The Horse Boy: A Memoir of Healing

( 71 )

Overview

Rowan Issacson was two years old when he was diagnosed with autism. His father, Rupert, a lifelong horseman, was devastated. Would he ever be able to communicate with his son, much less share the wonder of horses with him?

Then something extraordinary happened. Rowan encountered Betsy, a neighbor's testy mare, and a new, profound calm fell over him. Rupert saw that his distant, unreachable son had a real connection with the horse. When he took Rowan riding on Betsy, the boy ...

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The Horse Boy: A Father's Quest to Heal His Son

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Overview

Rowan Issacson was two years old when he was diagnosed with autism. His father, Rupert, a lifelong horseman, was devastated. Would he ever be able to communicate with his son, much less share the wonder of horses with him?

Then something extraordinary happened. Rowan encountered Betsy, a neighbor's testy mare, and a new, profound calm fell over him. Rupert saw that his distant, unreachable son had a real connection with the horse. When he took Rowan riding on Betsy, the boy began to improve remarkably. Rupert wondered: What if they took that connection further? What if they traveled to a place where horses and healing come together?

The Horse Boy is the heart-wrenching and triumphant tale of the Isaacson family's journey to Outer Mongolia and to new ways of healing. This inspiring true story shows how even in our darkest moments we can discover joy, and how hope can arrive in the most unexpected of ways.

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Editorial Reviews

Bookpage
"Isaacson's astonishing memoirreveals how, inspired by these rare moments in the saddle, he began a quest through Mongolia to heal his five-year-old son.... Isaacson's journey to heal his son is just that, a healing, not a cure. But he wouldn't want it any other way. While the author's purpose was to draw Rowan out of his autism, he came to realize the overlooked gifts it entails. The Horse Boy will leave readers with a new appreciation for autism and the healing techniques of other cultures; like Rowan, they, too, will be changed forever."
Temple Grandin
Everyone who is fascinated by the human-animal bond should read this totally engrossing book.
author of Animals in Translation
Luis Alberto Urrea
Rupert Isaacson has conjured a non-fiction journey that reads like an epic novel.It is a book of endless amazements. The world of Mongolian shamans, the details of adventuresome travel, the mysterious world of autism—all are all amazing.Soon, you realize that the world of horses is mysterious, too—and, yes, amazing.By the time you are in the grip of this book, you'll see love, marriage, and parenthood as a realm of magic, profound power, and further amazements.The Horse Boy can change the way you see your life, and it's a terrifically good read at the same time.It feels like a classic.
author of The Hummingbird's Daughter and The Devil's Highway
Good Housekeeping
"A colorful real-life adventure with inspiring results."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Isaacson charts his son's progress and regressions with an endearing tenderness.... Readers also follow the rare moments when Rowan expresses affection for his father, who is honest and humble throughout. And the author's chatty and self-deprecating storytelling adds a welcome buoyancy to a weighty experience. Meanwhile, Mongolia makes a fetching backdrop for this father/son love story.... Rooting for Rowan through all this... makes The Horse Boy an unexpected page turner."
Dr. Temple Grandin - author of Animals in Translation
"Everyone who is fascinated by the human-animal bond should read this totally engrossing book."
Luis Alberto Urrea - author of The Hummingbird's Daughter and The Devil's Highway
"Rupert Isaacson has conjured a non-fiction journey that reads like an epic novel.It is a book of endless amazements. The world of Mongolian shamans, the details of adventuresome travel, the mysterious world of autism--all are all amazing.Soon, you realize that the world of horses is mysterious, too--and, yes, amazing.By the time you are in the grip of this book, you'll see love, marriage, and parenthood as a realm of magic, profound power, and further amazements.The Horse Boy can change the way you see your life, and it's a terrifically good read at the same time.It feels like a classic."
From the Publisher
"Isaacson's astonishing memoirreveals how, inspired by these rare moments in the saddle, he began a quest through Mongolia to heal his five-year-old son.... Isaacson's journey to heal his son is just that, a healing, not a cure. But he wouldn't want it any other way. While the author's purpose was to draw Rowan out of his autism, he came to realize the overlooked gifts it entails. The Horse Boy will leave readers with a new appreciation for autism and the healing techniques of other cultures; like Rowan, they, too, will be changed forever."—Bookpage

"Everyone who is fascinated by the human-animal bond should read this totally engrossing book."—Dr. Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation

"Rupert Isaacson has conjured a non-fiction journey that reads like an epic novel.It is a book of endless amazements. The world of Mongolian shamans, the details of adventuresome travel, the mysterious world of autism—all are all amazing.Soon, you realize that the world of horses is mysterious, too—and, yes, amazing.By the time you are in the grip of this book, you'll see love, marriage, and parenthood as a realm of magic, profound power, and further amazements.The Horse Boy can change the way you see your life, and it's a terrifically good read at the same time.It feels like a classic."—Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Hummingbird's Daughter and The Devil's Highway

