Rachael Martin and partner Mark Turner have started a new horse trekking company at Queen Elizabeth Park after being granted a lease by Wellington Regional Council.

Taking over the lease in December, the couple has spent the last few months improving barn facilities, establishing a herd of trekking horses and recruiting and training staff to work at the barn.

Kapiti Stables Ltd started trekking this month under the watchful eye of the new manager Sharleen Montgomery.

The company does horse trekking, horse grazing and equine therapy for families but also has a strong community service ethic.

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"We use the barn as an outreach for people from the Kapiti Community Centre's art programme for differently abled people," Ms Martin said.

Artist Christian Martin holding one of his paintings on display at Kapiti Stables gallery.
Artist Christian Martin holding one of his paintings on display at Kapiti Stables gallery.

"We provide an art gallery for their paintings to be displayed and sold, and they really are quite lovely.

"The group is for differently abled people with mental health issues — Down syndrome, global developmental delay and special needs."

Artists are encouraged to discover different ways of engaging with a variety of media through experimentation, giving a voice to each artist.

The art consists mostly of water colour paintings which are framed and look professional, and some stonework.

The gallery will be a permanent fixture at Kapiti Stables with one of the paintings already selling in the first week.

All proceeds from the sales are returned to the group to cover the cost of materials and to the artist.

Kapiti Stables also hosts people with intellectual disabilities from Idea Services Kapiti, who Ms Martin says have thoroughly enjoyed their time there, working with the horses, gardening and assisting around the barn.

Working as the head of learning support at Otaki College four days a week, the manager of Special Olympics for tenpin bowling and having sons with Down syndrome and brain damage, Ms Martin has a lot of experience in this area.

Plans are in the works to get a Special Olympics equestrian team operating out of Kapiti Stables which will involve training both staff and participants so that people with the likes of Down syndrome and epilepsy can be involved in the community at equestrian events.

This is being enabled by building an arena and the interest of the Special Olympics community in Kapiti, which Ms Martin says has shown strong interest.

Volunteers will be needed to help train participants, and Ms Martin says she is wanting to get the whole community involved in the project.