Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristina Neff were at a loss. After struggling with their young son’s autism—his constant, inconsolable tantrums, his incontinence, his inability to connect and communicate with other children and adults—they discovered the one exception. When seated on a horse, the child transformed into peaceful connection with the animal. Inspired by this sign, the Neffs decided to journey to Mongolia with their son Rowan to seek healing among the shamans who still live with the old ways, with horses.
The Horse Boy, a documentary, follows the travels of Rowan and his parents across the plains and mountains of Mongolia, interspersed with moments of his life back home in Texas. It’s a journey that requires optimism, hope, trust and a leap of faith. It is also the story of a child’s connection to animals, specifically to horses.
In the documentary, Rupert Isaacson describes his experience as Rowan’s father. He speaks of both the pain and shame of being a father to an autistic child, and also of the realization that he is “a better father because his (Rowan’s) autism forced me to listen to him.” He says that Rowan’s autism “helps to bring out the best in us all.” Those words ring true. The challenges of our lives, the most painful moments, also stretch and grow us as human beings. The challenges make us better people. Beyond Rowan’s autism, the film is a portrait of the relationship between a father and his son. It’s about a parent and a child, a relationship full of hope, doubt, fear, sorrow, love, misunderstanding, expectation and acceptance, pain and compassion.
Out of their experience, Rupert and Kristina have started a foundation to help not just autistic children, but all children, to connect with horses in the same way that has been healing and transformative for their son.
The Horse Boy is an exquisite and moving portrait of a family in distress that travels to the ends of the world for hope and healing. To see the trailer, and for more information about screenings in your area, visit www.horseboymovie.com.
This post was contributed by Shannon Honeybloom. Shannon Honeybloom is the author of Making a Family Home (SteinerBooks 2010). Shannon also contributes articles to LILIPOH magazine.
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