"In this intense, polished account, the parents of an autistic boy trek to the Mongolian steppes to consult shamans in a last-ditch effort to alter his unraveling behavior.... Isaacson records heartening improvement in Rowan's firestormlike tantrums and incontinence, as he taps into an ancient, valuable form of spirit healing."—Publishers Weekly

"A colorful real-life adventure with inspiring results."—Good Housekeeping

"Isaacson charts his son's progress and regressions with an endearing tenderness.... Readers also follow the rare moments when Rowan expresses affection for his father, who is honest and humble throughout. And the author's chatty and self-deprecating storytelling adds a welcome buoyancy to a weighty experience. Meanwhile, Mongolia makes a fetching backdrop for this father/son love story.... Rooting for Rowan through all this... makes The Horse Boy an unexpected page turner."—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316008242
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 4/2/2010
  • Pages: 355
  • Sales rank: 258,597
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Rupert Isaacson was born in London to a South African mother and a Zimbabwean father.Isaacson's first book, The Healing Land (Grove Press), was a2004 New York Times Notable Book.He has travelled extensively in Africa, Asia, and North America for the British press and now lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, Kristin, and their son, Rowan.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 3

Part 1

1 The Seven-Year Child 7

2 Into the Inferno 16

3 The Horse Boy 35

4 A Time for Dreams 50

Part 2

5 The Adventure Begins 67

6 Lords of the Mountains, Lords of the Rivers 82

7 Mongolian Brother 97

8 West with the Rain 113

9 Fits and Starts 131

10 A Father's Mistake 150

11 Rowan I, Fear o 160

12 The Van Boy 175

13 Repairing the Wind Horse 193

14 The Heaven Horse Lake 207

15 Guinea Pigs of Moron 221

Part 3

16 Into Siberia 235

17 The White Ibex 251

18 Farther Up and Farther In 262

19 The Ghoste at the Top of the Mountain 276

20 A Hawk in the House 285

21 Interview with a Shaman 301

22 Miracle at the River 316

23 Four Minutes and Fifty-two Seconds 329

Epilogue 343

Acknowledgments 352

Reading Group Guide 358

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 71 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(36)

4 Star

(21)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    This book is very inspiring

    I Love This Book. There is a movie coming out too. If you are a horse lover or like reading about peoples lives I suggest you read this. It inspired me to ride horses and now I practically own a horse! If you read this book I hope you enjoy it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A story of love and hope

    I really enjoy a good biography or memoir and The Horse Boy did not disappoint.

    When Rupert and Kristin's son Rowan is diagnosed with autism, they try everything they can think of to help him. Nothing seems to be bringing their boy back to them. Until the day when Rowan runs into a neighbouring pasture at their home in Texas and straight at a horse named Betsy. Hot on his heels, Rupert is terrified that his son will be injured. Instead, the unexpected happens - Betsy puts her head down in submission to the boy . Rupert, a former professional horse trainer, encourages this interest. Father and son begin riding together. Rowan's behaviour is markedly changed during interaction with the horse.

    In addition to horse training, Rupert is "the founding director of the Indigenous Land Rights Fund, a non-profit organization that helps threatened and displaced indigenous tribes obtain tenure of their ancestral land." He has participated with the shamans of Botswana in healing ceremonies. (He's also an award winning author)

    Could these two seemingly disparate interests help his son? He believes that they can. Kristin, Rupert, Rowan and an entire film crew set off to Outer Mongolia and Siberia. Much of the journey will be on horseback to visit the shamans of these areas and see if they can help Rowan.

    And that's as much as I'm going to give you......

    I listened to this in unabridged audio format. The reader was the author himself. And I don't think the story would have has as much impact for me if it been anyone else. Isaacson was born in England. I enjoyed his accent. His heartache, anguish and happiness are conveyed through his voice. Life with Rowan and all that goes with it is projected through his narrative. The screaming, the repetitiveness, the coping mechanisms employed by both Rowan his parents. The love for their child. I was so caught up in this story and the possibilities that were offered.

    The Horse Boy has been made into a film and is a Sundance 2009 selection and has won other awards as well. Definitely one I want to watch. The Isaacsons have started a foundation in Texas that pursues the horse/autism connection.

    This one goes on my best of 2009 list. Highly, recommended.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2013

    Great story

    My bff recomemded this book to me so i read it and almost immeadly i waas swept into the story of the boy and how th dad tried to help him. This is a amazing story!READ IT!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2013

    Great Story

    Wonderful story of an autistic child and his parents' search for a cure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 29, 2012

    Highly recommended, especially for those acquainted with exceptional persons

    You hear people say "I'd go to the ends of the earth to help" but rarely do we do that to help another. In this book, the parents do travel to the far ends of the earth to help their young boy.

    Those, who are not acquainted with autism may find it difficult to understand why straight forward discipline isn't used to get the young man "straightened out". Those who know about autism will marvel at the patience and over the top effort that the parents use to help their son.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2012

    Wonderful story

    Very moving and an eye opener

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    A close look at the compassion of parents of a special needs child

    Well written and certainly an eye-opener about the struggles, patience and compassion of parents who deal on a daily basis with special needs children. Also a colorfully described "travelog" of Mongolia, where the family sought help for their son.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2009

    I couldn't put this book down!

