Author rides to raise awareness of how horses can help autism

  • Author Rupert Isaacson will be riding across the Wiltshire today and tomorrow (Friday 6 March and Saturday 7 March) to raise awareness of the benefits of horses for those with autism.

    The ride is a collaboration between Penguin Books, Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and Rupert, author of The Horse Boy: A Father’s Miraculous Journey to Heal His Son.

    The Horse Boy is about Rupert’s attempt to reach his autistic son Rowan. After discovering Rowan had a unique relationship with horses, Rupert and his wife, Kristin, decided to take him on a trip to Mongolia.

    They rode for three weeks on horseback visiting a number of shamans, wise men, along the way who performed healing ceremonies

    Rowan returned transformed and no longer had a number of the dysfunctions of autism. His tantrums had stopped and had made his first ever friend.

    They were advised by one of the Mongolian shamans they encountered to make at least one trip a year to a sacred place of healing, and this year they have chosen Avebury.

    Rupert said: “It is thought that Avebury used to be a hospital site, and so in keeping with our story of riding from healing place to healing place, the sacred stone circle seemed like the perfect destination. A kind of pilgrimage.”

    The ride will start at the Uffington White Horse and finish at the Avebury Stone Circle. Wiltshire-based Paralympic gold medallist Anne Dunham will present the riders with a rosette at the end.

    Rupert will be joined by his own autistic son, Rowan, and a group of Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) riders for the final stretch of the ride, crossing Fyfield Down to Avebury Stone Circle.

    Avebury is home to one of Europe’s largest prehistoric stone circles, and was voted one of the top five most spiritual places in the country.

    Extensive research shows that riding can be hugely beneficial to children with all kinds of disabilities. A horse’s gait mimics that of humans, offering increased skills in balance, strength, and self-esteem and it is also thought that contact with animals can stimulate positivity and optimism.

    Riding for the Disabled (RDA), this year celebrating their 40th anniversary, work with over 23,000 individuals in the UK — around 10% of which are on the autistic spectrum.

    Volunteers work with these riders to help them reach therapeutic goals, combat social isolation, develop life skills and help achieve personal ambitions.

    Ed Bracher, Chief Executive of the RDA said: “RDA is delighted to be working with Rupert and Penguin on this project which will help us to raise awareness of the benefits that riding can have for people with autism. We work with many riders like Rowan, who gain in many different ways from our activity. Books such as this help highlight what we can achieve.”

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