The Horse Boy
Being around horses can have an astounding effect on the behaviour and development of autistic children. Rupert Isaacson experienced it first hand with his own son Rowan, who at the age of 2 became a hand full for his parents when he began to withdraw into himself, throwing tantrums and ignoring toilet training. His only connection, it seemed, was to the neighbour’s horse.
Rupert, a former horse trainer and author who has studied the spiritual and medical practices of indigenous people, began researching autism and animals.He convinces Kirstin to take Rowan and go to the origins of horse riding and to the healing shamans in Mongolia. There, they travel across the countryside on horseback to meet shamans in remote areas, in hopes that these spiritual healers can find a way to unleash Rowan from autism’s hold.
After their thrilling journey in Mongolia, which is documented in the horse boy movie as well as the book, Rupert started the horse boy method and the foundation.
His method let’s children play with the horses. Having fun is the foundation of learning.
Reading emotions is very difficult for a child with autism, and humans can display hundreds facial expressions. But with horses it is clear, the ears are forward or backward and the eyes are glistening or faded. It’s black and white, easy to read. And its also very helpful that horses have a tendency to feel what the person needs and how they must behave with that particular person to make them feel comfortable.
The horse boy method is a very easy to learn 6 stages program, Rupert sometimes travels all over the world to teach people how to put this program into work.
Horse Boy Method is a 6 stage process:
- Create the right environment with natural surroundings and no bad sensory triggers to calm the over active nervous system.
- Do sensory work by laying the child body to body bareback on the horse’s back. This will reduce stress behaviors.
- Start back riding with the child in front of the rider/therapist. The rhythmic rocking of the hips produces the feel good hormone oxytocin. By sitting behind the child there is not a challenging frontal confrontation that might upset the child. The soft rhythms at walk, trot and canter and the balancing and rebalancing opens up the kid’s brain to receive and retain information.
- Continue with perspective taking exercises and rules-based games, which will help to normalize the cognitive process of the child.
- Then start to ‘teach’ academics from the saddle. At this stage the child can be introduced to math, reading, languages, history, geography, natural sciences and other topics.
- Finally it’s about the stage of self-advocacy and the ability to make a case for oneself and in this the stage the child is encouraged to begin teaching us what interests him/her.
One of the most important keys in these stages is to let the child lead!
The family will be involved too in all stages and their needs will be addressed as well.
More information about the 6 stages and Horse Boy Method can be found here:
HORSE BOY METHOD
Fun Fact: The more a horse is able to collect, the better the movement will be for the autistic child.
Rupert: “The more collection you have with a child in the saddle with you, the more it rocks the child’s hips, and the more you rock the hips, the more oxytocin (feel good hormone) you produce in the child’s body, and the more oxytocin you produce, the more communication and learning you get. so when we look for collection here at horse boy it’s not for sport, it’s so we can get a kid talking, or learning maths while in the saddle”.
How wonderful is that!!
I have deep respect for Rupert and the amazing team of Horse Boy.
They do such a wonderful and important job with the autistic children and their families!
The Horse Boy Movie is a documentary of their journey by Michel Scott, the movie delves into the strange world of autism itself, the relationship between humans and animals and between different cultures and different ways of being, and the nature of healing.