campus news & events

Colby-Sawyer College to Host Screening of Documentary, 'The Horse Boy,' An Uplifting Journey into the Mystery of Autism

NEW LONDON, N.H. – Colby-Sawyer College will present “The Horse Boy,” a documentary that chronicles a family's hope-inspiring journey from Texas to Mongolia to find healing for their son, Rowan, who was diagnosed with autism at age two.

The film will be presented on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in Clements Hall at the Curtis L. Ivey Science Center. There is no charge for admission to this event, and the public is invited to attend.

“The Horse Boy,” directed by Michael Orion Scott and the author of the like-titled book, Rupert Isaacson, allows audiences to experience the story of a family that searches for answers and healing in the most unlikely places. The film, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, provides a look into the jarring and mysterious world of autism by closely shadowing Rowan's emergence from his reclusive state and his return to a smiling, happy child. In 2004, Rowan Isaacson began to display extreme symptoms of autism as his nervous system misfired. He changed from a normally developing child to a boy who ceased to speak, withdrew from social interaction, and screamed and babbled uncontrollably as he flapped his arms and wandered about. Frustrated and grieving, Kristin and Rupert found themselves at their wits' end and with their family life turned upside down.

One day, Rowan's wanderings led him away from his parents and into a nearby horse pasture. Rupert, fearing the worst, rushed to retrieve his son, but realized that a horse named Betsy and Rowan had taken a strange, peaceful liking to one another. Placing Rowan on Betsy's back, Rupert noticed that his son's spastic behavior all but ceased, and he even began to speak again.

The family also noticed, as they later spent several days with a group of tribal healers, shamans, and elders from around the world who had come together to speak in America, that the prayer had similar effects on Rowan to his contact with horses. After watching the healers include Rowan in their ceremonies, Rupert decided to put these two sources of healing together to help his son.

“The Horse Boy” tells the story of the family's decision to travel to Mongolia, the one place in the world where horses are combined with shamanic healing. There the family reconnected and ultimately Rowan was able to interact with the world for the first time since his diagnosis. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly describes the film as “...a lyrical, heartbreaking and deeply stirring meditation on the mystery of autism.”

Their experience with autism spurred the family to initiate the Horse Boy Foundation at the New Trails Center near their home in Texas. Using proceeds from the film and book, Rupert and Kristin purchased and repaired a small ranch with 150 trails, along with several horses Rupert trained himself. The foundation provides a place where children, whether affected by neurological issues or not, can go beyond typical equine therapy programs to bond with animals, nature, and get the chance to truly ride horses. The Horse Boy Foundation does not charge for their services, but instead encourages families and therapists to contribute whatever is appropriate and within means of their budget.

To learn about other upcoming events at Colby-Sawyer College visit

-Jessica K. McLavey '10

Jessica K. McLavey is an English major and an intern in College Communications at Colby-Sawyer College.