Last week, the Barn had the pleasure of hosting Rupert Isaacson, the founder of the Horse Boy Foundation, for a couple of training sessions in the Horse Boy method. Since being founded in 2007, Horse Boy’s programs have sought to “bring the healing effects of horses, movement, nature and supportive community to autism families, at risk youth, veterans with PTSD, children and adults with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, chronic pain, and all related conditions free of charge.” The principles behind Horse Boy are heavily grounded in the science of kinetic learning and the impact of movement on the brain and nervous system.
The training session I attended was for an advanced course on the Horse Boy Movement Method, which consists of running unmounted play dates with a focus on kinetic learning and the sensory benefits of a natural environment. After viewing a series of videos showing and explaining the sensory environment at Horse Boy’s hub – New Trails Center in Austin, Texas – we walked with Rupert around the Barn’s property in order to assess what we can utilize to create the ideal learning environment for our play date students. Rupert was particularly drawn to the river, as it provides the most sensory input with cool, running water as well as segues into learning opportunities for local history, language, ecology, biology, and many other subjects.
The second day of the training was spent running two mock play dates with several of our students. Horse Boy’s method is centered around following the child, meaning that the students have free rein in choosing the activities of the play date. So, the first session was spent almost entirely in the creek, with students and staff warring over walking sticks and every combatant wearing drenched clothing. This great battle, or “The First Little Cahaba Stick War,” brought up several learning points, such as the morality of conflict and causation for World War II. During stalemates, we noticed tiny crayfish crawling among the rocky river bed, opening up a discussion for river ecology. The second session was spent observing different types of rocks, sneaking through the creek to surprise Joy and Rupert, and riding, as Alexis was on hand as a riding instructor.
I had a blast helping run the mock play dates and learning more about the Horse Boy method. Yesterday, we ran our first real play dates, and both were just as fun as the mock sessions, making me even more excited for the future of this budding program. I’m very thankful for Rupert and the rest of the Horse Boy staff for training and providing the Barn with a new and unique approach to working with our students.
For more information on the Horse Boy Foundation, visit their website: https://horseboyworld.com/