are often seen grazing peacefully side by side. Sunny’s solid body and temperament make him very suitable for our interactive grooming programme, and he is popular with mentally and physically challenged riders alike. Sunny has a penchant for standing supportively beside people with deep trauma.

ARYAN GAZAHL "ZAHLA"

Aryan Gazahl, usually referred to as Zahla is a leggy Anglo-Arab, whose genetic inheritance of sensitivity combined with his capacity for discernment makes him a vital member of our team, especially when working with our autistic riders and anyone experiencing distress and trauma. He has shown himself to be a very capable mentor and healer, as well as taking his teaching role in riding lessons very seriously.

ZORRO

Zorro is privately owned, but lives at and is half baited by the EARTH Centre. He and Lady Wonder have a very close friendship. He helps out in our EduRide and Equitherapy lessons, and on occasion, he comes forward to work with people in our other equine facilitated programmes.

THANDI AND UNATHI

Although they are diminutive in size, they have huge personalities and they love people. They are the main therapists in our interactive Chat and Pat programme and work with those who are unable to ride i.e. the severely disabled, the frail and the elderly. They are also EARTH Centre “ice breakers” for new groups that come to work with the horses -the little donkeys give confidence to many, who at first feel overwhelmed by all the horses and ponies. The donkeys are unbelievably cute, but they also show incredible courage and tenacity, never ever giving away their personal power and “donkey essence”.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

André is currently the Director of Product Development at Sage South Africa where he is responsible for leading and growing highly skilled multi-disciplined engineering teams. Part of his role involves defining technical vision and strategy whilst driving improvements in the practice of continuous delivery. Since 2017 André has driven Sage Foundation volunteer efforts in alignment with the EARTH Centre’s funding requirements and has successfully helped to add value to the centre through this engagement. André has 33+ years of IT and business experience, possessing a powerful blend of technological vision and business acumen. He adds further expertise to our board of directors through his skills in behavioural and change management, budgeting, project life cycle management, client/vendor relationship management, financial and operational management.
Katrina has been involved at the EARTH Centre since 2009 when she began volunteering in the riding sessions. She later became a Foundation Instructor and began developing the sensory trail that is now established throughout the Centre. Katrina was instrumental in guiding SARDA Gauteng through the process of transformation into The EARTH Centre through her vision for the beautiful property and herd, the children and volunteers. She therefore came onto the board as a Non-Executive Member and has spent tremendous amounts of time ensuring excellent governance and creating helpful processes.
Nancy has 30 years’ experience and expertise in various forms of marketing; research; business intelligence and storytelling; strategic development and alliances; customer and behaviour-based business models. Through her organisational proficiency in building effective strategic partnerships, Nancy is instrumental in helping to shape the EARTH Centre’s public profile and corporate relevance. She also brings knowledge on the use of customer demographic and behavioural data to drive fundamental change in marketing strategies, and has a keen enthusiasm to help mentor and develop staff skills in these areas.
Natalie has been responsible for the care and training of EARTH Centre’s therapy horses and miniature donkeys since 2009. She was instrumental in the successful conversion of the yard’s practices from a stabled environment natural, herd based living; and through her skills in horsemanship and classical riding, natural healthcare and barefoot care she brought about a profound environmental and behavioural change that now underpins all the therapy work that takes place at the centre. Furthermore, Natalie manages and facilitates the Equine Facilitated Learning sessions around personal growth and development, for corporate and individual clients as well as the Youth Development Programme. She is also responsible for overseeing and reporting on Earth Centre’s finances and financial processes.
Wihan is a SARDA Branch Instructor (Disabled Riding Instructor) as well as a SANEF / EQASA Module 4 (Level 1) Instructor (Abled Body Riding Instructor). He began at the EARTH Centre as a volunteer in 2011, and later that year became a qualified disabled riding instructor. Wihan is responsible for the management of the therapy riding programmes, instructors and candidate instructor training. His additional skills as a qualified saddle fitter, barefoot trimmer, and Equinology Equine Body Worker enable him to provide invaluable support to the EARTH Centre herd, thereby maximising their abilities and capacities to provide a therapy of the most beneficial kind. His deep understanding of the equine industry and ability to relate to the children position him as an expert in these fields.
Suzette is a qualified Clinical Psychologist who has run her own practice since 2014, and began InPsyght Therapy Centre in 2017. She has also been a horse enthusiast and owner for the past 25 years, and has a background in therapeutic horse riding. Suzette achieved her Master’s degree from Wits University with her dissertation on “the experiences of physically disabled adolescents participating in therapeutic riding”. Not only does Suzette bring her professional knowledge and expertise through her background in psychology, she is also exceptionally valuable in helping EARTH to remain relevant in the changing South African climate, and is a grounding force in terms of bringing us back into our uniqueness, to nature and to self.

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