Horses are the same as people if it comes to character. I know you don’t agree with me. Because a horse is a horse and a human is a human with different origin. But as many horses you have, they all have a different character. A horse is not just a horse that you can treat all equal if you think you know about horses. Look at people, do you want to be treated the same as all the people? Why you have friends, while with others you never want to be friends. It’s the same with horses, every single one needs another treatment and you have to find the users-guide of every horse. It is a challenge for a human to understand what type of horse you have in front of you or is given you to you to ride a tour on horseback.
Still, most stables teach you only the technique to ride a horse. Of course you need some skills to know how to ride a horse. Most of the time there is no lesson about the feelings of the horse. He just needs to do what is taught to you. Many see a horse as an instrument that has to do all the tricks you want him or her to do.
If I tell you to forget all about the techniques you have learned, to approach a horse as if it’s the first time you see him? To forget all your thoughts what you want to teach him and what you want to do with him. Just make acquaintance and ask him how he is doing. Sit with him as if you sit with friends. I bet you will see a complete different horse in front of you. Curious about you, while you are in the same time curious about him. What he will do, will he come to you or ignore you? Will he look at you, trying to catch your attention or will he continue to find something to eat? Will he come to you or going further away from you?
Keep in mind that a horse is a very sensitive animal, he can feel your emotions. This skill is better developed then with human. He can feel the state you are in. If you’ve had a fight with your boyfriend before you came to him, if you just had a difficult exam to pass, if you’re happy. He can even feel if you feel obliged to visit him to make the ride just for giving him some exercise while you actually prefer to do other things, or have not enough time because you planned a meeting afterwards. Never seen that when you’re in a hurry, nothing will work out as usual? Taking more time to catch him, taking him from his stable while he is not supportive.
Your horse your victor?
On emotional and intuition level a horse is our victor. As we are occupied with our daily things, plans for the future, being good at ruminating the past, your horse is only living in the here and now. What was yesterday is past. What tomorrow will bring is not yet important because he doesn’t know if there will be a next day. While, for humans it is so difficult just to live in the moment. With a time-ticking clock on the watch and on the phone. Thoughts wandering from what to have for dinner afterwards, not to forget to make that phone call. Remembering the day at work and the conflicts with colleagues or clients. Our thoughts are always somewhere as if they never have a pause, while your horse see this happening. Your thoughts are not with him and he starts to play with you. You start to be angry because you only came there to be with him. But still are not with him.
A horse is a prey animal. For him it is a question of life and dead if he is not aware of his environment. He can feel who is in his neighborhood, if this animal or human is good or not. In a fraction of a second he needs to be ready to flee to have a chance to survive. The danger does not even need to be close by to make this decision. They’re not discussing with each other first if it is necessary to flee or to stay. If one starts to move, the whole herd will follow immediately, even if they don’t know the reason.
Do we need those skills of a horse? Yes and no. Most people live a safe life, but there are still too many who are not sure there will be a tomorrow. Caused by war or natural disasters. Why I’m telling this? Because we can learn many skills from our horses, the important surviving skills, lost in evolution and in comfortable life. Too many human live under pressure of daily life, have a feeling they have lost the way, their base, the meaning of their exsistence. Stressed by the norm that if you’re successful, you will have a nice house, good work (which you not like too much) with a corresponding salary, a family (that you want to give a good life) and many friends who are only your friends because they live the same lifestyle. And one day you realize that it is not your norm anymore because your spiritual and emotional life are not in balance anymore. So you start searching, where did you lose the connection with your self. How many people have at this moment a depression, a burn-out, physical illness, taking many medicines to ignore the real meaning of the cause of being ill. Living daily life seems too difficult as your mind, emotions, illness it taking you back in what you are obliged to your self to do.
Once, you have fallen in love with a horse you will notice they can be real friends. I’ve gone through all this and found myself back through the wisdom of horses. There were times in my life I trusted more on horses than on humans. They never let me down. Now, when I take horseback riders into the desert on our horses, you will get involved with this approach. Forgetting all techniques you’ve learned to become one with a horse. You and your horse are always a team together. Understanding each other will help you to grow to being a better rider. With respect to each other, to form a bond together. I’ve seen the progress of riders through this approach. While you’re busy to teach a new technique in riding and the horse is not responding while you know you do everything right as is taught to you. You start to be disappointed because you don’t know why your horse is not doing where you ask for. You see yourself struggling again and again, sometimes leading to a blockage because you’re occupied with negative thoughts already before stepping on the horse. There is way to overcome this. Without teaching anything to your horse, based on trust of each other.
The approach I’m talking about doesn’t have a name nor following a school in horsemanship. It just appeared naturally by listening to the horses. My colleague, Bedouin Abdullah Alzwaydeh and me are both working the same with the horses. Through listening what they have to tell us, keeping them in their value as a horse, being a friend with them, becoming part of their existing herd. Without giving them any human characteristics. Just observe them how they behave with each other and with us. In the vast nature of the desert where the sun is rising in the morning and setting in the evening. Where time is not important. Just be in the rhythm of the desert with your horse.
Your personal present is stillness in the mind and the whispers of your heart. To make acquaintance with your pure self.
One year after my best friend Ahmad had gone I made it to move to the Wadi Rum. It was impossible to leave his father. But there were other forces working to take the decission from my hands. Every year I visit the Netherlands to see my family and friends. This time I wanted to stay one month with them to have more time to see my friends who I was not able to visit or to see before. Going back to Jordan, as usual my suitcase was too small to bring all the presents but especially the horse equipment I purchuaged from the Netherlands on behalf of the horses in the desert who were coming one by one. The first time I needed to travel with two suitcases and from then it would happen all the time like this.
No welcome home
When I came back in the home of grandfather, the family of his other son stayed with him. They didn’t tell me but I got indications that I was too much in the home. They didn’t let me to take care of their father and the only work that was left was cleaning the home. I understood the message and asked Abdullah to look out for a home for me in his village at the border of the Wadi Rum desert. Since Ahmad left us he invited me many times to come over and to be a guest in the camp, where he kept the horses. He showed me some homes. The first without kitchen…, the second almost casco and the last with broken and missing windows. I choose the last one. Knowing it needed some reparations. As it was still summer, the broken windows were not the biggest problem. I decided to move in after the Islamic sacrifise feast but it turned out better to move as soon as possible. A small truck came which was too small to move at once all the stuff but in three times everything was in the new house. No space left to sleep as the home was not too big. Abdullah helped me to make a bed outside, I was too tired to move myself again. And slept in the open garden with the Saluki of Ahmad next to me on a rope.
A very nice welcome from the kids but not really
First thing in the morning is to make a screen at the open space to keep the dog inside. But there were many kids around who came by to have a look at the dog as a dog in the home is not usual in Arabic countries. And they started to trow stones at her which made her scared and angry in the same time. We needed to close the garden, then she would be safe. As Abdullah also had a Saluki I asked him to bring his dog as well to have company for both of us. Wurad came after two days, from the first moment the two dogs liked each other and Warda had immediately her period. It was a big feast together. To have some rest I kept the girl in the home and the boy outside. Soon the men made a door in the garden and added some stones extra on the wall to keep the dogs inside. But still the children kept on throwing stones over the wall. I went several times to them to ask to stop it as the dogs didn’t like them for this and that they made me very angry doing this after several warnings. I cleaned up the garden of all stones, but still. Needed to be creative to find a solution.
Meanwhile I went with the dogs to the camp and to the horses. It’s about 4 kilometers walking and Salukis need many exercise. They didn’t need a leash, only to go from the home as they would chase the kids. They knew exactly who trow the stones to them. A Saluki is such a friendly dog, also with children. But once they are not good to the dog they’ll remember.
The arrival of the horses in Wadi Rum
The three horses are fine. Mehemmak, Barq and Theeb. I’m so happy to live close to them now. Every day I can walk to the camp to see them, for grooming, petting, conversations, treats.
First meeting with Mehemmak
Mehemmak, my special horse. Never I’ve seen a character like him. The first time I refused to ride him. He was too skinny, too grumpy, he didn’t look like a horse. On his hip a big black scabby spot without hair. Not a horse to be proud of. But, as I was the lightest weight I had to ride on him as no other horse available at that moment for the up coming tour. So I went on him, careful not to harm him. He was not the most comfortable horse to ride on. He did everything I asked him to do, without complain or not knowing what to do. The horses got the best food during the tour. But it was impossible for me to approach him. With much creativity and tricks the men could saddle him to make him ready for me to ride on him. Once I was on his back in the saddle I could pet him. He was never scared of my hands. Nor from other things on the road. Every time when we had a very nice ride. He loved all paces, was never tired, he just went. He loves the desert,later I found out that after on time been there he knows the road everywhere. After the tour the horse went back to his owner. While I went back home to the other village.
Second meeting with Mehemmak
After two weeks Abdullah called me. He could buy Mehemmak. It would become his first horse ever. He didn’t even know how to ride a horse although he was with us with all our horse riding tours. Abdullah asked me to teach him horse riding very well. A new opportunity for me. But first of all he asked me if it was a good idea to buy Mehemmak. I told him only, if you can, don’t even think but take him. I knew that he would be in very good hands with Abdullah. He would never abuse a horse even when it was the most difficult and grumpy horse. He would get the best treatment, the best food, always water and me. Abdullah took me from the other village to take care for Mehemmak. His name means ” Don’t’t worry” . The best name for him because once you were riding him you did’t need to worry about anything. He knows how to behave, he knows the road, he is taking care for other horses, he takes even care for the people around him on a horse. He knows where the car with all the stuff for camping, water and food is hiding. He knows where to find water in the desert. As I was riding on him, accompanied by Abdullah in the car, we had fun.
