(Source: http://jacivanwyhe.blogspot.com/2012/12/horse-boy.html – Photo credit: Gabriel Van Wyhe)
These were some of the most compassionate, understanding people I have ever met. Two of the volunteers were Texas natives, and the other three represented Argentina, France, and Switzerland, respectively.
In October, we embarked on our first far-off adventure, as a family. We set off for Texas, with only two things on our agenda. First, we were going to visit our friends in Austin for a few days. They have a son who was born only ten days after Josiah, and a younger son who is nearly two years old. Our kids loved having a relaxing environment where they could play with their new friends, and have some small pieces of their regular routine still intact. They adjusted great and I was so proud of them for how well they travelled, adjusted to a new place, as well as a new time zone. We explored Austin a bit and both families went to Zilker Park one afternoon for some time out of the house. Our indulgence that day was a train ride through the park, which thrilled Josiah.
The second item on our agenda took us out to the wilds of Texas. The main reason for us daring to fly our whole family ANYWHERE, was to try out horse therapy for Josiah. It was an adventure we were more than willing to take if it meant we could help Josiah move closer to recovery. I first learned of Horse Boy through our friends, Chris and Sarah, who we stayed with in Austin. Not long after Chris told Gabe about the documentary, I was able to track it down and watch it. I have watched the documentary twice, but I cannot watch it in one sitting. The experiences depicted hit far too close to home and it is so hard to watch from an outsider’s perspective. Despite this, I was immediately intrigued by how many significant and honest gains were made by Rowan, the boy with autism in the documentary. It was the impetus for me to get moving and start thinking outside the box a bit for Josiah’s treatment. There is almost nothing that is too far fetched, so long as it is reasonably safe.
Two years after watching the Horse Boy documentary for the first time, we were making our way to a Horse Boy camp. I mentally prepared myself to not expect a miraculous outcome from a 48-hour camp. My greatest hope was that Josiah would not be afraid of the horses. It would have been a big bummer to travel all this way for him to be terrified of the horses, and never ride. Fortunately, he loved the two horses, Hope and Clue. He wanted to get on them right away. We ended up being the only family for the camp, which meant we had the horses and the volunteers all to ourselves. Hannah and Ben immediately latched onto Carolina, a kind-hearted woman from Argentina, who was referred to as “Grandma” throughout the weekend by my children. All the volunteers at the camp are experienced riders, trained in the Horse Boy Method, and work with children on the spectrum, as well as varying special needs. These were some of the most compassionate, understanding people I have ever met. Two of the volunteers were Texas natives, and the other three represented Argentina, France, and Switzerland, respectively.
Our first day was organized around getting the kids acquainted with the horses and let them get comfortable with the size of the animals. Part of that was letting them sit on the horses’ backs, and that was when Josiah expressed his desire to ride. As quickly as the volunteers could, they saddled up Clue and got him ready to take Josiah out for his first ride. Since we were the only family this particular weekend, our kids were able to ride the horses as much as they liked and didn’t have to wait long to have a turn.
Day Two was lots of horse riding and exploring. We even had the amazing opportunity to go zip lining. All three of the kids went, and LOVED it! I was terrified when one of the zip line specialists was hooking Ben’s carabiner up to the cable. I knew he would have a blast, but he just looked so tiny standing on the platform, getting prepped to zip. I’m certain that my heart stopped for a few beats as he whirred along the cable to the other side of the ravine. I followed after Ben so that I could meet Josiah on the other side. Josiah is adventurous, but certain things are just not his bag, so I was really uncertain how he would respond to sailing across a deep ravine with no one next to him for reassurance. I was staring across the divide at his platform as they called out, “Ready to zip!” My gut was certain he would start screaming and he would be bawling by the time he reached me. Much to my relief, Josiah was laughing and giggling the whole way and I was met by a huge smile on his beautiful face.
On our final morning, both Gabe and I had the opportunity to ride with Josiah. It was a little bittersweet leaving. The volunteers had poured so much time and love into our children, but we were all exhausted and looking forward to hot showers and some rest.