Charlie and Oscar. (by Charlie Avent)

Written and presented by Charlie Avent. This is his beautiful tale of how a horse named Oscar came into his life and taught his more than he could have imagined; especially the unique gift of autism. Please read on...

"My name is Charlie Avent.

Although I live a normal life in the United Kingdom, I have a special gift called Autism.
This is my true story of how a horse named Oscar gave me life, helped me to become an apprentice Horse Whisperer then helped me to turn my Autism into a gift.

Before I discovered horses, I was rapidly losing the will to live or get out of bed let alone learn anything at all, I was hysterical, upset and depressed by the bullying and the hate I had to endure in my life particularly that aimed at me for having the (so called) disability of Autism. It felt as if my ‘Autistic Spectrum Disorder’ as my carers called it, was blinding those around me to my interests and strengths and this felt awful as I began to feel like a mutant.

I first met Oscar when I was in my second year at Ruskin Mill College. I was struggling to make sense of my life, to find meaning or purpose in myself. I was so upset that I Felt my existence was pointless and wanted to die because I hated myself for having Autism and being different. One day I was in Patricia my art tutor’s art studio beside her house, crying and hysterically upset in a full-scale autistic meltdown, when she took me out to meet Oscar.

From the moment I met Oscar, a bay thoroughbred who, I had been told, had had a very difficult start in life and had nearly died, I felt my own self pity become lost in a sea of love. He seemed to be saying ‘I love you, Charlie’ and asking me for friendship and help in spreading the message that violence towards any animal or human being is never the answer. In return he said he would help me to learn about his language and that he would never let me fall back into myself. He said, “I’m always here in spirit if not in body”. I feel very tearful just writing about this.

Oscar said to me, “If you want to repay me, you can become a Horse Whisperer”, and although I don’t believe I can ever fully repay him I have since totally set my heart on becoming a Horse Whisperer!

Patricia could not believe what she was seeing and decided to ask for me to have a few sessions of horse therapy with her and Oscar over the next few weeks. However in true Ruskin Mill style, ‘They’ did not give me horse therapy, ‘They’ gave me a Horse Whisperer! Carol arranged for me to meet a lady called Dawn Oakley-Smith, who keeps a small herd of horses at her Natural Horsemanship stable yard called ‘Heartshore Horses’.


As soon as I arrived at Dawn’s house with Carol, I was loudly welcomed by Hector (the friendly big black Labrador) who Dawn keeps as her friend and companion.
Dawn took us to Heartshore Horses’ main field where her herd of horses were waiting to be fed with their morning hay. As soon as I saw them I knew that Heartshore was an amazing place where I would learn a very great deal about horses. I feel rather silly now but I asked Dawn if she had heard of my hero Monty Roberts. She replied, “Of course, I am a Horse Whisperer!”

I was totally amazed to hear this. It was the most incredible feeling, to realise exactly what was happening here! This was my destiny; to help Dawn as a Horse Whisperer apprentice. To help to save horses from certain death and to help horses and people understand one another!

Over the next year as I became more confident, competent and able, it became apparent that more than anything I wanted to have a horse of my own. As this seemed to me to be impossible I waited as long as I could before I finally asked Dawn how expensive they really were to keep. She replied, ‘”We can keep them here very cheaply at Heartshore because we keep all of the horses as naturally as possible”...

It was about this time that I met Monty Roberts the iconic Horse Whisperer, on telling him my plan Monty told me to make my own luck wished me good learning and told me to go for it!

After many weeks of discussions, meetings and anxious waiting for both me and my Ruskin Mill house parents, the news that I was to have a horse of my very own made me cry!
And I had already decided on the name, ‘Spirit’!

I first met ‘Spirit’ on a lovely warm sunny day in May. It all happened after a phone call from a horse breeder who had seen my advertisement, knew that I was looking for a young horse, and had just the one! We arranged to visit the stables and I was introduced to a young and very handsome colt. Although I instantly liked his spirited nature Dawn and I said no to buying him. She was the voice of Reason and I was the voice of excitement. So we went on to the next paddock where I met a young Irish sport horse cross thoroughbred whose father was the famous coloured sport horse stallion ‘Masterpiece’. I immediately fell in love! Her name was ‘Summer’s Rain’. The breeder was happy to agree on a fair price and I was happy to buy her having changed her name to 'Spirit Of Summers Rain' and ‘Spirit of Summer’s Rain’ arrived at Heartshore Horses on June 20th 2010.

Spirit and I have a wonderful relationship and since we met I have extended her name to ‘Spirit Of Summer’s Rain’. She is an extremely easy and kind horse despite still being young. We play and learn as partners and I have been training her almost totally unaided. I never use pain or force when training her, we use the ‘Natural Horsemanship’ methods of ‘Monty Roberts’.

Oscar kept his promise to me right up to his final days but he had an accident and tragically he had to be put down due to breaking his leg Eventing. Since meeting this amazingly mentally and psychologically strong, yet troubled horse, my life has never been the same and I won’t forget him.

Dawn for a time became part of the ‘Horse Boy Foundation’ and has worked alongside Rupert Isaacson, author of the book ‘The Horse Boy’. She now runs therapy camps for autistic children and their families at Heartshore Horses in Gloucestershire although we prefer a natural horsemanship approach to all of our equine therapy but especially with those who have autism because we found that the natural horsemanship seems to produce better therapy horses who are more relaxed and happy and are less focused on their own survival and more focused on their job.

I work as a volunteer assistant on these camps and do my best to look after those who need special help. I enjoy telling the visiting families about my life changing experience with Oscar and introducing ‘Spirit’ to all those who wish to meet to her. Spirit and I are now out to try to inspire others to try Natural Horsemanship through giving Talks on how horses saved me and displaying our wonderful friendship via natural horsemanship demos. We also want to inspire others with disabilities or difficulties to just carry on regardless and focus on their Strengths and Interests.

We had a phone call not long before Monty Roberts was due to do a demo near Gloucester at Hartbury College for his Jubilee tour to say that he had heard all about my story and wanted me to come and be part of his demonstration to speak about my Autism and do a Join Up in front of everyone with Kelly Marks 18hh hunting horse Harry! As you can imagine I was honoured but nervous as I walked into the round pen to speak but this feeling soon subsided and then when I was with Harry doing Join Up nothing existed anymore except him and me so that I felt the same lovely calm relaxed feeling I get when I am with my own horse Spirit.

Recently I heard that Oscar ‘Cleverly Bay’ had been put to sleep after breaking his leg Eventing and this was devastating news but I hope to make him proud of me and help many other people not to have to go through what I went through.

I have now written a book Following The Hoofprints which has now been published and is available worldwide exclusively through Amazon.

Thanks to registered charity The Autism Directory I have set up my own company called Autism Meets Natural Horsemanship using natural horsemanship demonstrations and public speaking to raise positive awareness and acceptance of autism as well as improve the respect shown to horses in equine therapy centres. I am only really able to do this work because I have the support of the access to work scheme which supports me to do supported permitted work coordinated and organised by the charity.

In recent times Spirit and I had to move from our old yard at Heartshore in Minchinhampton because it got into financial difficulty and Dawn went to live in Wales, to be with our new friends at Tumpy Green in Dursley where we are able to enjoy much improved facilities and lots of lovely people who help us each day. Is the perfect place with indoor and outdoor arenas and round pen for my team and I need to get my business up and running helping people with their horses and teaching people about autism through talks and demos.

Thank you for reading my story.

Charlie.


WRITTEN BY CHARLIE AVENT.

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