Getting to get used to each other
Part by part I started to groom him. He didn’t like in the first moment but when Abdullah was holding him and talking to him I was able to brush him. We washed him with water and shampoo. He got used to be in the hands of people. I still didn’t walk with him on a rope as he was too strong. But after a while he accepted me complete while I could walk with him on a rope. Once he knew we wouldn’t take him out to abuse him but only for nice things he started to like, he became easier. Mehemmak was our rescue horse. Although I tried to put some ointment or oil on his abused big spot he still didn’t want us to touch him there. But after a while we could carefully put some treatment. Abdullah didn’t want me to go alone as he was careful with me too. The desert is an open area and you never know what will happen.
Once I went all by myself. I told Abdullah where I would go. As every time I went out for a ride there were a few birds flying with me. Who were playing in the air with each other. Coming to the horse and me, very closeby. And they stayed flying around us. The ears of Mehemmak were following the birds. I was looking to them knowing this had a special meaning. The birds were telling many stories and we were part of it. I knew, I could feel that Ahmad was with me. That it was his wish that I would live in the Wadi Rum, with the horses. Often he came to me, always when I was on a horseback. One time he took his mum also with him. That was a vey warm meeting as she was a Bedouin woman who knew more than what you can see with your eyes. Sometimes I was crying when I could feel them so nearby. In the same time so happy that they were still with me. Knowing I made the right choices. And Mehemmak knew. He understood.
One time Abdullah asked me to go in another direction with Mehemmak into the desert because he had a surprise for me. I went, all the time looking for his car. And there he was, accompanied by another horse, with a Bedouin I didn’t know on his back. Abdullah was very excited asking me what I thought of this horse. If I wanted to see how he was walking, trotting and canter. I saw immediately that this was not just a horse. He was very passionate, his tail high in the wind. His head high, jumping from standing to gallop. His name Barq, which means the lightening of the thunder. He lived up his name. What a beauty, what a temperament. What a stallion. We ride up together, I could feel the tension in the body of Barq. Mehemmak was quiet as usual. Doing whatever you ask him to do. Watching curious to the other horse. Abdullah told me that Barq would come in a few days to us if I agree to having him in the new herd of horses. I became very excited, a new horse, with two horses it starts to become something real. My dream to be surrounded by horses.
Barq came the same day… it was almost sunset and started to be a bit chilly. I saw Barq coming with the Bedouin I still didn’t know. Barq was wet all over his body. As if he had been galopping through the whole desert. The Bedouin dismounted and I took the horse over from him. I was angry, why the horse was wet all over from sweat, it seemed almost a different horse as I had seen earlier that day. But it was still the same horse. I walked rounds with him to step him dry. There was something with his leg. We checked but at first could’nt find anything. I kept on walking with Barq on a rope. We put a blanket on his back, I was afraid he would catch cold with all the sweat on him. His head down while I was still walking. Another check of his legs. One was sensitive and in the end we found something different than the other leg. But could not see any cause why. Abdullah insisted to let him stay from this day with us and with Mehammak but he was not happy. There was something with him that gave him pain. Fortunately there was a guest in the camp who was a veterinarian. She was from the UK, living in Zimbabwe and with her husband and little boy on holiday in the camp. We had made a jeep tour with them that afternoon. We asked her to have a look as well at the horse. She told us that maybe there was something inside his leg causing the pain. He needed a certain type of antibiotics and we needed to give him salt baths. Abdullah and me went to find the medicine but it was hard to find. Not the one she prescribed was available in Jordan. Together with the pharmacist we did some research to find something equal and gave it to Barq, while treating him with salt baths several times. Every day I tried to take him for a small walk by hand but he could not even move forward. He was so sad, he didn’t know us well, didn’t know if he liked it with us. He saw the other horse Mehemmak but had not yet a connection with him. He was in pain. After a few days, when we saw the medicine didn’t work out Abdullah asked a Bedouin to have a look at the horse’s leg. The Bedouin found out there was possible something inside and put some Bedouin medicine (herbs) on the leg. It didn’t work out to make Barq better. Another Bedouin came by with Abdullah. They made a cut in his leg. They found a small piece of wood, with infection. Complete under his skin. They treated the wound well, the next day already Barq started to look better, his eyes were bright and shiny and he could walk! Very careful, but he moved. For 10 days we walked with him by hand. I didn’t want anybody riding on him till he was complete recovered.
Vanaf dat moment had ik een speciale band met Barq. Nu wist hij dat we hem alleen maar zouden helpen. Hij was nog zo jong. Nauwelijks drie jaar.
Theeb came. His name changed in Theeb Abiat, the white wolf.
Suddenly he was there, while I didn’t know. Quite a big and full horse. The Bedouin were playing with him because he could jump and stand on his back feet with his fore feet high in the sky. After I asked Abdullah from where he had the horse he told me from another village, but originally from Aqaba where he was pulling the carriage with 6 heavy people. Now I understood why he was so strong. They wanted me to ride him to hear my thoughts. I already saw he was very obsessed by food. He loved to find food in the rubbish bins and I knew he lacked good food. He used to eat everything you gave him. Even rice with vegetables. But he also ate the food, hay and barley what we gave him. He was a fast eater and didn’t allow anyone near him if he was eating his food. We improvisised a martingale to prevent him from jumping high during the tour with Abdullah and me. I went on Theeb to see his behaviour while riding on him. He is such a beauty, very fotogenique. Once on his back I noticed he was not so used to have a rider on him. He didn’t response to my helps well. He was delivered without any usersguide so I had to teach him and find out what he already knew. He was very good in walking backwards and jumping high once you touched the reins to make little contact with his mouth. Pushing him in trot or canter didn’t work out at all. But he reacted when I let him feel the reins on his neck. He loves it when you are working with him, eager to learn. First he needed to learn to react on soft hands and legs as I noticed he had learned everything the hard way. He was not able to walk close to another horse. He wanted to move them away by kicking them. So I kept him at the back. Also easier for him to see other horses react while I gave him the right helps. Once he reacted better I took him as the leader but that didn’t work out well. He wanted to see the other horses and pretended he was scared from anything in the road. I approached him to walk to what he thought would be scary, he noticed he couln’t come away by standing still or jumping once he saw something. He loves the desert and wanted to be as the other horses. He protected his sensitivety with behaving very bold. A horse that is very sensitive but with a small heart and strong muscles. Now he is a very lovely horse to ride. He feels the experience of the people on him. Is very careful with beginners while an experienced rider can do anything on him. We even let him go walking everywhere, even in the front with guests as long as he stays five meters from the other horses. He will not start anything by himself, if he walks as the leader he will not go more than ten meter before the other horses.
We love all the horses, appreciate they have such different characters. They’re all easy to ride if the rider is relaxed. We see that many people over estimate themselves as it comes to riding skills. Knowing our horses very well and just notice the combination with the rider, all the horses tell us the exact level of the rider.
Next time I will tell about making a bond with your horse to work as a team.
After three months in the home of the family of Ahmad I moved to my own house. Ahmad wanted me to go to Disa, next to the Wadi Rum. But I was afraid. It’s not the best school to handle from this emotion. His brother found me a home next door and gave me the keys. I had to bring my stuff to the new home. The kids started to help me but after a few times running up and down they were tired. I moved on with everything I could carry. Ahmad pushed me to eat with his father who was alone since his wife had died after I was one month in the family. The last moment with her we were sitting on the veranda while she was talking to me. She was so tired. Older than 80 years, she still had 7 goats to take care for and her garden. I promised her to help with the garden to make her life a bit easier. Her daughter and daughter in law helped her with the goats. I never could imagine that this was our last real conversation. The went to the hospital short after. Came home again, I visit her, she was sitting as a queen in a plastic garden chair overlooking the whole room. Ordering everyone to bring tea and something to eat. A few days later she went to the hospital again. Came home to recover. When I visit her she was sleeping. The next day she was not with us anymore. Rest in peace my dear grandmother. I’ve learned so much from her. She was like a herbalist, knowing everhing of herbs, plants and other remedies of the desert. Always taking care for people, her grandchildren and other family.
Once in the home of the grandfather I started to reorder all the wardrobes and kitchen shells and found her treasury of herbs everywhere. Together with her daughter we were recognizing her collection. Her daughter teached me how to use the herbs. Her husband is missing her. He started to tell me many stories of his life. He used to be an army man and had lived with his wife in many places. He was involved with the Palestinians during the making of the state of Israel in 1948. Other stories were about working together with the English when he worked with Glubb Pasha during the English mandate of Jordan and Palestine. But most of all I liked his stories about the camels and horses. How he bought camels in Saudi Arabia and brought them to Jordan which was not easy. Or from a horse that broke out from his uncles place and run all the way to Egypt. The village of Quwayra is in the south, only 40-45 kilometers from the Saudi and Egyptian border. His family used to live the Bedouin life in the mountains of Shafi, west to the desert highway of Quwayra. He was one of the first five families who build a home in the village of Quwayra. Close to the mountain from where Lawrence of Arabia with Abdullah bin Sharif Houssein, the protector of Mecca, and Oude Abu Teille went with a Bedouin army to conquer Aqaba from the hands of the Ottomans.
