Horses & Autism
Our programs are designed for therapy, both, for the parent and family members and the child on the autism spectrum. The method we use was taught by Rupert Isaacson, author and producer of the film and book titled The Horse Boy. Through his training and support, we are certified in the “Horse Boy Method” which encourages participation by the entire family.
Many children on the spectrum benefit from sensory therapies. The horse, itself, can be an excellent therapist and the ranch environment is very therapeutic. Smaller children often love to spend extended periods of time lying full length on the horses back. They may derive great comfort from this, and stimming often stops in this situation. During the summer, we do this outside while the horse is grazing; if we have inclement weather, we try and duplicate the same environment inside the arena.
The benefits of direct skin to hair contact with the moving horse are enormous!!
The physical sensation is both calming and engaging. When riding, the rocking motion of the horses body apparently causes the child’s learning receptors to open and causes the body to produce oxytocin, the feel good hormone.
Although our goal is to eventually ride upon the horse, with the child in front of us, it is not our primary concern when first starting out doing this type of therapy. We do our best to follow the child's lead so we have an opportunity to gain comfort and trust. As we are able to gain the trust needed, we find the rest seems to fall into place and before we know it, the child is willing and at times, excited to ride the horse.
While working with the horse and child, we talk to the child using familiar words, such as “ready, set, go!”. As we use these familiar words, we encourage participation. We also use melody to help stimulate the learning receptors; singing is good, as in repeating measured, rhythmic scripts.