Aupollo's Midnight Marquee

(2014 – )
Owned by Tara Needham
Inducted: 2022

Photos

If ever there was a horse that was born to do therapy work, Aupollo's Midnight Marquee would be that horse. His sire, Lazy Days Midnight Lightning, impacted thousands of lives over the course of his 12-year career and was inducted into the EQUUS Foundation's Horse Stars Hall of Fame in 2019.

Owner Tara Needham, who founded and operates the therapy program Stampede of Love, was counting on "Kiwi" to follow in his father's hoofprints. The 25-inch American Miniature Horse has not let her down, even if he didn't exactly arrive in the package that Needham was expecting.

"His dad was black and white and his mom was black," she laughed. "I thought he was going to be a black and white filly but he ended up being a red colt!"

Kiwi may not have been what Needham was expecting, but he turned out to be everything that her program needed.

"You can breed all day long, but you can't guarantee they're going to want to do that work," said Needham. "They have to be tolerant of any situation."

Needham explained that there's really no way to know if a horse is going to be suitable for therapy work until you start to expose them to things. They can be great at home, but until you get them out into the community, you can't be sure if therapy work is going to be the right fit. Of course, Kiwi was a natural.

"Kiwi is a character," Needham said. "[He is] definitely one of a kind. He's Mr. Personality, and he understands the difference between work and play."

Kiwi stays busy putting his talents to good use. The Raleigh, North Carolina native has participated in events in North Carolina, Washington, D.C. and Kentucky. He has walked in the National Cherry Blossom Parade, joined presentations at the Kentucky Horse Park with Stampede of Love, and has been featured in both newspaper and television stories. He also walked as a ring bearer in a Georgia wedding.

In his spare time, the well-traveled gelding visits schools, hospitals and nursing homes. He even earned an honorary diploma from University of Chapel Hill's Life and Sciences Library in recognition of the good work that he does there. Fittingly, the diploma was awarded for "library shenanigans."

Kiwi may be small in stature, but the joy that he spreads and the lessons that he teaches are momentous. The little gelding with the big personality has experienced a few challenges of his own – he had health problems at birth and in the months following and is now affected by mild dwarfism – but he doesn't let those challenges hold him back.

"It gives him the unique opportunity to get out there and show people, 'I may have a few things that slow me down, but they don't define me,'" said Needham. "Sharing his story with people who are struggling, they can see that he's out there and he's plugging along and doing the best he can, and they can see they're not alone."

In 2018, Kiwi auditioned and was cast to play the role of "Reggie" in the film "Reggie: A Millennial Depression Comedy." The film, which was written by Jacques Belliveau, shines a light on mental health issues like depression, anxiety and loss in a relatable and sometimes comedic way.

The film gave Kiwi an opportunity to showcase his big personality and a few fun tricks, like shaking his head, smiling and performing the Spanish walk. But Needham also counts Kiwi's part in the film among his most important work.

"If it helps even a single person realize they're not alone, or gives them the strength to ask for help, I feel like the whole journey will have been worth it," she concluded. "These things need to be talked about openly."