After a few months I moved in with the grandfather as sometimes he was so dizzy that he fall down in the night. My Arabic language improved fast. I started to prepare the evening dish for both families. First only the Jordanian kitchen but slowly also other world kitchen meals. They liked most of my cooking and admired the different tasted. I find it startling how a man of more than ninety years is adopting different tastes. But he was once used to the some English cooking as well.
Once in a while I went to Wadi Rum with Ahmad when we had guests who wanted to stay in the desert. Still sleeping somewhere in the wild in the sands or under the rocks is the best thing one can imagine. Sometimes it was on a horse tour, sometimes the guests wanted to make a jeeptour. We were there with Abdullah the friend of Ahmad, crossing the desert sands.
As I was most of the time in the home of Ahmad’s father, I moved my stuff back to his home and to the place where once the goats were. After grandmother died I found a dead goat in the herd. The goats were waiting their move to the daughter’s home, they were building a place where they could live. But once moved they died one by one till none was left. Still strange as if they only wanted to be with the grandmother.
During the time I moved back Ahmad started to tell me things that I didn’t understand. More times out of nothing he told me to take care of his kids. While they had a mother. Also other things. He still wanted me to go to Disa to work with his friend Abdullah. But I couldn’t leave his father. He told me not to be sad whatever happens. I was still recovering from my time in Wadi Musa but gained weight, was happy, although real working on the computer still was a thing of lack of concentration. I started a new website but couldn’t finish. He wanted to increase the tours with guests but I didn’t make the promotion to attract more people to Jordan. As if a hand was holding me back. We had an upcoming horse ridig tour of six days from Humeima to the Umm Addami the highest mountain of Jordan situated on the border of Jordan and Saudi-Arabia and back to Disa. Ahmad told me to contact Abdullah by myself alhough he was always used to do this.
A few day’s later I began to know what he already knew. On age thirty eight he died. His wife pregnant of number eight. His father leaving behind knowing his youngest son was not anymore with him. And then the sad times came to the homeof Ahmad. The parts of the puzzle falling together as he had tried to warn me in advance. I couldn’t believe that the one who was always there for me, the first one in Jordan who took me the way I was, who believed in me was not there anymore. He gave me all his trust.
The next month there was the tour of six days on horseback. I had to contact Abdullah, now I understood why Ahmad pushed me to arrange everything with his friend. Abdullah took me from Quwayra to have a look at the horses in the tour. We went to another village and met Mehemmak, a very skinny horse, we couldn’t approach him well because he didn’t want any people around him. This would be my horse in the tour, he told me. On his back hand there were old wounds of abuse. I asked his owner to saddle and to ride him. I was scared to go on his back after I saw his behaving on the ground. I was surprised once I saw him walking, running and canter.I told Abdullah I would ride on Mehemmak My weight was still light. This horse needed a chance but I asked to feed him very well before the tour. The other horse Theeb was looking good. A strong white horse with a special glance in his eyes. Both were stallions.
Guiding on a strange horse
With Abdullah I made all arrangements and preparations of the tour as usual. The guest came, I met him with the driver at the airport in Aqaba. Immediately we went to Humeima where the horses and Abdullah would arrive soon. The two Bedouin on horseback stayed the whole tour with us. We slept next to the archaeoligic site of Humeima, the horses close to us. The next morning we would start the horse riding tour. My first time on Mehemmak, I was nervous being the guide on a horse I never ride before. But I had done this many times earlier after my horse Samiha was not there anymore.
Once I stepped on Mehemmak and made myself comfortable on his back, talking nice words to him while taking the reins in my hand after a long pause not riding any horse I felt as a small kid knowing I can ride my bike. Mehemmak gave me immediately his trust while I gave mine. We were a team from the very first second although he didn’t want anybody on his back and made it very difficult to mount him. I guess the one who abused him never ride on him. Once on his back he showed me his kind character. Taking care of me, of the other horse and his rider, watching the car, knowing where to go although he didn’t know the program. I was in love with him. He was a good guide in the desert. From the age of maybe four years when I first stepped on a horse I never had ride such a skinny but such an amaible horse that still didn’t want anybody around him on the ground. With the first stop for tea, the pick-up was hided behind a rock but Mehammak knew exactly where to find them I tried to dismount and slipped over him on the right side. There was nothing to hold on. Upside down I reached the ground. Afraid that he would do something to me. But he was just staring at me, the ice between us was broken. He would never harm me. In the contrary he protected me by bringing his nose to me to tell me it was alright to be with him. We found each other at that moment. A recognizing of woman and horse who both know what it means to have been abused.
Next time an introduction of the desert (Bedouin) horses, Abdullah my colleague, started to collect.
About 65 horses are brought together. Not just normal horses, racing horses for the Endurance. They come from everywhere. Pure Arab breed, Bedouin horses, horses of the stables of princess Alia, some horses from France, Austria, the Emirates, Bahrain.
Distances of the Endurance
All distances are available, 40, 82 and 129 kilometer. I’m invited to follow Bader, stallion, a purebred Arabian. He is 5,5 year now and just starting Endurance. It is his first time to ride in the desert. He is very curious, adventurous and happy in the sands. However, Majd, Bader’s rider has already ridden our horses in the desert before, and he was very curious how Bader would behave in the desert.
Bader starts the 82 kilometer. He ran the 40 kilometeres twice before, he was in the prices, one time second and one time first. Now he needs about one year to qualify himself for the international Enduraces of 129 kilometers.
Meeting Bader and Majd
Tuesday, before the race on Saturday I meet Majd Kh. who just came from Amman with his horse Bader. Majd has Bader and will also ride him in the upcoming race. I also meet his family for a cup of coffee in the camp. Majd rode on our Bedouin horses before, even my horse Barq, who I hardly trust with anybody else as he is a stallion and very passionate about riding in the desert. Especially with other horses around he wants to show himself as a real stallion, ruling the desert.
Majd has grown up around horses, he doesn’t even remember his first encounter with a horse with his father, maybe at the age of 3. Horses are part of his life. In Amman he is training and riding horses, he spends his free time in the stables surrounded by and riding horses.
First steps in the desert
Wednesday he makes his first tour on Bader through the desert. It is a hot summer day and they choose to start late when the temperatures are better. After the sunset they arrive at the camp with Bader, my first meeting with this awesome horse. I’m stunned to see such a beautiful and handsome boy. Let him sniff my hand before I approach him. But he wants to approach me as well and let me pet him and hold him close to me. I want to make some pictures. Once I take my phone out he is following me with his eyes to be sure his pose for the camera is the best one. We’re laughing because he acts like a model, who loves to be in the spotlights.
Preparations for the Endurance
Thursday I visit the stables built in the desert to see Bader and his competitors. I’m too early, Bader and Majd are still enjoying the desert, and I wait for them at the place of the farrier. The farrier checks Bader’s hoofs and shoes and everything seems well, Bader knows how to behave perfectly. As Majd’s cousin Rezeq already has left, Majd, Bader and me start walking to the stables deeper inside the desert. The temporary stables are built behind the starting point of the Race. At one point during our walk in the dark Majd is asking me to ride Bader to his stable because he wants to improve his condition by walking as he gets spoiled with big healthy meals at his cousin’s home in a village close by. I tell him that for me it is no problem to walk if he wants to ride Bader. No, he insist that I should ride Bader, he tells me he knows how I ride my horse Barq and trusts me on Bader, while he is curious how Bader will react with someone else on his back. I’m so excited to get on Bader. I feel his tension and excitement. But after a few steps he is quiet, at ease and walks with me on his back next to Majd. He knows his way to the stables after sunset. Before he gets there he announces himself with his voice, the others are answering and he gets more excited to run to them but he stays calm as long as I’m on his back, and I’m telling him he will be there in a minute. Majd takes him after I dismount and Bader starts to talk louder. He’s happy to be back with the others. He gets his food while we sit to watch him enjoy his food. Majd introduces me to other owners and their horses. I see many mares and stallions, some Arabian, some mixed. Some nervous some at rest, some approachable, some turning around in their stables. I see the owners, the same story. Some have grooms to take care of the horses, some do everything themselves to make sure their horse is in the best condition during the race in two days. Many horses are treated with henna, on the legs, the tail, the place of the saddle to protect them from evil eyes. Henna also has the name to be good for the skin. Bader is without henna, although he is so beautiful to see.
Behaviour with the horses
Majd is proud to ride a pure Arabian horse, he worked himself up between the horses in a natural way. Majd is very relaxed and easy going with horses. He sings and talks while he is busy during grooming or riding. He constantly checks if everything is okay with Bader’s skin, his legs, his tack. Even if someone else is helping him to saddle Bader he always has the last check, and will ask Bader if everything is fine with him. And Bader is happy he is so involved with everything around him. He’s a man’s best friend!
Questions about horsemanship
I ask Majd why he choose for Endurance rather than another discipline in horse riding. “In Jordan only Endurance is on a level to reach something in equine sports. Dressage and jumping are still at a very low level compared to other countries”. “Even horse gear is not easily available compared to the large assortment abroad. But we make something of what we do have and are very inventive”.
