The Horse Boy is a film that follows a family on a journey from their home in Texas to the steppes of Mongolia in an attempt to seek the healing powers of shaman for their autistic son, Rowan. The father is very open to alternative treatments whereas the mother is slightly more skeptical. Before the trip really gets going, their guides son (or a random boy…I’m not sure) joins them and Rowan and him get along very well, although most of the time when they are “playing” the camera shows Rowan pinning the boy down or chasing him. Regardless of roughhousing the parents are ecstatic by Rowan’s newfound ability to play with a peer, although it probably helps that they are in the middle of Mongolia instead of a loud, over stimulating playground. They visit multiple shamen, but their ultimate goal is finding one from a tribe that rides reindeer. They find a member of this tribe and he performs a ritual on Rowan. He tells the family that his autism will never go away, but some of the negative behaviors due to it will cease instantly. This was evidenced by Rowan suddenly being able to control his bowels. Most importantly, the shaman also told them that they need to provide Rowan his own “drum and feathers” (alluding to becoming a shaman) meaning that they need to find a place for him in society.
The shaman healers are apparently people who had similar mental disorders and who were ushered in their position. They don’t seem to have the power of a leader, but are respected by the tribal societies. Their treatments rely on different rituals, such as symbolic washings, dance and finding connections to trouble in the patient’s family lines. Shamen consider the mind and spirit more so in their treatments then they do the body itself. The movie doesn’t say how often shamanistic healing is used, or what other types of treatment are sought out in Mongolia.