    I had heard the author interviewed on NPR and was amazed by his story. If you love kids and horses you will be immediately entranced by this story. I was extremely touched by the father's love for his son and his openness in describing all of the struggles involved in fighting for some sense of normalcy in a family dealing with an autistic child. While his plan to visit Mongolia by horseback with his son at first seems outlandish, once you fully understand his motivation and genuineness you see why it was so important. He does an outstanding job of relating his wife's pain with the situation. Her willingness to try this plan for her son made my heart ache. I don't personally have an autistic child but I was interested to learn more about the struggle involved for these families. On a most basic level, this book is about two parents' love for their child - something we all understand and cherish!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 12, 2012

    Highly recommended.

    I was unable to put this book down. The author has given me a better understanding of what parents go through with autistic children. I loved reading about the family's adventure and quest for healing in Mongolia. Being a horse lover, I was fascinated. Winston Churhill's statement that, "The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man" is very appropo. The shaman medicine is intriguing, and I think God works through this to heal (though some I didn't understand, such as the whipping). I learned an important lesson in the difference between being healed and being cured.

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  • Posted November 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    For those with autistic children or who work with them

    An autistic boy - his father - his mother - a horse. And how they found a cure. Sounds like a great premise. Although it is truly admirable as to what the father has done to find help for his son, it didn't grab me, either emotionally or psychologically. The story grew so pedantic with details, I lost interest. I continue to believe that animals, especially horses, can necessitate a cure. The author has great potential, though. Instead of plodding, let's just gallop a bit!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    Better than I expected

    I thought this book was well written; it held my interest and I felt it was completely believable. I work with both students with special needs in a school setting as well as in an equine therapy setting. Sometimes we have to think outside the box with unique kids. As for taking a young child into the wilderness I say go for it as long as your experienced and it sounds like his father knew what he was doing. People need to lighten up; the child benefited from this experience!

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  • Posted May 27, 2011

    An absorbing read

    This is a must read book for anyone who is a parent. Not only is it fascinating and informational about a parents dealing with coming to terms with having an autistic child, it illustrates how much love these parents have for their child and are willing to take a journey together in hopes of growing stronger together. A documentary was also made and I can't recommend both highly enough.

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  • Posted April 23, 2011

    i could not put this book down......

    i have total admiration for the authors writing skills as welll as his devotion and creativity in finding help for his boy. whether or not one is familiar with autism. this is a lovely story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 4, 2011

    interesting reading but not entirely believeable

    I found this book to be interesting reading as I learned a great deal about the people of Mongolia however, I question the judgement of parents taking a child on this very extreme trip. There are many programs in the U.S. for equine therapy for autistic children, so this was not a new concept All in all it read more like a novel than a true life story.

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  • Posted November 28, 2009

    Wonderful Story

    The title caught my eye and the story intrigued me. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It provides insight into autism and the difficulties parents, family and the child suffer when dealing with this condition. Isaacson's writing is clean and he tells his story in a captivating way. He is a father who will do whatever he needs to to help his child. I have seen the value horse therapy does for these children, and anything we can do to help support their ability to participate is well worth the effort.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2009

    fantastically insightful

    highly recommend this read. touching, insightful, emotional. looks like families can endure pretty much anything!

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  • Posted June 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Very touching story of a father's love

    This was my first audio book, and I wasn't sure whether I would like an audio book. It still remains to be seen how I'll feel about a fictional audio book, but I most definitely enjoyed listening to a non-fictional audio book.

    I listened to this audio book while I worked, and I LOVED it. It was insightful, intriguing, impassioned, and touching. I found myself tearing up more than once during the story of Rupert, wife Kristin and autistic son Rowan. Very stirring story and highly recommended.

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  • Posted June 8, 2009

    LOVED this book!

    This is a great read, especially for parents who are crazy about their kids and for those who believe there is value beyond conventional medicine. This is a story of a dad who believes in his gut that there may be something outside of our culture and experience that can help his son. Unlike most parents, he acts upon his gut and that makes him and his wife some of the most courageous people I know. If you have said you would go to the ends of the earth for your kids...read on and see two parents who actually did.

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  • Posted June 7, 2009

    This book is a must for anyone who works with or teaches children with autism or is a parent of a child with autism. It is truely amazing and inspirational.

    This book is about how a man takes his son who has autism to outer Mongolia to meet with shamans in order that they may "heal" his son. They travel by horseback on a long arduous trip with a 5 year old child who has major tantrums and is incontinent but loves and has an afinity for horses. It might be hard for parents of children with autism to read this book because this parent went to extreme lengths to "heal" his child of his autism and it is unlikely that very many other children can be "healed" the same way, however, it shows many ways to cope with a childs behaviors and the possiblilies that exist for growth and change in a child with autism. As a teacher of children with disabilities, it was very inspiring and enlightening. I hope I can take from this child's story and apply some of what he and his father taught me and apply it to the children I work with. It was a facinating and inspiring story. I wish I could meet Rowan, the child, and Rupert, the dad, personally.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 71 Customer Reviews

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