Does your religion play a role in how you view horsemanship? “Our Prophet Mohammed taught us how to behave with horses and other animals. That a horse is a noble animal. Many horse owners even go a step further, they put a horse before family and will take care better of their horses than their family. We might starve but will never let our horses starve. This is even mentioned in poetry. Keeping this in mind you’ll see most Arab horse owners keep and treat horses differently as in the west. We want our horses to have a happy life, we feel what a horse needs, we treat our horses in a gentle way and work as a team, they’re part of our family”.
Unfortunately I have seen some different things happening to horses, when I visit the stables on Friday and also earlier with other horses in Petra and the deep scars on our rescue horse, I will never forget. “There are people having horses but unaware about how to treat them well. If one cannot take care of himself properly, how can he treat a horse well, and understand what a horse needs?”. Majd looks angry when he tells me this while his eyes turn to Bader and getting the softness as when you talk to a baby, within his eyes again. He pets Bader on his neck and manes. I see pure love for his horse.
The day before
The day before the Endurance Majd and his cousin left because something was broken in the car, that needed to be fixed. I asked if it was okay to visit Bader, the answer was yes. Majd seemed happy that I went to Bader so he would not be alone. The atmosphere was a bit different when I visited alone. It was no problem to walk in as everyone knew me already, they even brought me a chair to sit with Bader. The next day is the day of the race. The horses have had their check up with the veterinarian. Bader was approved to start the race, didn’t need any extra care. But some horses needed infusions with vitamins and salt solution. I learned that this is all done by the owners and grooms. But when one mare, in my eyes a bit nervous as her eyes looked frightened, but standing still while they tried to bring in the needle, was kicked in her stomach, I was disappointed and got angry. Was this a trick of a competitor or was it just to make the mare scared of him to let him put in the needle? It left me confused. It’s not my way of treating horses. Even if a horse is not cooperative during treatment there are many tricks to get done what is necessary.
Finally: the great day of the Endurance
It’s 4 am. when my alarm rings. I have arranged that someone will bring me to the race early, which starts at 6 am. Before the horses and riders are ready. It was still dark when I arrived. Majd and Bader where happy to see me. Rezeq was busy to make coffee on a wood fire and arranged the paperwork, someone else saddled Bader while Majd made himself ready. I stayed with Bader, helping with the saddle. Bader was excited but relaxed, trying to find something to chew on after his breakfast. Majd was laughing, the big day arrived, he could ride the first 82 kilometer with Bader. He told me this was just a test how Bader and him would do, he would like to win but it was not the goal. Just to see if they both would be in a good condition to continue to the international Endurance races.
Win or lose?
Everything in the endurance is going on a personal time, no racing against each other. The course for the 82 kilometer is divided in three parts. 31, 31 and 20 kilometer in different tracks, visible for the riders with different colors of flags along the trail. Between and after there is a check by the vet who looks at the condition of the horse. As a rider it is important to keep your horse good at all time during the race. If you start too fast the horse will be exhausted by the time you finish the first trail. In endurance it’s not only to end as the first, if the vet doesn’t see the horse well after ending the race he will disqualify the horse and the rider is going home with nothing.
It’s time, Majd can start, after a last check and cleaning of Bader’s hooves. I jump in the car with Rezeq and others to follow Bader. Majed starts quietly with trot and walking. He is singing and smiling on Bader’s back. We join in with his songs from the car. He even takes time to pose for pictures, letting others pass him. He is told where the princess is riding as we pass her and her following persons and cars but Majd continues in his own rhythm. The sand is soft which makes it hard for the horses to move fast. It’s cloudy, the sun doesn’t break through the clouds yet but it’s light enough. The day before, a sandstorm came up in the aftenoon but this morning the weather is quiet with hardly any winds. Majd is not in a hurry. When we arrive at the first water stop Bader doesn’t need to be refreshed, Bader even doesn’t drink as this part was not more than just a warming up. The next part Majd is mixing between trot, walking and some canter but not too much. He tells me he wants to build up the Endurance race to have good marks from the vet. Before we know it, the next water stop is already visible, and we already passed a checkpoint to write the number 150 of Bader and Majd in the papers. This time Bader is dunk with water to cool down. The sun is playing shine and hide behind the clouds. Meanwhile the sand is getting better to canter on and Majd starts to ask more from Bader, to be back in time for the first check up with the vet. In total there are four points with water. Bader starts to drink and enjoys the water showering him. Back at the starting point Bader is doing very well, the vet let him pass to the next trail of 31 kilometer. Half an hour rest, Bader eats some barseem, hay and we avoid letting him eat barley as this leaves him too full for the next part.
Second trail of 31 kilometers
Time to start again, a new trail to the east. The sand is heavy but wherever possible Majd is cantering. We meet many other riders but everyone has his own rhythm. Majd knows to ride in the desert and we see him many times going next to the “road” with the flags to see the terrain in better shape, still making the same kilometers as on the appointed road. 2 waterstops are close to eachother. Now the sun is shining all the time and it is necessary to hose Bader with water all the time when possible. We fill bottles before he arrives to make the pit stop quick. The third part is a long distance before meeting another water point. We see by the speedometer of the car that this 31 kilometer are in fact more in distance, it turned out to be 35. Majd starts to be a bit tired as the sand is since long very soft, he has to work hard on Bader to let him go in canter as the time is ticking away fast to be back in time at the start point. Even for us the distance is far before we reach the next water stop. Bader gets more showers as he needs to cool down. Between this water point and the next we see Majd only canter, he worries about the time. The last water stop goes quick again and immediately he canters on.
The wind starts to blow and the sand begins to move in dust clouds which makes the last part hard. There are more horses and all of them go fast to the starting point to get to the check up with the vet. Everything is fine with Bader following the vet check and they can rest and prepare for the last part. As Majd didn’t have his breakfast yet and time tells it is 11.30 am. already, I offer him some biscuits which he accepts. It seems he only thinks about Bader and forgets himself.
Sandstorm! How to finish the last 20 kilometer?
The wind is increasing, if we look at the desert, it is a hazy landscape, actually not much to see except the sand moving fast, blown up in the wind. We’re in the middle of a sand storm which doesn’t look good for the last 20 kilometers to start. But time is ticking, we saddle Bader for the last time, he is still relaxed, eating his hay and some barley, happy to be the center of many who care for him. This time I stay at the starting point as the car is full with others. I wave to them and see Majd and Bader moving into the mist of sands. Fingers crossed that he can finish the last part. The weather is not on our side, if you could choose you would not go out in a sandstorm. At the starting point the tents are blown in the air, the fabric tearing. None seems to care as life go’s on. Some horses arrive, some depart for their next trail. People covered with up scarfs leaving only the eyes uncovered are stepping on their horses to depart. The horses are still doing what they like, eating what they can find in the many baskets filled with hay and barley.
Abdullah arrived to take me back home, we make a round at the start point, seeing more horses. He knows some people when we arrive at the point where princess Alia has her horses. It’s a place with much activity, the sandstorm is still covering everything in clouds while everyone is just doing what he needs to do as if there was no sandstorm. All the time my eyes look to the place where Bader and Majd will arrive. We wait, it seems those 20 kilometers were harder than the two times 31 kilometer.
But there are Majd and Bader, we see them climbing out of the thick sand dust, 150 meter in front of us. First to the water to cool down, check Bader’s heart rate and continue to the vet. Coming back from the check-up I see the smile on Majd’s face, an A, the best score the vet can give. Bader is in a perfect condition, that is the best news of the day. We’re preparing to leave after I give Majd a present for Bader, because however he will finish (we don’t know yet as not everyone arrived) he enjoyed and did what everyone expected him to do while he is happy to eat his hay again. For me I wanted to express my enjoyment and to pay tribute of thanks to Majd, Rezeq and Bader was able to experience the Endurance from inside. Now Abdullah tells me that he likes to bring out Barq, the horse I always ride, to the Endurance to see his other skills beside riding with me and our guests through the desert. A nice perspective to work on.
Later, when the endurance is finished and we exchange pictures and videos I hear Bader finished 4th. Just one step beside the podium. But if anyone is surprised by a real sandstorm and still can finish in time, in my opinion all of them are winners. To be continued with the next race. Bader is now qualified to ride the next 82 kilometer race! And then, he can get ready for an international Endurance race of 129 kilometer.
Without horse, she didn’t survive, with a truck with my personal stuff I managed to come in Quwayra, a non touristic village on the Desert Highway, north of Aqaba.
Emotional broken, psychologically a wreck, physically very fragile, weighing not even 50 kilos with a length of 1.80 meter. But so happy I managed. Although with the help of the Embassy of the Netherlands who understood the importance and danger I was in, in Petra.
The welcome was so warm in Ahmad’s home. They took me by my hand to the grandparents who life on the same courtyard. Immediately the grandmother took my hand and ordered me to sit next to her. She kept my hand repeating habibti, habibti, habibti. Meaning my love. The grandfather was looking at us with tears in his eyes. Without telling anything they knew what had happened. I was full of stress since long. I used my last strength to take all my stuff and to leave everything behind to not look back anytime again. Anxious about life, people, but I was safe. I came into a strong Bedouin family, they would protect me. Their first warning was not to leave the courtyard. In Jordan the law is different. A husband can come to take his runaway wife to take her home again. I didn’t matter, I was in a safe place, the courtyard was big. They had a small room for me and I put most of my stuff inside to make it comfortable. It was the second of January, winter in Jordan. All asked me to dress up for winter but I came from such a cold area without love that I only felt the warmth of a loving family The house was full with kids, all of them came in a different way to me to show their love. They didn’t want me to do anything, but I insisted to help in the kitchen and in the home, as I could not concetrate to do anything extra on the laptop.
