The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson

I was sent a link a few weeks ago with a book review that included quotes from the book ‘The Horse Boy‘. The following day I went to Waterstones and bought the only copy they had in store. Already the description sounded eye-catching – The true story of a father’s journey through Mongolia to heal his autistic son.

Rupert Isaacson, a journalist, a travel writer and founding director of the Indigenous Land Rights Fund managed to arrange an extraordinary journey for his son thanks to his earlier experiences and connections he built during his work both as a travel writer and an activist.

From a western point of view you can say that taking a severely autistic boy to the opposite end of your world to be healed by shamans, is madness. However, despite my very confining western education and upbringing, as someone who has visited Mongolia several times, I say that curious things can and do happen there.

You do not have to believe in shamanism to feel the power of nature and its forces all around the country. If you know that these incomprehensible forces are that nurture shamanistic traditions, suddenly the whole idea becomes more westerner-friendly for not many of us could doubt the energy that those magnificent mountain ranges, vast steppes and endless rivers transmit. Of course, if you want to really see and feel the place, you need to be open and you need to leave at home not only your  negative but your positive stereotypes too. When you land in Ulan Bator, take it as an entirely new chapter in your life. Or rather the first. It can be a life-changing experience but you have to be receptive and unbiased.

The book is not only an extradordinary story of a family who fight for finding the best medicine for their son but it is one of the best travel writings I have laid my hands on about Mongolia so far. It is objective, descriptive and, thankfully, lacks the usual romanticism that makes similar less known areas of the world some kind of exotic fairy lands. You will get a good overview of how shamans do their job together with a short historical background, as well as a glimpse into the life of the Mongolian country people.

I am not going to tell you more about the core story, better to read and experience it, so you can decide yourself what you believe and what you doubt.

Read more about the author’s Horse Boy Foundation here, that ‘brings the healing effects of horses to autism families’.

Rupert Isaacson, The Horse Boy, Penguin Books, 2009




3 thoughts on “The Horse Boy by Rupert Isaacson

  1. Sounds rather intriguing and an eye-opening story. I can only add my thoughts on how much it doesn’t sound to me a tiny little bit mad at all to ask for the help of shamans rather than let’s say take all the chemicals, being aware of all their severe side effects, that we are offered by Western medical science, and undergo bloody operations with life-long aftermaths. All this I’m saying as one who had to endure many of this, and have heard and seen very bad examples in my family and amongst my friends.

    Also positive thinking (call it placebo effect, if you will) is a well known way in self curing smaller health and emotional issues, or even as a support to come out with a much better result from a serious one. Surely there is a connection between our mind and how we let our surroundings influence us through it. I use the word mind as a reference to the practice of cognitively directing energies that effect our sensations and letting them gain way inwards to our soul, so they can help our body to heal, too.

    I believe the shamans are using this “old school” method in a very natural way, carrying on traditions throughout countless generations, born in a society that still admits the possibility and even the importance of using the forces of the world we’re living in and thus are organic parts of. To me it makes much more sense to call on such “tools” as for instance, the energy in horses or mountains, to find the balance and so the solution to our problems than experimenting with admittedly dangerous agents or literally “cutting-edge” technology on our very selves.

    Thank you for recommending this book. Can I borrow it?

      • I love your review, and it’s my pleasure if I could add to it. This topic touches many others of which I feel that they have been very relevant in my life, but I could easily say, in the lives of all “Western” people who need to re-discover how to be natural and themselves again without any fear of “social” reactions.

        And thank you very much for the book, I do appreciate it. Great, so there’s a movie they made about the story, too. Thanks for bringing that to my attention, too. When the mother mentions that they had to re-consider whether their child was “not” normal or they the parents and all the others, I believe that touches the very core of the difference between our Western society and for instance, theirs in Mongolia.

        It’s very important first of all to accept everyone and everything, and to be open to be able to see them as they really are. Without this we can hurt each other even with the best intentions. Instead of using “scientific” clichés to find out how to see the others as this or that kind of “problem” – yes, actually, that’s a common point of view, so unfortunately – we should be able to listen to each other, and try to understand. Basically that’s all.

        Looking forward to meet you again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s