I was in Boston recently with my friend Aida for a shoot. On our way out we decided to take a detour to a small town just north to visit all the antique shops. As we were leaving, we were embarking on a farm stand and stopped. ( It was the Pies I was after ). We pulled into the Farm stand where we were greeted by the stand owner, John. During our conversation, we learned that he boarded horses on his farm that was down the long gravel driveway that continued past the stand. With my love for horses, John began to lead us down to the old weathered barn so that I could photograph some of them. A pickup truck pulled in past us and out of the passenger side jumped a young dark haired boy, Austin, who gave a simple, quick look and walked on by towards the barn. His mother, Shiloh greeted us with a smile as John introduced us and she reached out and shook my hand. We follow them into the barn where their horse’s stable is, and Austin was already brushing him down, prepping to ride.
Austin was diagnosed with Autism at a young age. Since the time he could speak conversations were pretty limited as he would answer mostly with a blank look. There were days you could ask him what he did in school that day, and he would reply with one to two words, “work and recess”. His conversation was limited to a “simple” answer pass. No embellishments and no emotion. They always thought it was the “Autism Milaise” until the day they met the “Sensory Skill Master”, an old barn pony named Aladdin. At first meet of Aladdin and Margo ( Austin’s riding instructor ), his eyes came to life, but he was still quiet. But from the time Austin began riding there was a change in him. Sitting in that saddle so comfortably, slowly he started responding to her instructions. It wasn’t long following that he was engaging in conversations with Margo. A scene that at first had Shiloh emotional because in the ten years since his birth she had never seen this side of her son. Austin was responding to his riding partner.
After three years of riding Aladdin, the well loved horse he had to retire. That was when they knew they needed to get another. Austin needed it. After a long search, they finally found the perfect one. It’s been a year since they have had Criquet, a seven -year- old Oldenburg mare from Germany. She has been the Equine Angel they were hoping for and has had an indescribable inseparable maternal like bond with Austin.
” Through the past four years of Aladdin and Criquet I’ve learned NEVER to be surprised. Austin has grown so much, not in just size, but in his social capabilities. We have now developed; social awareness, reasoning skills, conversation that can last all night, empathy, sympathy, intellectually, and most importantly an engaging son. It was always there…I just needed an “Equine Expert” to help it grow!! ” – Shiloh
What a way the world works. Who knew that a simple stop at a farm stand in rural Massachusetts would lead to a profound encounter with Shiloh, Austin and Criquet. It was such a beautiful experience to witness the intimate relationship between a boy, Austin and his horse, Criquet.