1 - Environment:
The most important part of Horse Boy Method. The environment meets the child's sensory needs, triggers no sensory discomfort, and allows us to say YES to anything the child wants to do: play equipment, small animals, and activities for the siblings.
2 - Sensory: Laying body to body with the horse calms sensory discomfort and allows the child's intellect to come to the fore. It also works for stressed out parents.
3 - Back-Riding: The horse carries the child into the exteriors world, stimulating communication. When sitting behind the child you are a voice in the ear; the child does not need to defend itself from you. When you ride in collected canter you also flood the child with the feel good hormone oxytocin. The brain opens to learning.
4 - Theory of Mind, Perspective Taking & Rule-Based Games: Cause and effect is taught through circus tricks where the child helps direct a horse. This then moves to games like tag, hide and seek, and others which begin to repattern the brain. This is what psychologists call Theory of Mind: vital for proper brain development.
5 - Academics: The next step is to teach math, Science, Reading, Geography - you name it. Kids on the spectrum learn in movement. The horse performs the math through numbers of steps, riding geometric patterns etc. - this quickly translates to paper. The whole curriculum can be taught in the saddle. See our kinetic learning page for more.
6 - Self-Advocacy: As children become bigger we drive them in long-lines - which gives them the same oxytocin producing rhythms and also avoids uncomfortable eye contact. The goal no is to get them to teach us about what interests them; to speak for themselves. Persuading somebody else to your point of view is the most valuable psychological survival skill a human being can have.
Family weeks: We started offering intensive Horse Boy immersions for the whole family. Always following the needs of the children and using humor and play throughout, so the child is never aware that this is therapy and therefore remains open to learning at all times.
Horse Boy Learning: in 2012 we began developing other ways tof learning through movement, adapting play equipment and urban environments to emulate the effects of the horses. In 2013 we will begin offering workshops in this.
Stress-Free Dressage: in 2012 we began offering courses in dressage on our well trained Horse Boy horses: we found that many people that have had a negative experience with dressage, and we offer them a stress-free two day course to prove to them that they can do it. These courses help subsidize the running costs of the barn and help people offer better horsemanship to families when doing Horse Boy Method.
Workshops in North America and Europe: In 2012, we trained over 100 people in Horse Boy Method and exposed several thousand more to Horse Boy Method through demos in the USA, Canada, France, UK, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Denmark, and Ireland. We also trained a further group of more dedicated Horse Boy Practitioners in more advanced courses. Skype conferences, webinars, and TV also widened the outreach of Horse Boy Method considerably.
Endangerous: We began Rowan's next project, "Endangerous," our web-based RV series about animals that are both endangered and dangerous. Rowan's concept and title; he is also behind the camera as well as in front of it. We filmed the first episode in Romania with European Brown Bears and will be filming and uploading more through 2013. Is shows what autistic kids are truly capable of achieving.
Motivational Speaking Engagements and Schools: We have continued our outreach to schools, colleges, and other non-autism specific venues offering insights, not just into Horse Boy Method, but also into how to build dreams. Many groups dealing at-risk-youth have brought us in to motivate their students.
New Developments at New Trails: We massively improved the facilities at New Trails. We added a covered arena allowing us to remain operational year round, and we replaced old fencing with new more secure enclosures. We had the outdoor arena professionally leveled and surfaced. We build a full size round pen to help with exercising and training horses. We planted new pastures and added to our acreage.
New arrivals - Foals & Stallions: We started breeding the next generation of Horse Boy horses to server families when our school masters become too old for the job. We also acquired three Lusitano stallions for commercial breeding to help subsidize the families and to perform equestrian theater shows to educate the public about Autism in a way that both entertains and enlightens.
Surf Camps: We began exploring the sensory and cognitive benefits of surfing and offered our first tow Surf & Turf Camps in California and North Carolina. The results for the kids and families were extraordinary. We will be offering many more camps in 2013 in partnership with IndoJax Surf School and local Horse Boy practitioners.
Our working Critters: We don't just use horses. All the animals at New Trails help with social skills, sensory work and perspective taking. From the rats to the goats to the chickens to the bunnies to dogs and cats, all serve a crucial role as first contact with the exterior world.
Working Students of 2012: We had working students from England, Holland, France, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, the USA, and Canada. All have gone back to develop Horse Boy in their home countries or states.
Special Volunteers: The New Trails Center continued to benefit from some top class local volunteers among them Isabella Marini (center) and Cisco Buitron (bottom right), who is on the autism spectrum himself.
Top Active Centers using Horse Boy Method: Several centers we trained in 2011 and 2012 have gone on to be very active in Horse Boy Method. We especially thank Hinchinbrook Farm in Nova Scotia, Canada and Square Peg Foundation in Northern California for their dedication and service to their communities.