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Humans learn a thing or two from retired racehorses

Six horses on a Hauraki farm know when their visitors are feeling sad.
They can tell if they’re angry, overwhelmed, or in need of a pick-me-up.
That’s according to their owner, Anna Baigent, who runs Annarehab from her family farm in Miranda.
“The horses have become pretty good indicators of different needs in people, and that has been really amazing to watch develop.”
Anna has owned her business since around 2017, and was spurred on by a desire for equine rehabilitation. And after taking in six retired thoroughbreds, it was quickly discovered the horses could have their hand in helping humans, too.
At Annarehab, the horses act as teachers to work with adults and children to improve communication skills, team building, personal development, and leadership. Anna is joined by her mum, Maria Baigent, who, with her teaching background, has become the farm’s equine assisted learning facilitator.
“We take horses that have had career-ending injuries to the point that they cannot be in work again, of any kind. They can’t be eventers, they can’t be pony-clubbers, so this gives them another option other than the knackers,” Anna said.
“And what they’ve gone through gives them a lot more empathy.”
The six horses on the farm come from varying success in the racing industry – there’s Sexabeel, Dubai Shuffle, Seize The Moment, Glorious Lad, Passing Shot, and Amnestys Child.
Each one has a certain knack of knowing just how to help out.
Take Honey (Amnestys Child) for example. She gravitated towards Mike French, who was in need of a calming presence.
Mike, who owns The Stables restaurant in Thames alongside wife Ingrid, has been visiting Anna’s farm for more than a month.
“With the restaurant, we’ve had our highs and lows, but it has been extremely stressful to set the business up. I came out here about five weeks ago and it’s been a big stress-relief,” he said.
He and Anna have a connection going back to their childhoods.
They grew up in the same town, went to the same primary and high school, and Mike’s grandfather even taught Anna’s dad how to shoe horses.
But it wasn’t until Anna became a customer at the restaurant that Mike learned what her business was all about.
“I grew up with horses as well but to me, a horse was a horse, and being in the farm environment meant I used to always hide my emotions,” Mike said.
“But it’s a good thing to have feelings, and now being an open book has actually allowed me to live life fuller, otherwise I’d just be hiding who I am.”
He and Anna were encouraging more men to visit the farm and spend time with the horses. And, as Anna said, the horses made for great listeners.
“Thoroughbreds are a working breed, so they do really like having a job, and once they realise what that job is, they feel good about it,” she said.
“It provides them with so much environmental and emotional stimulation.”
To contact Anna, visit:


PHOTO: Children and adults are welcome at Annarehab, a farm in Miranda that gives retired racehorses a new lease on life. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU