Kiwi, mini therapy horse from Raleigh, stars in feature film addressing mental health

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Kiwi, a miniature horse with a big personality, is starring in a new feature film, "Reggie," addressing mental health issues.

Kiwi is well-known in the Triangle as a member of Stampede of Love.

The Raleigh-based nonprofit promotes the benefits of animal therapy with visits to schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and special and community events. The miniature horses are always a crowd favorite at the Raleigh Christmas Parade each year.

Kiwi is taking center stage in the North Carolina-based film. Jacques Belliveau wrote, directed, produced, and stars in "Reggie." The film is about a guy named Mitch who can't connect with others and is diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Mitch finds help through a miniature therapy horse named Reggie, played by Kiwi.

"I didn't know at the time I was depressed, anxious and all that," Belliveau said. "I was the guy who was like-if I can't handle it myself -- it doesn't need to be fixed and to hold it inside because therapy is for weak people. No, no medicine for me. I wouldn't take ibuprofen. And as I wrote this movie it was kind of just letting all that out and it helped me get into therapy. I started therapy, which led down a whole road of different diagnoses and putting labels on stuff that I didn't know was a thing."

Since entering therapy, Belliveau has been diagnosed with severe adult ADHID or Attention Deficit Hyperactive-Impulsive Disorder and has started medication, which he says has helped him tremendously.

After writing "Reggie" in one night, Belliveau immediately sent the script to friends and contacts in the film industry and immediately had offers from studios to purchase the script.

Even though offers to purchase the script exceeded his own budget of $275,000 to shoot the film, Belliveau decided to bet on himself and found a studio and production company in Salisbury to produce the film with him.

A casting call went out and Kiwi stole the show landing the part of Reggie.

"He's a full-size miniature horse with a form of dwarfism," Belliveau said. "So, he's smaller than other miniature horses. So, it's like OK, like the underdog came in. He turned out to be the same exact color as my beard. Also, he's very feisty and I like feisty because I'm a troublemaker myself. And that was, that was how that happened."

"Reggie" was supposed to premiere in 2020 but the pandemic put it on hold. After holding a world premiere in Salisbury in 2021, Belliveau says he's already satisfied with his work and the message after meeting audience members following the premiere.

"I had grown men come to me crying afterward," Belliveau said. "Asking me for therapy recommendations and just talking to me. Being seen for the first time. So, I've accomplished everything I want to. If I make money, that's great. If not, whatever."

Belliveau is kicking off a national viewing tour with dates in New York City, Charlotte, Boston, Atlanta, and Seattle among other cities. The tour begins in Raleigh at the Rialto Theatre on Monday with a Q & A with Belliveau following the film and a portion of proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Stampede of Love.

Kiwi will be at the Raleigh premiere with a tux on.
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