My salvation was a young puppy, a Saluki, Warda. I started to pet her and to take care for her. She came just a few days before me, too young. We became friends, a dog is the best friend if you have to recover. With her I went to the courtyard in the evening when the kids were sleeping and the place was empty. Except the goats who were in their own space. With their funny heads and penetrating eyes. Before I left to Petra it was on this courtyard that I showed my horse to the family. The grandmother chose her name, Samiha. Back here I could mourn about her. I missed her, she would have loved it to be in this place again.
Horse riding in Wadi Rum
Soon I would be on a horse again. Someone would come for a horse riding tour of five days in March. Alone, as she had started to ride horseback in her fifties. This was a dream for her, a challenge to proof that she could do this. I accepted her to make a private tour. Ahmad and me went to Wadi Rum, to meet his friend Abdullah. The one who is always organizing our tours in the desert. He would take care to rent horses from Petra as he didn’t have horses yet. Only the knowledge that the horses would come from Petra with someone to groom them gave me the creeps. But I had to go through those encounters to become strong again. I was looking forward to ride on a horse again.
Excited to meet the horses
Our guest arrived, I had invited someone else to join us who was already in Jordan. Who loves horses and horse riding as she told me and as I could see on her pictures. We went to take the horses after their arrival from the truck. Ahmad and Abdullah were there to help. From the road we went to the camp, where we would stay another day. The three of us on a horse. The horse of the one I had invited, let’s call her Claire was so excited to see the sand that he wanted to roll. Claire could step off easily. Ahmad wispered in my ears that she could not ride so well as she had explained to me. I kept this saying with me with hesitation to accept. We would see. I gave more instructions to form a group and how to deal with those horses who were also new for me. They guy from Petra gave me the big stallion as a leader. He was kind and nice to ride on. Did everything wht I asked him. My focus was on the guest, how she would go as she was excited and a bit anxious in the same time. We gave her the mare.
After lunch we went for a longer tour to get known to the horses well. In advance I told them to stay in line behind me. First the next stallion, the mare in the back. I made sure the riders heard and understood this order. Claire didn’t follow up and I saw her coming to ride next to me. Always I look at the whole combination, how is the horse dealing with the rider and vice versa. But this time something strange happened. I saw the eyes of Claire. She was not Claire at that moment. Her eyes were in a kind of trance, as if she was hypnotized or wanted to hypnotize me. A pale shine came from her eyes as you see in cartoons, it took me just a second to understand what she was doing. You don’t expect those things in real time. Immediately I feld the horses were not at ease anymore. I turned my horse back from her, he still accepted my orders but was not relaxed. The mare with the guest, although a bit further made a jump. The guest fell off and lay on the ground. Her horse gone. I jumped off my horse to run to her with his reigns in my hand. I was able to take the mare who didn’t know where to go by her reigns. Shouting to Claire to move from us. But instead she came closer, very well knowing what she was doing as still her eyes were so strange. I will never forget those eyes. Her horse was again next to me. He wanted to kick my horse, instead the mare wanted to bite him but by accident she bite in my arm. I left the horses free, knowing they were too excited now. Before I did I shouted to Claire to come down. But she didn’t. Safety of the guests is first in every tour. I had to choose between two worse scenarios and I let the horses free knowing that Claire didn’t step off. But I had to see the guest who was still lying on the ground. Noticing the other horses, the horse of Claire also wanted to join them. Only at that moment she jumped from her horse. She was prepared to fall and it seemed she went well. The horses went immidiately, running and jumping to discharge their energy far away.
My guest seemed very shocked. After I asked her how she was I asked her to move her limbs one by one. It seemed good. She could move. The following car came by with the three men. They wanted to take her to the hospital. But she said she was fine. Then I dared to ask if she wanted to ride on a horse again. A possitive answer. But she needed time. I gave her a massage of her back before she stood up. Meanwhile an eye on Claire who still was on the ground. She had asked the man to bring her bag from the car. Inside she had a first aid kit with needles for accupuncture. She was studying to become an accupuncturist. As she knew I know the points as well she asked me to put the needles. But I refused as I was too confused what was happening with her. Beside something inside me gave me instruction not to do this. She put the needles herself, we were just looking at her because she didn’t answer our questions. Only then I took off my pullover to have a look at my wound. When the Bedouin Ahmad and Abdullah saw this they couldn’t believe. Abdullah tol me I’m a real Bedouin. Wounded in the fight and first take care of the others. It was a big wound, the teeth prints of the horses very clear vissible and bleeding. We cleaned it as we always have a first aid kit as well for people as well for horses with us. They dressed my wound and brought us back to the camp.
The men found back the horses and brought them back. The 2 women didn’t want to ride this day. I asked Claire to just sit on a horse after her jumping of as she didn’t tell us she wanted to continue or not. She did, although a bit scared but at least she was on a horseback that we kept by hand. I decided that the man from Petra and me would take the two stallions to canter with them through the desert to loose some energy. In my eyes they were perfect to ride but just in case to have them calm for the next day. It was a perfect ride. The horses and us were enjoying the moment. Every step they made was a good one. They didn’t think about what happened before.
End good, all good
My guest and me started the next morning together with the horse boy as Claire din’t want to ride. Abdullah whispered in my ear that she didn’t have anything but just was not able to ride as well as she had spoken before. I insist her to stay with us to enjoy the rest of the tour in the car with her dog she took on the trip. Also because I wanted to see how she went. She didn’t want to visit a doctor. Later after the trip she told us that her ribs were broken, that she went some time after the trip to the hospital for X-ray. We’re having our hesitations about this story as she stayed three more days with us, knowing that we may not judge anyone. Having safety always on the first place as well for the people as well for the horses.
The guest enjoyed the tour much, her dream came through to ride a tour in the desert. She rode the quiet stallion while I took the mare as we had a special connection while the man took the stallion he wanted me to ride on. The last afternoon of the tour, after lunch, she went on her horse again. But after five minutes she told me she wanted to ride in the car. My eyes were frowning, why? She did so well and she realy liked the tour. She told me she was so convinced she made it. But she was a little scared that something would happen in the last part of the tour. She made up her mind that she was complete satisfied with what she had done. I was so proud of her to know herself so well. If a horse feels you’re a bit scared he will act likewise. She went in the car, saw ather nice parts of the desert where the Bedouin took her to enjoy her last part of the desert scenery. While we, the man from Petra, the three horses and me could go fully cantering, trotting and walking the last part to where the truck was waiting to bring the horses home.
Suddenly the word pets gets a very different meaning.
Imagine: you build a house but do not have any plans and money to finish it. The skeleton of the house is there. Built on top of the family’s house. Wadi Musa is a mountain village so most of the houses are built against the mountain.
Meanwhile, we live in a rented house in the valley of the village. Our landlord wants to put us out because he can receive more rent from people who have dropped their eye on our house.
But the house above the family is not finished yet and is now being used by PET animals.
Imagine a home full of small and big pets
The moment I came to live in Wadi Musa, I brought my horse and dog. My horse was placed in a stable together with the brother’s horse. But… the neighbors complained about horse’s smelling too much. Actually strange in a place with about 700-1000 horses living mostly with the people. The neighbor has to get rid of the stench. One night he led the horses outside and set the barn on fire…
Horses in the kitchen
It is too cold in the winter to leave the horses outside so a solution had to be found quickly. The house was empty, and only consists of concrete walls. The window at the front was cut down and the horses Samiha and Luca could enter.
They now have a beautiful stable … in the kitchen of the house.
Half of the time I am with the family, so the dog, a Saluki named Warda lives with them. But … a dog is unclean in Islamic countries, it can not be housed inside. There is a nice place for her in the stockroom. The straw for the horses is stored there and it is a lovely big bed for her.
If you have horses, you need a lot of food: hay, barley, corn. That is now stored in the unfinished house: in the salon where the guests will be received.
The family wanted chickens at the house for the eggs and the conviviality. During the day they scrabble around the house, pick up a cereal grain here and there or at the sink for a drop of water and of course around the horses where enough “waste” will be around. In the evening they sleep in the guest room, the salon.
The family’s house is heated with a wood stove. Once every couple of weeks the father goes to get wood and which is then stored in the bathroom and in the toilet of the “empty” house.
Because all the stuff from the camp in the desert does not fit into the rented house, the dining room and the women’s salon are used as storage. They are now full of beds, mattresses and other items.
There was at once a nice herd of goats … I had the hope that they would scurry around the house but the fence is not ready yet.
The last acquisition is therefore 9 goats, 5 adults and 4 small ones. And they inhabit the bedroom.
The house is full. I asked when the pigeons come to live on the roof, but perhaps I have brought the family to new ideas?
Now the plan is to finish the house further, but what to do with all the pets?
I still have a big Bedouin tent. We make plans to put these on the roof of the house. Then we can live there … if we are actually have to move out of our rented house …
It is a true story from 2011. In the end the house has been completed and we have lived there. It was a nice house but there were so many terrible things that made it no longer felt like home. My horse had passed away, see this blog. I was so happy when I could flee this house even though it meant that I was literally on the street with all my stuff.
