Every encounter with our two (currently two, we are waiting for a sonogram to tell us whether Nawroz is pregnant, something we have wondered since she arrived) horses is different. Every visit is different. The crossing of the bumpy lane, the waiting for the sheep or the goats to pass is the same, the massive crater where the lane dives down is always there, but it is like entering Narnia, “never the same way twice.” Natik and I had been discussing the effect of music upon people, whether it be restorative, jaring, calming, stirring and a myriad of possibilities, when our conversation turned to horses. Could music affect the mood of a horse, would they enjoy music, could it be used to pacify them for example when trimming their hooves, would they like classical, major key, minor key, would Arabian horses be predisposed to more Arabic sounds? Questions we had, answers none but we were determined to discover.
In their former home, being ridden non-stop in a riding school they were used to an enclosed space with piped music, anything from pop to Kurdish music, music that echoed and personally I would have blocked out. I guess that is all they knew. But to have their own private musicians inside their personal space was a different story.
We took some of our Hope Academy music students to begin their relationship with Taj and Nawroz from the place of music knowing that this was going to be something between an adventure and an experiment, having no expectations but a sense of anticipation that something out of the ordinary would take place.
“Horses lend us the wings we lack.” - PAM BROWN
“It was an amazing day, different from any other day in my life. Nature and music connected and we touched heaven. I was interested to see how they reacted to music, yes they were busy eating the grass, but I could see that they were both listening and enjoying our music. It was a day where souls connected, where we, the horses and the music touched something eternal and made something eternal happen.”
“It was a super special day that gave me much to think about and more hope for my future. It was almost a shocking idea to share music with horses, because this is all so new for me, but it turned out to be amazing, and the horses loved the music. I came away with so much hope in the knowing that I can connect my music with the horses. It can be part of the horse therapy program. My mind is spinning with thoughts and ideas.”
“A horse is a beautiful animal but he is perhaps more remarkable because he moves as if he always hears music.”
- MARK HELPKIN, A Winter’s Tale
“As musicians our relationship with the horses will be different from the other students because ours will be based upon music, upon sound and rhythm. The horses are very big but they are kind and friendly. I feel that they enjoyed our music, because they could have walked away or become impatient, but they didn't. It is now our responsibility to discover their favorite sounds, and to play new music for them so that they don't become bored. We will use music to build a relationship with them.
Miss Lisa told us that we have two musical events this month, one will be with less able people from Duhok and we will prepare for that event, play music that is calming both for our guests and the horses. I am learning a new way of living. This is an amazing journey.”
“The horses were very beautiful. They gave of themselves with great joy, we were so happy to be with them. They made us welcome, we felt comfortable and at peace. So, I began to think that it is only right and fair that we give back to them, and not just take from them. We have to build a relationship which goes both ways, and for us, the musicians, we can give them music. We decided that we will begin to compose music for them and when it is ready we will come and play. That will be our gift to these magnificent new friends.”
“With regards to our Aziz Jalal, I have to provide a little background. Aziz was and always will be part of our Mafia group, the kids who managed to demolish and sell our fences overnight and turn up in the morning with one of those “butter won't melt in your mouth” looks. In those days he was a scruffy tent kid who would miraculously turn up for events in suit, waistcoat and bow tie. He gradually put the rocks he had been throwing at us down and picked up a recorder. The rest is history. He and Adnan together. Two tent kids who are both sensitive, dedicated and committed to a life of music.” - Lisa
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”
- Attributed to Sir Winston Churchill
“This was the first time in my life that I have felt unconditional love. I experienced complete peace of mind and as we played our guitars for the horses, all the stress began to leave my mind and my body. I didn’t know where to fix my gaze, their eyes, their body, their tails. I kept playing but looking at them from their head to their tail, time after time and each time more peace came into my body. I plan to write music for them, as they have given me so much love. I can't wait until we come again.”
“I have seen horses in my dreams for years, usually it's a black horse who told me that one day I would have real life horse friends. Today the sound of the guitar playing took me to a different world, one music and horses. I would define that place as heaven. I was totally overwhelmed, filled with joy and delight. I wanted to stay there forever but I realized that this is just the beginning of our relationship with the horses and because they loved the guitar playing it will be a strong relationship. I know that what transpired today will give me strength to remain in the camp. I will just close my eyes and hear the music, and be with the horses in my mind and my healing will continue until the next time I see them”
Dear reader, please pause for a minute to listen to the very first composition written by our students. It is dedicated to Taj and Nawroz, and entitled “Gallop“. They are of course now waiting to return to the horses this week and play it for them! I am sure that you agree with me that this is an amazing, unknown, but amazing journey, one that is writing itself as it unpacks in front of our very eyes.
Over the years I have come to love Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, to appreciate his raw and simple conversations with the Creator of the Universe. I think if Tevye would be here now, he would be both grinning and puzzled. “So what, dear Master of the Universe do you think of Gallop, come to that, what do you think of all of this, horses and new sounds? Did you do all of this on a quiet day up there, just for mischief?”