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Posts Tagged ‘Horse Boy Foundation’

Special Needs for Special Pets: Animal Therapy Success Stories

Thursday, June 16th, 2011



Here are some sensational stories of autistic children who found solace through animal therapy. Have you hugged your Horse today?


Meet Rowan.  Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Rowan used to have 12 toddler temper tantrums per day.  But unlike typical temper tantrums experienced by non-autistic kids, these fits were explosive and potentially harmful.  It was all his parents, Rupert and Kristin Isaacson, could do to keep him from injuring himself: stay calm, keep him secure and hope.

Mama horse “adopts” boy

Then, an amazing thing happened.  While on a walk with his dad, Rowan came across a small group of horses who were grazing outside their property in Elgin, Texas.  Rowan impetuously ran towards them and flung himself on the ground underneath their bodies, a move that could have resulted in debilitating injuries or death.  Then, the old mare of the pack, Betsy, casually sauntered over and, using her muzzle, gently “elbowed” all the horses away from the small boy.

On the backs of horses

It became clear to Rupert, a long-time horse trainer, that Betsy might be the answer to their prayers.  He began taking Rowan on horseback rides around the area, and found that the horses’ swaying canter had a relaxing, therapeutic effect on Rowan.  The boy who used to have meltdowns every hour of the day at home became content and focused on the back of a horse.  Incorporating applied behavioral analysis in their homeschooling program, Rupert and his wife cured their son of his symptoms of autism, if not the disability itself.  Today, their Horse Boy Foundation exists to help low-income families affected by autistic spectrum disorder receive horse therapy.

Equine Therapy and Autism: They’re Not Just Horsing Around

The Isaacson’s story is just one example of many families who successfully utilized animal therapy in treating their children with autism.

Animals provide autistic children with unconditional love


Recently, a Santa Ana, California judge awarded permission for Caleb Ciriacks, a first-grade autistic boy, to take his service dog, a golden retriever named Eddy, to school next semester when he begins second grade.

Many other such stories abound, like the one about Richard, the autistic son of a widower, who found his words through cat therapy.  Or the 15-year old autistic kids, twins in Doncaster, U.K., who learned how to cope with their Asperger’s syndrome by training bunny rabbits for pet shows.

A recent report by CBS News documented a growing trend in animal-assisted therapy involving the use of elephants to help autistic children in Thailand.

Learn about programs that offer pet-assisted therapy in your area.

Visit Alternative Solutions in Long Term Care for a list of state by state animal assisted programs.

Also, read:

Autism, B12 and Your Child

6 Great Diets for Autistic Children

New Music Video Game Engages Autistic Children

Support for Parents of Autistic Children


Dad: Horse Riding Helped His Son With Autism – ABC News

Horse Boy Foundation

Autistic boy: School must let autistic boy may take service dog to class, judge rules – latimes.com

Cat Therapy for Autistic Children

Autistic Kids Try Unusual Therapy — Fluffy Bunnies

Elephants help autistic children in Thailand- CBS News

Equine Therapy and Autism: They’re Not Just Horsing Around

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Autistic children who have difficulty interacting with peers have been finding comfort in a radical new therapy: hippotherapy, also referred to as equine (horse) therapy.

Children who have been diagnosed with autism, including Asperger’s Syndrome, are developmentally delayed in many areas, including communication and social interaction.


Support for Parents of Autistic Children

Symptoms of autism include:

  • difficulty communicating, both verbally and nonverbally
  • low attention span
  • obsessive compulsive behavior, such as fixations on certain objects, repeating words or phrases, body rocking and hand flapping
  • difficulty being in a group or social gathering
  • avoidance of eye contact
  • difficulty bathing, grooming, feeding and dressing oneself

What is horse therapy?

Equine therapy and therapeutic riding involve many different types of interactions with a horse or pony under supervision.

  • patients are taught to observe the rhythmic motion of the horse’s gait, which is similar to our own
  • students are taught various sitting positions for horse riding, including sitting upright, laying forward or backward, leaning sideways, riding while standing up in stirrups and riding without holding onto the reins.
  • horse therapy is used by speech-language therapists, occupation therapists and physical therapists to work with autistic children and with teenagers who also have developmental or psychological difficulties

Autism, B12 and Your Child

The philosophy behind horse therapy

Most horse riding camps and equestrian areas offer equine therapy for children who are autistic or otherwise developmentally disabled. Therapists have found that interaction with horses releases a hormone called oxytocin; quite literally, there’s something about the smooth rocking motion of riding on a horse that relieves anxiety.

Autistic children who refuse to look a peer or social worker in the eyes have no qualms about staring a horse in the face while gently petting its bristly mane. For some, communication with horses becomes their first attempt at forming words or phrases.

What are the benefits of horse therapy?

Riding a horse is a multi-sensory experience which has many positive impacts on an autistic child’s physical and emotional development. Some benefits of horse therapy include:

  • relaxing the muscles
  • improved balance
  • increased muscle strength
  • improved hand/eye coordination
  • increased sense of body awareness
  • gives self confidence and control
  • builds communication and socialization skills
  • improves attention span
  • teaches patience
  • increased fine motor skills coordination
  • builds sensory integration

Want to help an autistic child get horse therapy? The Horse Boy Foundation raises funds to send low income families with autistic children to therapeutic riding centers.

Also read:

Celebrities for Autism Awareness Month

10 Great iPad Apps for Autistic Children


The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Healing Thresholds

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