Archives for July 2013

The horse man

booksHorseBoyA few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear Rupert Isaacson speak at a breakfast meeting. Even though it was before 8 a.m., this travel writer, horseman and champion of children with special needs was animated, energetic and enthusiastic about the work he is doing for children with autism.

Rupert is equally committed to helping his son Rowan, who has autism, find healing and growth. He writes about his quest in The Horse Boy, a Memoir of Healing, which is part travel chronicle and part narrative about their journey to Mongolia , where they encounter shamans who offer healing rituals.

Rowan, who was 5 years old at the time, suffered from what his father described as emotional and physical incontinence. One moment he would be quiet, the next he would be screaming and gyrating. He was mostly nonverbal and could not control his bodily functions.

The human-animal bond

Changes in Rowan’s behavior began emerging before he and his parents traveled to Mongolia. Rupert discovered by accident that Rowan naturally related to horses and that when the two of them rode together, Rowan became verbal and joyful.

Rowan also had a natural affinity for animals of every sort, including goats, reindeer, and all kinds of wildlife they encountered on their journey.

After their one-month trek to some of the remotest regions of Mongolia, Rowan showed definite signs of healing. His tantrums ceased and he overcame his bodily incontinence. He also was able to form friendships with other children, to have conversations with others and to express emotion, all firsts.

Rupert doesn’t reach any definitive conclusions about the exact source of healing for his son. He doesn’t claim the shamans alone performed the miracle or that Rowan’s connection with animals accounted for the changes. He only says he searched for and found a way for his son to move past the neurological firestorms that characterize autism.

Live free, ride free

Using part of the advance he got from the publisher of his book, Rupert started the Horse Boy Foundation outside of Austin, TX. There, he’s launched a therapeutic horseback riding program for children with and without autism.

His is an inspiring story told in a remarkable book that is packed with beautiful prose describing the Mongolian steppes, mountains and forests. Rupert is refreshingly honest in revealing the frustration, anger and exhaustion he endures trying to help his troubled son. At the same time, his dedication to finding healing for Rowan is nothing short of amazing.

I highly recommend this book, not only because it is a page-turner, but also because proceeds from its sales go to support the worthy work of the Horse Boy Foundation.