Read next time where I ended up, albeit without a horse but with goats, camels, and finally with horses again.
In Petra one should be happy, a beautiful envirement, the site Petra within reach, mountains around. A nice home. But Samiha and me were not happy. Samiha had to work in Petra as I was not able to ride her regularly. Because many times I could not leave the home, I was not allowed to go by myself. Where I would find someone for a horseback ride with me? The brothers took her to Petra to let strangers ride on her from the visitor’s center to the Siq and back. When I was able to visit her she was not the same as before. Her head down. Staring at me with pathetic eyes.
One day the brothers told me she was not in her stable when they wanted to take her to work. I was in panic, my lovely horse gone. Many had an eye on her because she was so beautiful. But I didn’t want to let her go even when her situation was not how I wanted. Together we came, together we would be strong. I was in hope for better times. We would move to another home and then she would be nearby, next to the home. But now she had left. Her door had a lock that she could not open by herself… How many scenerario’s went through my head, but all the time I came back to the fact that someone had taken her. Instead of everyone searching to her in the valley where some water was and also grass, nobody was looking at her. I didn’t know yet that things go different in Jordan. The brothers did some research, asking the horse guys if someone had seen her. After two days and two sleepless nights they told me she was found. Someone had seen her in the valley and brought her in his barn. So she came back, again different then how I knew her.
We moved up the mountain, she got a nice place in a half open stable, next to the home. Together with the horse of the brother. But it was not for long. The neighbours started to complain that the horses smelled and were too close to the home. But there was no other place at that moment to bring her.
One day I heard from my husband that Samiha was free again. The neighbour had made a fire in her stable but fortunately before he did, he moved the horses out. No stable anymore. We found her nearby, they put an iron chain on her foot. I didn’t agree with this but I had to shut my mouth. I was with her every day. After the summer she lost the foal there. This story is written in a previous blog. Also my life was not good. My husband had a story that someone put the black eye on him because they didn’t agree about our marriage or they were jealous. It affected daily life. The doors in our home went open or closed by themselves, many things got broken or started their own life, I found things on other places, a blanket cut with the sharpest knife in the home… Lamps turning on and of, a haunted home. And my husband was not okay. In those days the physical abuse started and many strange ideas started to form in his mind. But we would move again. This time to the home next to his parents. When I came to Petra I knew already that we would live in this home but it was not finished yet. And of course I hoped everything would be fine then.
The second winter came. In the mountains it is very cold and Samiha was living almost on top of the mountain in the cold wind. In winter it can snow in Petra. She has a warm blanket but the nights are shiffering cold. We moved the horses in the empty, not finished home to be protected from the cold weather. She liked it, and she was closeby. Everyday I brought her treats, she seemed happier. But I had to ask many times to clean the stable as the horses stood in a dirty area. It was not done to do this myself as a woman… At least it was the best place till that moment.
When we started to build the home to live there the horses had to move out. They went to the valley again, far away from the home. I didn’t get permission to see her. Once in a while she came back for a shower. She became ill. I wanted the vet to see her. He couldn’t find anything but made the suggestion that maybe she drank contaminated water from the valley. I could not check if she had clean water every day because it was not available at her stable. I felt sick because of her and was not able to do anything. Everytime again and again I asked how she was, if she got enough food and water and all the time they told me she was fine. Till she became sick. The veterinarian gave her anti-biotics, vitamins and she needed infusions, about ten! bottles. The vet had no time, he did the first and asked who could do the rest. He looked up very strange when I told him to do this. The father of my husband said to the vet that it was okay for me to do this work. The horse was next to the home and one after another I changed the infusions. Samiha knew it was good, she accepted me to do this. All the time I sat next to her, talking nice things. But she knew…
After the treatment she became a little better but not the same horse I brought two years ago. She worked a little but became ill again and again. Still I had the thoughts and hope we would find a better place for her, that I could see her again every day and take care of her, wishfull thinking. I have to admit that my husband never became the same as how he was when I met him. But I was still hoping for a better life. I believed his nice words that he would work on our future and that he would change when everything went better. One day he came with the message he would bring me to Samiha because she was dying. Only then??? I was so angry that he didn’t tell me earlier, everything went well all the time when I asked and then at once she was dying? The volunteer at that moment with me visited her a few days ago and although not 100%, she took pictures, Samiha was looking quit well. I took an apple with me. I was sad, but I didn’t want to cry to be strong for her. The volunteer was with me. When we came to her stable, Samiha was laying down. I gave her the apple.
Warning from my horse
Always she was taking every treat very carefully, but this time she grabbed it from my hand, biting me and…she destroyed my wedding ring… It was her message to me. She could not stand up. She was laying in the water. I managed her with united forces to stand up, but she could not walk. Three steps would save her life, I thought. She did it, but collapsed immediately again. I called my husband to help us but only two small boys came. There was an empty dry stable if she could come there. But nobody would help. Everything what I found in the area I put on her, blankets, carpets to stay warm. The next day the vet would come. I could not sleep, wanted to go to her very early in the morning, but it was not allowed. I was cooking inside. Angry, sad, I had to go to my horse. But in the same time I was so scared. The abuse went worse, he could have killed me if I would go. Later I heard she died that day, before the vet came. I had enough from all the lies told to me. I had enough of being in Wadi Musa, it was not my place. I have cried for days, it was my fault, I thought. I understood the message from Samiha very well. I packed my stuff to leave this place. The abuse was not only physical I knew, mentally, emotionally I was brainwashed. I was very scared and it blocked me to think clear.
After everything was packed my husband came to me, he was very sad, he loved me, he could not live without me, he would improve his life, he would give me more permissions. I believed him and unpacked. And packed again. And unpacked another time. The third time I packed I was sure I would not listen to him anymore. But it was not a question of just going. I was in Jordan. My husband could stop me, even if I was already on the road. He could even find me and bring me back. In that time he checked everything, took one of my telephones, didn’t put any credit on the other one because he didn’t want me to be in the connection with others. Many times he forbid me to open my laptop, to work… He checked everything on the laptop… But in the end, with the help of the Dutch embassy with who I connected on a secret email account, I could make my escape. I was afraid if I wouldn’t go now it would cost my life too like Samiha.
Our guest Julia (from Russia, living in Turkey at that time and horse lover) brought up her wishes once she would come to Jordan. First she wanted to ride a horse around Petra. Second and since very long time on her bucket list, a visit to the Royal Stables. Third, sleeping in the Wadi Rum.
We put everything together in an itinerary for her and a friend who would join.
The Royal stables were the last on the list early morning before their flight back from Amman.
The stables are situated in a beautiful suburb of Amman. Once there we could visit all the horses freely and got a demonstration of the white stallion. We were so delighted to see all those beautiful horses.
I was hypnosed by the blue eyes of some of the horses. Never seen this before. Everything in the stables was an example of how you can stable those beautiful noble creatures. Very clean and neat.
The demonstration of some stallions in the paddock was breathtaking.
HRH Princess Alia is the director of the Royal Stud and wrote the book Royal Heritage.
HRH Princess Alia is the eldest daughter of the late King Hussein and Sharifa Dina, his first wife. Sister to the King of Jordan, Abdullah II bin al-Hussein. She wrote a book with Peter Upton: ” Royal Heritage“, the story of Jordan’s Arab horses, from the early days of the bedouin tribes to the 21st century, a story closely associated with the Hashemite family of Jordan, direct descendants of the Prophet.
In 1987 Princess Alia, organised the first Arab horse show to be held in Arabia entitled ‘ The Arab Horse at Home’. It was an event which inspired other Arab countries to organise horse shows of their own.
The story of the Princess Alia Foundation.
Small Miracles is co-authored by HRH Princess Alia, and Sharifa Sarra Ghazi, Small Miracles, the Story of the Princess Alia Foundation is the account of an extraordinary charitable endeavour. When it was established in 2009, the authors little knew how the Foundation would fundamentally change their lives, as well as the lives of countless others – animal and human.
Written with passion and humour and gloriously illustrated, this book should be compulsory reading in every part of the world, to reawaken the seeds of compassion that live in all mankind but all too often lie dormant through ignorance or social conditioning, to remind us that we share this planet and our destiny with all living things, and to promote the balance, harmony and respect of all creation.
In 2009 HRH Princess Alia founded the Princess Alia Foundation (PAF) to address issues relating to human and animal welfare and the environment. The Foundation follows a holistic approach and its message is ‘Compassion and Respect Towards All Creation’.
Patron of Brooke
She has worked with Brooke since 1988. Since then, Brooke has enabled significant improvements in the welfare of working horses in Petra Park. Princess Alia continues to play a vital role in supporting our work to ensure local veterinary care is available for horses and donkeys in Petra and good welfare is maintained.
As a young girl, Princess Alia cared for a Shetland pony, developing a bond with animals that has since blossomed into a strong passion for interacting with animals and all nature in a humane and mutually respectful manner. This is strongly reflected in her attitude towards another major aspect of her work, equestrianism. She is the founder of the Princess Alia Foundation, an organisation established to promote the balance, harmony and respect of all creation. Princess Alia is a vocal and pioneering advocate of animal welfare causes.
As director of the Royal Stables of Jordan for the Preservation of the Arabian Horse, Princess Alia initiated the annual festival of the ‘Arabian Horse at Home’ and organised the Middle East Championships for Purebred Horses. She has been President of the Royal Jordanian Equestrian Federation since 1993.
