Horse Boy Method in Action with Will in Oregon

Riding with Rupert

Will’s first contact with the horse (Gary). Will is clear he doesn’t want up. No Problem; we shadow Will with Gary (note: Gary licking and sniffing Will) until Will finds his comfort zone in the arena. Also note Will’s mother Martha is here throughout.

Riding with Sarah

Letting Will know the horse is a safe place; we put his sister, Sarah, up and then put Will up with her for just a split second then the moment he wants down (that’s direct communication) down he comes (always honor direct communication even negative).


Chase games, poo games, kick-the-poo games, making strange noises, using iPhone apps – all slowly get Will’s attention and plug in to his sense of fun. also his sister Sarah gets an inadvertent riding lesson. Note how slowly we are going; you have to be patient. At the end of this part of the session Will (mostly non-verbal) gives us his first word “kick”.

Introducing Bella and the ball

Starting to get somewhere – we bring in another horse (Bella) with no saddle because she can kick a ball. We hope this will get his attention. Instead Will becomes enamored of a corner of the arena so we change tack and bring ball and Bella into his new space.

Bouncing next to Bella

A jumping game begins with the ball. We bring Bella as close in as possible. Again we kind of know where we are going with this but the crucial thing is not to rush.


The horse is now part of Will’s jumping game. The gods of toilette humor are also coming to our aid. Note how we only have him up on Bella for a split second at this point..

Sitting on Bella

Jackpot! The bouncing game gradually transforms to a sensory session on horse back which brings Will’s energy down to something very peaceful at this point we bring in his sister Sarah who spontaneously starts to sing his favorite songs. Note how calm the horses are through all this.

All the single Cubbies

All the single Cubbies – Will’s sister Sarah combines the Beyonce song with pet name for her brother (Cubby) making for smiles all around. The sensory session is healing not just for Will but for the whole family. Again note the blissed out expressions on these two horses who don’t normally get along. I guarantee that once you watch this you be singing “all the single Cubbies” in your head for the next month.

Hanging out on Bella

Two hours in and we have a full on sensory session for both Will and his sister Sarah. A couple of times the horse owner has suggested getting Bella moving with Will. At this point Rupert says no, lets not break the spell; the riding will come in good time. At the time of writing Will is now riding a lot but we got there at his pace, careful not to break his trust and making full use of his games, his family relationships and anything else we could think of. The point is to go as slowly as you would with a nervous young horse. You have to learn to listen to the child and follow where he leads.

The story told by Wills mom Martha


“Prior to visiting Summit Equine Assisted Therapy at Ruff Ranch, my experiences with horses and my son had not been the least successful. I am so grateful to have met Michelle and Jessica, and that together we are really onto something good here with my son.

In the Fall of 2009, visited a therapy center in Portland with every hope that it was going to be a magical connection and fun day, it started out that way at least. Will was looking at the horses in the pasture and they were looking at him and then it was time to go into the barn. He had one of the worst tantrums in public EVER! It was traumatic for both of us. But, I am persistent and decided to try it again another day. This time he wouldn’t leave the exciting gravel parking lot, and would not even look at horses in the pasture. So I gave up on horses, for awhile.

I found a stable near my house that allowed us to visit, but once again he would not enter the barn. The horses were poking their heads out looking at HIM!  And one day down at the Eastbank Esplanade there were two Portland Police Officers on horseback, he would not even look at the horses, so I really did give up.

Until this September, when I took Will out to Summit. They let Will check out the whole ranch and play with the gate, play with the office door and check out the porta-potty. They brought Gary the horse to Will. My daughter and I touched Gary, and pretty soon Will walked backwards up to Gary and rubbed up against him. I could have cried! They proceeded to play peek-a-boo with the office door and the porta-potty. Will tolerated Gary being in his face and was giggly and laughing the whole time. Success!

The second visit happened at the end of The Horse Boy Method training clinic that was held at Ruff Ranch Stables. Once again Jessica and Michelle followed Will’s lead. They put my daughter up on a horse and we tried to get Will up there with her. He would stay for about 2 seconds and then want down. We played chase with my daughter up on the horse. At this point I felt we had about a 3% chance of getting Will up on a horse. Gary being the brilliant horse that he is, thought to himself, “I bet if I take a really big POO right in front of this kid, he will really like me.” And boy was Gary right! Will loved it, and he laughed when Jessica started kicking the poo! And within minutes he was saying “kick it” unprompted at least five times in a row. They then brought out a sensory ball. I started bouncing Will on the ball, and then he was put up on another horse, Bella  just for a few seconds. We did this repeatedly until I had a feeling he was ready and we let him stay up there. (This is all on video.)  It was magical. He loved it and he was fine when the horse would take a few steps backward, we could move him around and he was touching Bella and her mane. He probably stayed up there for 15 minutes, we sang songs and it was just so relaxing and fun.

Third visit: We played with Bella in the round pen. We tried chasing, and putting him on for a few seconds, and letting him run around and kicking POO and finally with a little game of tickle he was up again. At first with his legs on one side with Daddy holding him. Jessica led them around and around the pen. Eventually he swung both legs to the correct position and before we knew it, he was saying “Walk” when he wanted the horse to go. Another successful day at the Ranch!”


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