The Equistria Therapeutic Development Centre was established in 2000 and changed to Equistria Lifestyle Retreat during 2018.


When I’m disabled, I look up to people, when I’m on a horse, people look up to me!

During 2001, the University of the Free State moved their Community Service Therapeutic Horse-riding Project to Equistria’s premises, where it continued under the supervision of <b>Marie Olivier</b>, owner of Equistria, and the head of the KOVSIE Community Service Department. In 2005, the Department of Psychology changed this project to The Therapeutic Horse-riding Community Service Learning Project. Equistria Centre has been the base for this project, involving Psychology Honours students ever since.

The Psychology Honours students work with Equistria’s horses and pre-school children with neuro-developmental diagnoses to stimulate psychomotor-functioning-stimulation and promote well-being. This is coordinated by Dr Pravani Naidoo, who did her Ph.D. on “The Influence of Therapeutic horse riding on the adaptive functioning and well-being of children with cerebral palsy”.

Together, Marie Olivier and Dr Pravani Naidoo believes in recognising and promoting strengths and capabilities in individuals with disabilities, thus providing invaluable training opportunities for both children with disabilities and students at Equistria. The therapeutic riding forms a key part of a multi-disciplinary treatment team, by complementing the physiotherapy and occupational therapy sessions that the children receive at school. The aim of the therapeutic horse riding is to help riders to be as independent as possible, while ensuring the maximum therapeutic benefit. The individual attention and psychomotor stimulation which children receive during therapeutic riding activities, contributes to the prevention of secondary impairments, and works towards promoting their psychosocial well-being.

In 2007 the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association of Europe introduced Equine Assisted Psychotherapy and Learning in South Africa and this was the catalyst event that opened a whole new world to Marie. Dr Pravani decided to keep her focus on the Therapeutic Riding and Marie shifted het focus to Equine Assisted Activities from the ground. She pursued this by completing her certifications with EUGALA (Europe) as well as EAPISA (Equine Assisted Psychotherapy Institute of South Africa), serving as the Free State Branch of EAPISA for 5 years. She further qualified as a Horse Behaviour Specialist at the Ethology Academy of South Africa and never looked back again. This was the combination of all Marie’s interests and highest excitements as a professional, manifested in one beautiful process!

Developing balance and confidence in children in a therapeutic environment through lunging activities and dressage principles.

Specialising in Riding for the Disabled and competing in the Para-Olympics, we won a Gold and Silver Medal – Rider and medallist: Chrisna Muller, diagnosed with brain cancer at 18 months.

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