I attended my first WAHO Conference in Calgary in 1982. My involvement with equestrian activities increased when I became President of the Royal Jordanian Equestrian Federation, a position which I still occupy. The purebred Arabian is involved in showing and endurance riding as well as show jumping in Jordan, and the Federation organizes several of these events including the international Middle East Championships Show, and the Wadi Rum Endurance Ride in some of the most spectacular scenery in Jordan, which are respectively an ECAHO title show and an FEI international 120 Km ride.
Petra is not only famous for its archaeological site. Once it was the capital of the Nabatean empire. Later an important city for the Romans. The caves have been used by the Bedouin. Now Petra is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. A tourist attraction but also famous for the horses living there and working with the tourists.
In Wadi Musa, a city close to Petra I had a meeting with someone for travelling. But it seemed fate had something else in mind. It is October 2010. After researching and checking the road for horse riding for 25 people from Wadi Rum to Petra through the mountains we, Abdullah, abu Ayman, my son and I, arrived in Wadi Musa. I would stay there in a hotel for the meeting next morning while the others went back. I was tired, dusty and hungry, went to the restaurant next door and ordered a coffee and a sandwich. Meanwhile thinking about drawing the horse eye with pastel chalk of Samiha later in my hotel room.
Someone was sitting behind me, after I finished my meal he started to talk with me. About horses and many other things. I liked his smile and his empathy for what I had been through and his concern. Next day we saw each other again at the travel meeting.
Moving from the desert village to Petra
In December I moved to Petra (Wadi Musa) to stay with him. My horse Samiha went first, 2 days later we followed with all the household, volunteers and 3 dogs. The dogs were the first problem, the home had a small garden but the dogs could escape through the gate. We kept them on the leach. Next morning two of them needed to go to Samiha, who was a bit down the hill in a sort of stable they build already before. Not specially for her, Petra has many horses working on the site. One dog escaped the very first night by biting his leach, the other one stayed. And I kept the Saluki in the home.
Horses in Petra
From the visitor center to the entrance of the Siq, visitor’s can ride on a horse, guided by the owners, most of the time young guys. Actually the price of this horseback riding tour of a few minutes is inside the entrance ticket of Petra. The families who own the horses have a number to get a monthly fee from the entrance tickets, which will go to the family as a small salary. Goal of the boys (son’s of the family) is to get a tip from the riders to have their own income. Too little a tip is hardly accepted, they’ll go for the first prize and are only satisfied with a lot of money, they will ask for it. Other goal is to offer the riders a tour in the area or to the high place of sacrifice, in my opinion many times for prices too high. But once in a while they manage to trap the tourists . I allow everyone a fair income but it is not allowed to swindle the tourists. When I came to Petra I didn’t know about this yet, but when time passed I heard much that I cannot identify with.
The Brooke hospital
Brooke hospital was situated behind the visitor’s centre. All the horses in Petra, riding in front of the carriages were checked every day. Other horses could have a check-up when needed. The boys were taught about the necessary amount and type of food every day, how to take care for the hooves by doing farrier work, how to ride the horse well and how to stop abuse. In the following years the horses improved much. The horses were looking better, even the boys took better care of the saddle’s and reins, having beautiful decoration or had a friend abroad sending new horse equipment from their country. The Brooke also took care for the donkeys. Medicines were free as well as the veterinarian fees. The horses and donkeys were flowering under in the hands of The Brooke.
After The Brooke
Everything collapsed. The condition of the horses and donkeys took off although there were more private veterinarians in and around Petra, Wadi Musa and Um Sayhoun. Now they had to pay for a consult and the medicines, very different to when everything is free. For most of the people who could afford it, the money was not invested in good care of the horses and donkeys. They were just using their noble animals to work. Rather they needed the money for their own sake, to buy material stuff.
Now: Four Paws
Fortunately now Four Paws is looking after the horses and donkeys. We can see the horses and donkeys are already doing better. You can read the full article about the aid project to improve the health of donkeys and horses in Petra here.
First I was happy to move to Petra, of all places this was the place to be. The ancient old city that the Nabateans cut out of the rocks. The story of Moses and Aaron, (the tomb of Aaron can be found on mountain Haroun), how Moses hit the rock and seven springs arose in the area, still possible to visit the one in Wadi Musa. I lived close to the site of Petra in Wadi Musa (spring of Moses). First in the village, later up the hill. Also Samiha moved up the hill and lived with other horses close to our home. I could visit her every day and make rides through the mountains of Petra. There were beautiful views but the path was a goat road you had to stay on, because the mountains were steep. Samiha loved to galop although risky on the winding paths. Hardly ever we met someone else except some shepherds of flocks with goat and sheep and some dogs, barking to protect their herd.
Samiha got pregnant from the horse of the brother of my husband. It was already done before I knew. Confronted with this fact I was happy for her. She changed a bit. Busier with herself and less patient. But still comfortable to ride. She loved it to go out in the mountains.
One morning the little brother came to me and told me Samiha lost her baby, because another horse was free and kicked her in her belly. I went to see her. We climbed down the hill where the dead premature foal was. A brown one, so beautiful, complete but dead. She only had to go one more month being pregnant. It was her first foal. What a loss, I was in pain for my dear horse Samiha. I couldn’t believe this. I took care of my lovely horse, she never became the same after this loss. Meanwhile it seemed it was the beginning of the end. Everything I tried to accomplish seemed to fail. With Samiha it went the same. But I was married now and had the commitment to make something out of my marriage.
Next time about my visit to the Royal stables of princess Alia in Amman.
25 Paarden zijn er nodig. We hebben er zelf één, Samiha. Zij gaat natuurlijk mee.
Het begint al goed, Samiha wil niet in de trailer om haar van het dorpje Quwayra waar we wonen naar Wadi Rum te vervoeren. Ondertussen ben ik overal en nergens om veel te regelen. Het huis staat op z’n kop. Gelukkig is mijn zoon er met vrijwilligers om alles wat op het lijstje staat klaar te zetten buiten op de veranda. We hebben al veel hele grote boodschappen gedaan. Voer voor de paarden en een grote stapel benodigdheden om het comfortabel te maken voor de mensen. De rest hebben we in huis. Alle matrassen, kussens, dekens, keukenbenodigdheden staan klaar. In het dorpje Disa wordt de rest aangevuld, daar wordt al het eten gekocht voor de mensen en de rest opgetrommeld.
Maar nu is het Samiha die niet meewerkt, ze moet toch echt naar Wadi Rum. Tussendoor kom ik natuurlijk even langs om ook een poging te wagen. Ze voelt onze stress, ons hoofd is vol met alle regel dingen. Over naar plan B. Mijn zoon rijd haar tegen de avond naar Wadi Rum. Een rit van 35 km. Ahmad gaat mee met de auto om ze in het donker te begeleiden. Ik wordt opgehaald om naar Amman te gaan om de mensen daar op te halen van het vliegveld vroeg in de ochtend, ze hebben daar in het hotel geslapen. Er is een touringcar besteld. Bevestigd en betaald om van de luchthaven naar Wadi Rum te rijden waar de mensen uit Engeland direct op de paarden zullen stappen. Het loopt weer eens anders. Geen bus op de afgesproken tijd! Ik ga bellen en de bus blijkt in de garage te staan met mankementen. Het schijnt dat in heel Jordanië geen bus meer is te krijgen, het is hoogseizoen, oktober 2010. Uiteindelijk komt er na uren een bus uit Saudi Arabië. Niet goed voor het gemoed en vertrouwen van de mensen. Onderweg maar een snelle snack voor lunch want iedereen wil zo snel mogelijk naar de bestemming en paardrijden, maar heeft trek.
Inmiddels zijn vandaag ook de andere paarden in Wadi Rum gearriveerd. Een dag later dan in eerste instantie afgesproken en dat krijg je dan op de dag te horen dat ze verwacht worden. Loslaten… Ik zit nu in Amman waar het ook niet vanzelf lijkt te gaan en er zijn genoeg capabele mensen om de prachtige dieren naast Samiha te zetten. Ze is blij dat ze niet meer alleen is.
Eindelijk, een eind in de middag arriveren in Wadi Rum. De paarden staan opgezadeld en we kunnen een klein ritje maken om iedereen aan de paarden te laten wennen. Onze Bedoeïenententen om te slapen staan klaar in Kharaza bij de natuurlijke brug. Maar dat halen we niet meer voor donker, een rit van bijna 25 km. Dus blijven we een nachtje in het kamp slapen en improviseren. Er gaat een schaap aan het spit als welkom voor de mensen die met deze charity tour tegen kanker gaan paardrijden. Allemaal zeer ervaren, iedereen heeft eigen paarden. Naast de paardentoer is er een fietstoer en een wandeltoer met als doel om samen in Petra te eindigen.
