September 7, 2012

Natural Horsemanship Saved Me From Suicide!

By Charlie Avent

This photo of me with Oscar, the horse who saved me from suicide!
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 saved my 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 suicidal, 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 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 wanted to die because I hated myself for having Autism. One day I was in Patricia my art tutor’s house, crying and hysterically upset, 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 Stables’ 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 said no to my buying him. She was the voice of Reason. 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 ‘Spirit of Summer’s Rain’ arrived at Heartshore stables 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 ‘ Silversand’ and ‘Monty Roberts’.

Oscar is still a close friend to me even though I don’t get to see him nearly as much as I want to. Since meeting this amazingly mentally and psychologically strong, yet troubled horse, my life has never been the same. Spirit has her own ‘ Fan page’ on the social networking site ‘Facebook’ and Oscar too has a large fan club and his own page. Dawn has since become part of the ‘Horse Boy Foundation’ and works alongside Rupert Isaacson, author of the book ‘The Horse Boy’. Along with Gillian Naysmith she now runs therapy camps for autistic children and their families at Heartshore Horses in Gloucestershire. I work as an 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 demos. We also want to inspire others with disabilities or difficulties to just carry on regardless and focus on their Strengths and Interests. Our message is “Your Interests Are Your Strengths”. I am now writing a book Following The Hoofprints which I’m hoping to publish at the beginning of 2013.

Thank you for reading my story,


  1. Wow really amazing story. Who would have thought that a horse could be life changing. Horsemanship is indeed a relationship. It's a journey between two creature who commit themselves to partners for life.

  2. Hi Kimberley,
    Very true and thank you. If you'd like to find out more about Charlie Avent and his amazing story:


  3. I have heard the same stories before, how horsemanship helped them. Both horses and individuals with autism are extremely sensitive. Their sensory awareness is heightened.

    This story is a worth read. Thanks for sharing.