News Column

Horse sense

August 16, 2013


When 2-year-old Rowan Isaacson was diagnosed with autism, his parents were thrown into a world of confusion and despair.

But, when his father brought him to Betsy, the Isaacson family's bay mare, Rowan's actions took a 180 degree turn as he transformed into a functional, happy boy, said Rupert Isaacson.

"Riding is my principal joy ... I spent most of my life acquiring these skills and to help him use that -- it's serendipitous," the father said.

This heartwarming story, and others like it, will be featured at the first Equus Film Festival, which opened Thursday and continues through Sunday at the Arcada Theatre, 105 E. Main St., St. Charles.

More than 30 short- and full-length films from all over the world will highlight the multicultural festival, and some directors will be available to answer questions following the films.

"It's pretty unique to have this level of involvement," said Lisa Dierson, coordinator for the film festival, of the small town startup.

The week's features include "The Equestrian" at 7 p.m. Friday, followed by "The Return of Navajo Boy" at 7:45 p.m. Both directors, Sybil Mair and Jeff Spitz, respectively, will be answering questions from the audience about their experience finding their stories and creating their movies. Thursday night was scheduled to kick off with "The Horse Boy" at 7 p.m. with Rupert Isaacson answering questions about his family's story that took him to the other side of the world.

The films tackle tough social issues, like where our food comes from, in addition to talking about horses, said Dierson.

Ron Onesti, who owns and runs the ever-busy Arcada Theatre, said he got involved because he feels it's important to be part of the community.

"Lots of people are passionate -- I couldn't believe how many of my customers were horse riders," he said. "It was one of those things: let's just make it happen."

The film festival will run in association with the first Festival of the Horse and Drum, which is set for 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Kane County Fairgrounds, 525 S. Randall Road, St. Charles.

The festival features horse shows, Native American demonstrations and activities for kids.

As for Rupert Isaacson, he runs the Horse Boy Foundation, teaching families techniques with animals to help their children with autism. He felt compelled to start the foundation and make the movie because he feels obligated, he said.

"I have seen some dark days, so why wouldn't I make this available to others when I can?"

Tickets for the shows are $6 for the day or $20 for a four-day pass. To purchase tickets or for more on the festivals, visit .

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