Er zijn nog vier dagen over om in Petra aan te komen… De organisator is meegekomen uit Engeland. Zij bepaalde dat ik na dag twee geen gids te paard meer zou zijn maar me bezig zou houden met de leiding over het eten, vervoer enz.. De lunch waar voldoende aanwezig was zou niet voldoende zijn. Dat klopt want het brood werd nauwelijks aangeraakt en mensen aten de overmatige lunch als diner zonder brood, niet gewend aan de Arabische gewoonte om met het brood de goedgevulde salades, kaas en soepen te eten… Een hele stapel brood achterlatend…
De plaats waar de tenten klaarstaan om te slapen was niet goed omdat we kilometers hadden in te halen. Dus werd alles weer ingepakt, niet eenvoudig met de zware bedoeïenententen die geweven zijn van geitenhaar, er zijn zeker 6 man voor nodig om dit werk te klaren. En verderop weer opgebouwd… Er was een tractor met watertank mee om water te vervoeren voor de paarden en de mensen. Deze bleef onderweg vastzitten… Ik zat nu veel in de auto bij Ahmad om al het verloop van de reis te controleren, minder contact met de mensen te paard en meer met de leiding uit Engeland. De leiding vertrok overigens weer na twee dagen. Er was nog wel de reisleidster te paard, die nu het contact van mij met de paardenjongens en de mensen overnam omdat zij wel te paard zat…
De paarden waren fantastisch. Ik kende ze niet persoonlijk, maar had ze wel uitgezocht, ze waren in goede conditie en kwamen uit Petra. Al mijn extra paardenspullen, van zadels tot teugels tot een doos met reparatie onderdelen werden wel uitgeleend en onderweg moest er regelmatig eens wat gerepareerd of vervangen worden. Er was een dokter uit Engeland aanwezig die ook te paard zat en er reed een dierenarts uit Jordanië mee met zijn pick-up. Voor alles werd gezorgd. Mijn zoon was er met twee van onze vrijwilligers, zij hebben ontzettend veel werk verzet. Mensen onderhouden, drankjes inschenken, een toilet bouwen op iedere plaats waar we verbleven, alle spullen weer inladen om verder te trekken en meehelpen met het opbouwen van het kamp. Bedoeïenen zorgden voor de auto’s, het vervoer van alle spullen, het eten en de voorraad. Er werd iedere keer een speciale keukentent opgezet. Dag twee verliep goed, de twee koffers die niet gearriveerd waren met de gasten kwamen ook aan, ook een heel geregel want het is niet makkelijk om deze ergens in de woestijn te krijgen.
Inmiddels is iedereen meer gewend aan het ritme van de woestijn en aan de paarden. Door de paardenjongens is er voor wijn gezorgd waar de mensen blij mee zijn. We blijven nog een dag in de woestijn om in de buurt van de snelweg waar we overheen moeten te blijven slapen. Opnieuw werd er bevolen om een andere plek te nemen als welke wij hadden uitgezocht en in het reisprogramma stond, en waar alles al was opgebouwd… Op advies van de paardenjongens… Ik mocht niet anders dan me erbij neerleggen, bevel van hogerhand terwijl we vooraf alles heel duidelijk schriftelijk hadden vastgelegd met de reisleiding… Voor ons was het een rampscenario. Maar je doet alles om het de gasten en de leiding naar de zin te maken. Net voor de lunch zag ik dat de paardenjongens zich onder de tank uitgebreid met het water gingen douchen. Kalm blijven, liters water waren toch al weg…Toen wist ik bijna zeker dat er sabotage in het spel was. Want in de woestijn is het moeilijk water halen, redelijk ver van de dichtstbijzijnde openbare bron. In de woestijn ben je altijd heel zuinig met het water, zelfs de gasten douchen niet. Dus, was het water op tijdens de lunch en het duurt een paar uur voor de tractor met tank om nieuw water te halen. We, de Bedoeïenen, de vrijwilligers en ik moesten met lede ogen toekijken en voor oplossingen zorgen. Voor de gasten verliep de rest van de dag voorspoedig. Er was weer op tijd water om te mee te koken en voor iedereen om zich mee te wassen. De maaltijden verliepen nu goed, er was voor iedereen meer dan voldoende en het smaakte goed. Achter de schermen werd er keihard gewerkt…tegen de stroom in…
Op weg naar Petra. De tractor kon maar tot een bepaald punt mee omdat we nu door de bergen gingen. De paarden kregen nog uitgebreid water bij de lunch. Daarmee moesten ze toe tot de volgende ochtend als we bij een bron zouden aankomen om de paarden te drenken. Hoger in de bergen is het kouder en er stak bovendien een hele koude wind op. De tenten werden zo neergezet dat iedereen warm zou kunnen blijven met slapen. Voor ons, de Bedoeïenen, de vrijwilligers en ik was er geen plaats meer in de smallere tenten die nu aan alle zijden dicht kon. Gedurende de dag genoten de mensen te paard van het veranderende landschap. Ze liepen over geiten paden door de bergen. We passeerden een klein Bedoeïenendorpje waar ook een kleine bron was om de paarden nog wat te kunnen laten drinken. Ik vond het jammer dat ik niet op een paard zat om de groep te gidsen. Achter de schermen gebeurde er heel veel om het iedereen naar de zin te maken maar dat werd door de gasten en de reisleidster niet opgemerkt. Er was die avond muziek. Maar deze konden de weg niet vinden en werden door de paardenjongens bovendien het verkeerde pad opgeleid… Dus veel lagen al te slapen toen de zoete klanken van de oud eenmaal begonnen te spelen. We zaten met een klein groepje rond het kampvuur om ons te warmen. Ahmad leende mij zijn schapenwollen al weather slaapzak om toch wat slaap te krijgen, ik maakte een plekje naast de auto in de hoop dat die de koude wind zou opvangen en heb een beetje kunnen slapen. Hij zou opblijven want hij had geconstateerd dat er paardenjongens de gasten aan het benaderen waren…
De laatste dag. De paardenjongens zeiden dat het onmogelijk was om helemaal naar klein Petra te rijden waar de samenkomst met de andere groepen zou zijn. Er is een weg maar ze wilden deze niet nemen. De begeleidende auto’s konden dan ook niet mee, daar hadden we al rekening mee gehouden. Ik was geen gids te paard meer en moest me dus weer neerleggen bij hun beslissing, van de reisleidster. Eerst gaan we naar de bron, Bir Hammed waar het water is opgeslagen in een tank. Ondertussen worden er trucks geregeld om de paarden te vervoeren van Rajef naar klein Petra. Een half uurtje paardrijden door de bergen bij Petra, vóór het eindpunt. Wij konden daar niet rijden met de auto’s. Na de laatste overnachting vertrokken de meeste Bedoeïenen met alle spullen terug naar huis. Samiha was op dag 2 al naar huis gebracht omdat noch mijn zoon, noch ik haar meer ging rijden. Ahmad, de vrijwilligers en ik blijven bij de groep. Hoe we ons best deden en hoeveel er van ons gevraagd werd, we bleven vriendelijk en regelden alle extra’s om aan de wensen van de gasten en reisleiding te voldoen. Dat we ons daarvoor in duizend bochten moesten wringen werd niet gezien. Vanaf de eerste dag, toen de bestelde, bevestigde en betaalde bus niet arriveerde konden wij niets meer goed doen en werd er alleen nog maar naar de paardenjongens geluisterd die er uiteindelijk na de rit heel snel vandoor gingen voordat wij onze uitgeleende spullen konden verzamelen of naar ons toe werden gebracht. Zij waren thuis in Petra, sommigen nu met een goed zadel of hoofdstel of goede stijgbeugels met riemen…
De ontvangst in klein Petra was perfect. Een hapje en een drankje voor alle deelnemers die vervolgens naar hun hotel werden vervoerd. We hadden het gehaald tot aan de finish. Iedereen had speciale hesjes meegenomen die ze op het laatst aantrokken om zo over de finish te komen. Het was een geweldig gezicht. En het gaf ons een goed gevoel om allemaal blije mensen te zien. De paarden waren geweldig. Mijn team ook, om zich steeds aan te passen aan de grillen van buitenstaanders. We hebben veel geleerd. Over mensen, over bedrijven. Ik weet nu dat ik altijd op mijn mensen aan kan. Ze hebben geen moment geprotesteerd als er weer eens (dagelijks) iets werd veranderd. Bedoeïenen zijn flexibel en zeer gastvrij, willen het iedereen naar de zin maken. Deze reis werd het uiterste van iedereen gevergd en toch bleven we lachen en grapjes maken en het moraal hoog houden.
We hebben gelukkig nooit meer zo’n reis gehad waarbij alles lijkt mis te gaan of met opzet mis gaat. Vanaf deze reis zijn alle opvolgende reizen zeer voorspoedig verlopen. Hoewel er soms geïmproviseerd moet worden bepalen we in overleg met de gasten wat de beste oplossing is. De woestijn, de bergen en het weer blijven onvoorspelbaar. Wij zijn daar aan gewend en kunnen er in het dagelijkse leven heel goed mee leven en omgaan. De moeilijkheid tijdens deze reis is om met mensen samen te werken die je niet kent en, zoals uit bovenstaande blijkt duidelijk andere doelen voor ogen hebben en daarvoor heel ver willen gaan. Er werden onderling visitekaartjes uitgewisseld…
Petra is niet mijn plaats. Het is schitterend om te bezoeken, om de kleuren te zien, om de structuren en hoogstaande Nabateese en Romeinse architectuur te bewonderen. Maar mijn ervaring, en niet van mij alleen met de mensen daar is niet zo florissant. Drie jaar heb ik er gewoond, ik was getrouwd met een man uit Petra, een zwarte bladzijde uit mijn leven. Nu woon ik alweer bijna vier jaar in de buurt van de Wadi Rum en ik kan je vast vertellen dat ik na al die jaren in Jordanië, nu mijn droom mag leven.