The USA Horse Boy Team had the great honor of being invited to Lysts on the Lake - a competitive jousting competition - to present a demo entitled 'How the Horse was used in Combat.'

As you may be aware during combat it was the job of the light cavalry to try and exploit the hole made in the enemy line by the heavy cavalry. The light cavalry officers therefore required specially trained horse who were able to stop, start, spin and move sideways on command. The training schools set up to teach these moves to both horse and rider were where the dressage we use today originated from - the word dressage in french quite literally meaning 'training.' As well as being able to move sideways horses were trained to do a very collected trot (piaffe) and canter (terre a terre) so that they could keep their momentum going whilst their riders exchanged blows - in a similar way to how boxers jog on the spot. The most highly trained horses were also able to use their hooves as a weapon by spanish walking (raising each foreleg off the ground in an exaggerated upward and forward manner) or levading (rearing).

On Friday 29th April we showed up at the event with two of our horses - Marvel (17 year old dutch warmblood gelding) and Spirit (6 year old Mustang gelding), both of whom had the word 'autism' painted on their butts in order to help us raise awareness. Both horses had a great time demoing the moves that would have been used in combat and then battling it out with their respective riders, Iliane and Erin. It was hard to pick a winner as these girls and their horses were so closely matched but it was eventually decided that Spirit with his levade had the edge over Marvel with his terre-a-terre.

The Horse Boy Team then went on to show how we use these same moves to heal. For example our horses are taught a very collected trot and canter in order to allow us to back-ride with children on the autism spectrum as we have found this creates the optimum conditions to facilitate communication. In addition skills such as the spanish walk and levade are taught to our horses as tricks which the children we work with can help cue. For more information about our methods please visit our website at

Rowan Update

Rowan also really enjoyed his first day at the jousting competition where he learnt to play the blowing horn, was taught hand to hand combat and rocked the microphone on more than one occasion. The audience was treated to a run down of all his animals names (and he has 30+ at this point) as well as information on where they live and what they like to eat.