Connection is Communication

Communication without connection is useless. But true connection finds ways to communicate that are surprising and delightful. 

Dad, Beeri, and Becca greet new ottb, Patrick.

When Beeri’s family reached out to Square Peg Foundation asking if they would be able to start lessons in a year for their 5 year old son with cerebral palsy when they were in the United States, I was confused. Why would a family reach out to us so far in advance if they had never met us in person?

In early November 2019, I was riding my last horse for the day. 

It was getting dark. 

I was tired. 

I hadn’t planned to stay this late. 

And I was hungry. 

A car pulled in to the barn. I sighed, dismounted my horse and walked him over to the parked car. A couple emerged, with two tiny kids both in car seats. While introductions played out, the air, light, and energy around all of us shifted into a space of joy and curiosity. And the connection between all of us was strong and exciting. 

Their son Beeri, spoke only Hebrew and was still unable to walk. Beeri crawled on his hands and knees, face shining with interest towards the horses, not a care for the dirt and rocks under his hands and knees. His parents’ were chasing a dream in the US to help their son walk. They asked Square Peg to be part of their therapy regimen. I agreed.

Beer often crawled up to the barn from the car the first few months he came to the barn. Puddles were very fun and distracting.

Several times every week for the next eight months a combination of mom, dad, sister, and brother would venture out to the farm for rides on Mowgli or Hermes. On horseback we explored each trail and arena in the vicinity, often singing despite our language barrier.

Beeri taught me new words; a “Nahaal,” was created from digging in the dirt under the olive trees and letting the recent rain water flow. “Cal-ah-kavod,” was the most popular word during games with Gabriela and Mowgli, congratulating and exclaiming what a good job everyone was doing (it translates roughly to “good job”). “Aba,” was said with longing when Beeri decided he had been away from his dad for too long. 

Beeri and Becca atop Mowgli.

After half a dozen sessions we ventured out on the road trail unaccompanied by mom or dad. Riding together on Mowgli we did the whole 20 min path singing, humming, and dancing along to Hanukah classics. When we did make it back we were happy to see Aba, but went right into the arena to count, “Achat, shtayim, shalosh, canter!” This was the first time Beeri had been okay with the distance from his parents since before his surgery eight months prior. The freedom of movement and speed we were able to travel not only gave Beeri the giggles, but it fostered his independence through his horse friends. 

After our ride the following week Beeri and his dad went into the tack room for lunch. Five minutes later, Dad walked out of the tackroom all smiles and brimming with enthusiasm, “I am going to my car!” He exclaimed with pride. “He told me he was fine to be by himself, this is the first time he has let me leave him truly alone for a few minutes since his surgery! (six months ago)” 

Sister and brother back-ride with Becca on ottb Hermes.

Beeri’s strength and independence grew each week. While we rode we would teach each other words. “Yellow,” is “Tze-ov,” Mowgli’s color is, “chaum.” The sky is “cah-chall.” My pronunciation was poor, but Beeri saw that I was trying and he would laugh and say “no” or “yes” in his sweet way. Beeri knew I was trying to understand and that was all that mattered to him.

Beeri and I connected through the horses, through joy and curiosity. From the movement of the horse, Beeri began to make the complicated neural and muscular connections to begin to learn to walk. His parents felt like it was miraculous. But I feel like I was at the winning end of our relationship – because Beeri brought his smile, his willingness to try, his curiosity about the world and his patience in teaching me about his world.  

Beeri and his family will be out of the country for some time due to visa constraints and our global health situation. While I dearly hope they will be back, I have no doubt that this beautiful family is spreading their joy and kindness to others on this planet we all call home. 

Children like Beeri teach us that spoken language is only one way to communicate and that walking is only one way to travel the world. Beeri and his family reminded me how beautiful life can be when you are open to listening with with your whole self.

Walking tall with assistance from canes, Beeri leads the way with Becca and Hermes following.

Horse Boy Method Training at Cadence Farm, Sonoma on Jan 5th & 6th, 2020

For  years Rupert and Rowan shared the saddle together on a horse named Betsy. The story of  Rowan opening  to the outside world through Betsy is told in the bestselling book and award winning film “The Horse Boy“.

With Rowan’s success,  Rupert started working with other children on the spectrum to see if what  worked with Rowan and Betsy would  work for them. While no method can ever be right for 100% of people  Rupert found a sufficiently high percentage of children benefited-sometimes  in astonishing ways.
The framework of techniques targets different  challenges.  Horse Boy™ and Movement Method are now being used worldwide. Don’t miss this fantastic opportunity!

Who should attend this clinic?

Important note: This workshop is hands on and intense.  We cannot have you bring your child to the workshop.  It is our organizational ethic that when a child is here – especially one that needs some support – we focus all our energy on the child.  This workshop is to give you tools to help support those you love and care about – so this is our chance to focus on you. 

Training Overview 

• Introduction to Autism
• What our methods are and why they are different
• Necessary Equipment
• Sensory session with horses
• Collection – what it is and why it matters

• Intro to Back-riding training
• How to create the right environment for Horse Boy Method
• How to cope with children unwilling or afraid to ride
• Long-lines (working with young adults too large to back-ride)
• Rule based games / Perspective taking
• Academics on horseback: how to use the dressage arena and round pen for math, biology, geography and more!
• How to work with the entire family
• Basic trick work. Learning the aids, and demo of how tricks are used for communication

When: Sunday, January 5th and Monday, January 6th, 2020 from 10am to 3pm

Where: Cadence Farm, Meadowlark Lane, Sonoma, CA. (Just off Hwy 121)

Cost$675 for Riders and $340 for Non-Riders

Space is limited! Please email to reserve your spot. If you need housing accommodations for Sunday night please inquire.

Participants in the July 2019 Horse Boy Training.