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.
If you like to know where I am now and what I do, visit our website Jordan Desert Journeys. Or connect to me on facebook.
I’m writing a book now about my desert life in Jordan. With many more stories, check it on the fb page: Een leven in de woestijn.