Mother starts horse autism therapy station to help her son and others achieve independence

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YORK COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Dr. Megan McGavern has her hands full.

Over the past three years, she’s transformed an 18-acre land into a horse haven with a team that helps her take care of the three majestic animals, complete with a stable. 

“It’s amazing honestly, it’s insanity on my end, but it’s a beautiful thing,” McGavern said.

McGavern dove headfirst into the horse world, but you’d be surprised to know it wasn’t because she discovered a love of riding. 

This all started to help her 10-year-old son Cole, who was diagnosed with autism at 4 years old.

To learn all she could on how to help him, McGavern started reading, but nothing stuck quite as much as the book “The Horse Boy” by Rupert Isaacson. 

Isaacson wrote about his family’s journey to find healing for their autistic son after discovering his condition was improving by contact with horses.

“Basically he created a therapeutic approach as well as an academic approach to helping autistic children,” McGavern said.

Following the methods, Cole, who’s homeschooled, now spends most of his time learning out here at C.H.A.T.S.

That’s short for, Cole’s Horse Autism Therapy Station.

He’s got his own classroom in the stable and plenty of activities such as swinging and zipline to keep him engaged.

Not to mention sensory learning, like an exercise where he picks letters from the tree branches to practice spelling while on horseback.

“My son went from saying 10 words in a day to 300 to 400 words a day while on the horse, “ McGavern explained.

McGavern says last week their third “horse boy trained” horse was delivered.

This means now they can host play dates with other kids in the community in addition to their sensory events on the weekend.

McGavern says her end goal is to help Cole and others like him find independence.

“The one big thing I can say from this is truly have hope,” she smiled.

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