The Horse Boy: A Family’s Quest for Healing

The Horse Boy is about a Texas family—Kristin Neff, a professor of psychology; Rupert Isaacson, a journalist, human rights advocate, and former horse trainer; and their son Rowan Isaacson who was diagnosed with autism at age two.Horseboy Rowan in Mongolia

Director Michael Orion Scott first met Rupert Isaacson at a bookstore talk Isaacson was giving on the Kalahari Bushmen of Botswana. Sharing a passion for human rights and indigenous peoples, the two began discussing a film about the Bushmen.

“A few months into pre-production,” Scott writes, “I was sitting with Rupert in his kitchen. Our conversation paused for a moment, and then he said, ‘Michael, there is something else I would like you to consider.’”

Out of their collaboration came this inspiring story about a couple lovingly raising a six-year old child suffering greatly from autism. Like many families of these children, Neff and Isaacson had tried everything their world offers as possible help—from the allopathic to the naturopathic—with little, if any, benefit.

The healing of Rowan Isaacson began when his father—who had abandoned horseback riding and training to keep Rowan away from the dangers of horses—noticed one day his son break through a neighbor’s fence and approach with abandon a group of horses. Frozen, Isaacson watched the notoriously grumpy old mare name Betsy, the herd’s alpha horse, push the other horses away, bend her head to Rowan, and begin licking and chewing with her lips—an equine sign of submission. Isaacson had never witnessed a horse voluntarily make this obeisance to a human being.

Researching horses and healing, Isaacson discovered that horseback riding first emerged in Mongolia, and that Mongolia’s state religion is shamanism. Kristin and he embarked on a healing journey to Mongolia. The happy chance meeting between director Scott and Isaacson enabled this harrowing—for both family and filmmaker—and this inspiring story to be viewed by the world.

(If you are or know of parents with children diagnosed with autism, please follow this link to the foundation born from this story.)




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