Review: The Horse Boy
When Rupert Isaacson and his wife Kristen Neff had a baby boy, they were ecstatic. Things seemed to be going along fine until their son, Rowan, was about 2 years old. Kristen is a professor of human development and she noticed that some things weren’t quite right. She did some research and discovered that Rowan had all but one of the classic signs of autism. Rupert and Kristen tried everything they could think of to reach their son – from traditional treatments to new, untested ideas. Nothing seemed to work – if anything, Rowan’s symptoms became worse and they found they couldn’t leave him with anyone else. Rowan loves animals, though and the only thing that seemed to calm him down was being outside.
When Rowan and Rupert were walking one day, they ended up on a neighbor’s property and encountered his horses. Rupert is an experienced horseman and noticed that the lead mare assumed a submissive stance around Rowan. When Rupert told their neighbor, he immediately gave him the keys to his saddle room and told him to take Rowan to ride Betsy whenever he wanted. Rupert and Rowan rode Betsy almost daily for three years and while Rowan was around the horse, he seemed to make progress. This caused an idea to brew in Rupert’s mind – why not take Rowan on a horseback journey through Mongolia to visit shamans there? Kristen resisted the idea at first, but finally went along.
So, in 2007, Rupert and Kristen took their 5 year old son, who was prone to tantrums, had poor language and social skills and wasn’t potty trained on the trip of a lifetime across Mongolia. The Horse Boy: A Father’s Quest to Heal His Son by Rupert Isaacson is the story of their journey.
I listened to this audio book on a recent trip to my parents’. It is read by the author and he does a fantastic job. I’m not sure anyone else could imitate Rowan’s tones the way he does. He is honest with his love and frustration and optimism. This book chronicles the remarkable journey of hope the Isaacson’s took to try to benefit their son. I found it to be inspirational – it gave me a greater understanding of the struggles that families of autistic children face and brought tears to my eyes.
The proceeds from this book have gone to create The Horse Boy Foundation – you can read about it here.
Review copy provided by Hachette Books.