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The Horse Boy

4.4 out of 5 stars 94 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

An intensely personal yet epic spiritual journey, The Horse Boy follows one Texas couple and their autistic son as they trek on horseback through Outer Mongolia in an attempt to find healing for him. When two-year-old Rowan was diagnosed with autism, Rupert Isaacson, a writer and former horse trainer, and his wife Kristin Neff, a psychology professor, sought the best possible medical care, but traditional therapies had little effect. Then they discovered that Rowan has a profound affinity for animals particularly horses and the family set off on a quest that would change their lives forever.

Directed by Michel Orion Scott, The Horse Boy is part travel adventure, part insight into shamanic healing and part intimate look at the autistic mind. In telling one family's extraordinary story, the film gives voice to the thousands who display amazing courage and creativity everyday in the battle against this mysterious and heartbreaking epidemic. The filmic companion to Isaacson's best-selling book of the same name, and a festival favorite, this ravishing documentary odyssey gives insight into how, in life's darkest moments, one can find the gateway to joy and wonder.

- 16:9 anamorphic transfer, enhanced for widescreen TVs
- 25 minutes of additional interviews with autism experts, including Simon Baron-Cohen and animal behavior expert Dr. Temple Grandin (subject of an upcoming HBO biopic starring Claire Danes)
- Behind-the-scenes and outtake footage of the Isaacsons' Mongolian journey
- Theatrical trailer
- Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired


An extraordinary journey of the heart and spirit, and a stirring testament to parenthood. --Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times

A lyrical and stirring meditation on the mystery of autism. --Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

A deeply personal, highly subjective and inarguably thought-provoking story of one family's quest for a certain kind of peace. --Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Rupert Isaacson, Temple Grandin, Kristin Neff
  • Directors: Michel Orion Scott
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Zeitgeist Films
  • DVD Release Date: April 20, 2010
  • Run Time: 93 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (94 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00346UX5E
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,385 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Horse Boy" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
I saw a screening of "Horse Boy" in Memphis in November 09. I had read the book and loved it. The author, Rupert Isaacson had been flown in for this event to announce the founding of a non-profit to bring horses and special needs kids (some autistic) together. The film was made while Isaacson and his wife took their autistic 6-year old son to Mongolia for, hopefully, some kind of healing for the boy. During this audacious trip, their guide arranged for nine shamans to meet the family in the open. One by one, they assess the boy and his family and perform their brand of healing on them. Interestingly, they confer among themselves and decide that a mentally unbalanced departed relative on the mother's side was tugging at the boy. A ritual had to be performed to rid them of her spirit. Fascinating conclusion. Other rituals were performed on the parents as well as the boy, and sure enough, for the first time, the boy began to play with another lad near his age, a Mongolian boy. Consequently, this other child was invited to come along on the journey, as he was the son of their guide. They proceeded in a van, then on horseback to a higher elevation much farther north into reindeer country to meet a grand shaman they'd been told about. That part of the book AND the film is quite remarkable. The parents never knew if the boy would tolerate two days on horseback, as he was prone to several tantrums per day. I highly recommend this film (and the book) to readers who want to know how far loving parents will go to help their child. Also who like to learn how healing takes place in remote places where people live by understanding the human body and emotions better than we so-called civilized folks do.
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Format: DVD
While I was originally drawn to this movie because of the focus on an autistic boy (my son is one of the 1 in 91 who are on the autism spectrum, and males are 4 times more likely than girls to be diagnosed as such), as it turns out this movie is as much about autism as it is about culture, family, and spirituality. Rupert Isaacson, a writer and former horse trainer, and wife Kristin Neff, a psychology professor, are the parents of Rowan, whose lives took a drastic turn when after planning for a trip for "Italy", they ended up in "Holland" (see my review for "Getting Your Kid on a Gluten-Free Casein-Free Diet" by Susan Lord). In other words, they were thrown off balance because it is not only difficult to prepare for a child with autism, but the lack of readily available information via traditional sources such as physicians is scant to nonexistent, and when information is provided it takes time to sort through what is accurate and what is not, and what applies to one's child and what does not.

While this film does get into some of the background behind Rowan's diagnosis, and shows the frequent tantrums common to autistic children, it does not discuss in any great detail the traditional care they sought in the medical community nor the alternative biomedical therapies they may have explored which are increasingly prevalent in this space due to the ill-equipped health care system to handle autism, a neurological disorder. While this might disappoint some viewers, the strengths of this movie are that it shows the relationship between father and son, depicts a family which is unified, and follows a family through Mongolia, a country little known to the West.
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Format: DVD
I saw this movie on a plane on one of the many trips I have taken with my son in hopes of helping him. Mr. Isaacson, the writer and father, is now my new hero. Although the movie is filled with mysticism which is slowing beginning to be explained in traditional Western medicine, he is wise enough to include plenty of comments from recognized professionals with PhD's. Those of us who have been looking all over the world and doing the impossible to help our children do not have to feel alone any longer. Thank you for daring, for sharing your inner turmoils, and for giving many desperate families the energy to go on. I look forward to showing and talking about this movie with every person along my path.
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Format: DVD
Any magazine, newspaper or film daring to explore autism is ripe to start crossfire conversations; this documentary is hardly different as it follows the efforts of journalist Rupert Issacson and his psychologist/professor wife, Kristin Neff, to reach their 5-year-old autistic son, Rowan, via a horseback journey through Mongolia. Issacson, a ethnographer who embraces alternative, ritualistic healing methods, calls upon Mongolian shamans - some of whom shepherd reindeer by day -to "cure" their son of, if not autism, then his debilitating tantrums and self-imposed incontinence on the toilet.

Issacson secured a $1 million book deal to finance the film before even embarking on the trip, so the movie's uplifting end seems ordained - not the kind of ground a doc should hope to claim - although the journey through Mongolia, spare but beautiful, is captured eloquently through Scott's camera. The shamans, some of whom suggest otherworldly origins for Rowan's condition - Neff's poisoned womb, a manic-depressive grandmother holding on to the boy in her afterlife - mostly appear to be workmanlike and uninspired. Their methods - plying Rowan with fluids, lightly whipping the parents, asking Neff to wash herself while facing toward America - appear dubious, and the work of the main shaman is barely captured on camera inside a darkened tent. What he does, and how he does it, remains unclear. Then he lights a cigarette, and asks them to leave. Then he proclaims that, one day, Rowan will be a shaman.

So, yes, "The Horse Boy" is that kind of film, subjectively objective, occasionally drifting from credulity before being filed as another document detailing the mystery of autism.
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