The Horse Boy

by Rupert Isaacson, producer and author of the book The Horse Boy

I want to take you into a different world. A world where the borders between perception, reality and the spirit world blur. A world where horses can heal, and where the wilderness offers sanctuary, as well as danger. A world where love is tested to its limits, where shamans dance among the mountains, and where one small boy can change the life of everyone around him.

In 2004 my son Rowan was first diagnosed with autism. The feeling was like being hit across the face with a baseball bat. Grief, shame—this weird, irrational shame—as if I had somehow cursed this child by giving him my faulty genetics. Watching him recede, float away from me, as if separated by the see-through barrier of a dream.

I had to find a way into his world. I found it, incredibly, through a horse—Betsy.

When Rowan first met Betsy, her reaction to him was so gentle, so submissive that—as a lifelong horse trainer—I knew he had some kind of direct line to her. The first time I put him up on her back, he began to speak. I had found my way in.

What I could not know in that first, miraculous moment, was that this first day on a horse in rural Texas would take us halfway across the world in search of a healing that many—sometimes even myself—thought was madness.

This is not a story about the tragedy of autism. This is a story about how, as a family, we took a leap of faith that resulted in—well—the defining experience of our lives.

Please come with us.

by director Michel Orion Scott

I first met Rupert Isaacson at a book talk he gave on Botswana’s Kalahari Bushmen. We talked about the possibility of a film about the Bushmen, one that would help them in their fight for survival. A few months into pre-production, I was sitting with Rupert in his kitchen. He said, “Michel, there is something else I would like you to consider.”

Rupert told me about his son Rowan. He had decided to take Rowan to Mongolia and travel on horseback throughout the country in search of the mysterious shamans he was somehow sure could help heal his son. He asked me to come with them and record their trip. With a gulp, I said, “Yes, of course.” How could I pass up such an opportunity? It has been my dream as a filmmaker to be able to work with such material.

So off we went—into the magnificent, unknowable land of Genghis Kahn, where horseback riding started, where the word Shaman (“one who knows”) originated and where shamanism is, even today, the official state religion.

But the incredible landscapes and harrowing ascents on nearly wild horses are merely a backdrop for the story of a family willing to transcend logic and science in order to find a way into their son’s world. This was the most important message that we could share with the world, no matter what the outcome of our trip. That knowledge allowed me to relax and let the story unfold as it would and did, in ways that I would never have predicted. 

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