Last month, we hosted the first, hopefully, of many such events at Horses for Hope in the Old Shariya village. We hosted Kurds from Duhok who are short in stature. We Googled “dwarves” which told us to call them “little people”. So, in all our WhatsApp groups as we planned, we called this group “the little people” until one day while running errands in Duhok, we went by their office, “The Organisation of Dwarfism in Duhok.”
That had solved terminology but logistics no. Did we need kindergarten sized chairs? Smaller plates for food? We just did not know so our decision was to prepare as we would for everyone. We wanted to honor protocol to which there appeared to be no guide. We were going to rely on love (and everything regular sized.)
We got Rezan, our local welder and wonder worker going. He had just returned from several weeks training in the Peshmerga reserves, we gave him no rest time, ordering a mounting ramp suitable for our guests, and others less abled who would follow. Rezan is one of those gentle giants, when his work is complimented, you see that the tiredness falls off, his huge face lights up with joy.
I called our artists and musicians to action. Salam prepared to paint a horse background, several metres in length. He asked me whether I wanted to ok the template, I had no need, I knew that he would “see the same as I was seeing”. When completed, it was absolutely incredible, almost apocalyptic. “I saw them, our four horses, running, moving together in total unity of purpose and direction.” Salam.
Shex Vagar, offered to be our Host. Glady. He is coming into his natural gifting as a host/ presenter.
This was the period of time when we were also hosting and getting to know two USA Cowboys guests, who came to help train our trainers, plus our horses, particularly our two rescued horses, Destiny and Emir and baby Almas. We were a mixed multitude for sure.
The big day arrived, all was in place. We sent Mahad our driver to their Duhok office. We hired ten taxis to bring all their group to the office. They were smiling but tense as they arrived. Dr Saeed and their manager Mr Wahid had been friends for many years, and just ran into each other's arms with the warmest of hugs which set the tone for the afternoon.
They were greeted with smiles from all. Their eyes grew wide with astonishment as they saw mountains, and pasture, horses, musicians, and real live cowboys.
“We learn to love humanity by loving specific human beings. There is no shortcut.”
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Our Hope Academy musicians were well rehearsed with the song that they had written on one of their visits to the stables, called “Gallop” and just got into their whole musical spirit with a line-up of music both Kurdish and Spanish flamenco for our guests, also giving space for our cowboys who had the tendency to break out into exuberant song).
“It was a very special day, for everyone. It was heart touching to witness a fearful group of midgets intermingle with horses, cowboys and students all at once. There is something so very different about the stables, a kind of healing, as if magic happens there that cannot happen anywhere else.
For me as Director of Music, it is wonderful to see my students prosper, both in their musical knowledge, their performance, and by going outside of their narrow tent world to connect and welcome those who are from a different culture, a totally different world of which they know nothing. I was proud of my students as I watched them connect with people who have physical restrictions from a place of respect and love.”
Natik, Director of The Hope Academy of Music.
“This is a sacred place. It is very holy. What better place to bring groups that should be so afraid of each other, so divided, what better place to bring them together as one and celebrate with horses, music and art. Everything about the horse place is sacred, so everything that we do there becomes sacred. I think that our guests, both the cowboys and the dwarves sensed that too.” Maram. Music student.
“Hi everyone. My name is Wahid, I am the head of the Duhok branch of the Organisation for Dwarfism. We have an office, but no one supports us. We have no work, therefore no salary. We don't go out; we have never been invited to an event such as this.
It was the first time to come to such a place, and it was the first time that we have been somewhere together as a group of dwarves. Your welcome was amazing, it put us all at ease in a few minutes, you were all so warm and open to us, the music and the horses were amazing. I know that some of our group did not sleep the previous night, both from fear and excitement.
We are all usually at home, we rarely go out for two reasons, we can not walk far, particularly in Duhok where many streets are either broken or cobbled; also we are treated badly. People do not want to connect with us, we are not accepted. It is hard for us to connect with each other because we all live in different neighbourhoods or villages surrounding Duhok without any means of transport. So, it was very special for us in many ways.
Every one of you, from the trainers to all the students and your cowboys welcomed us with love, with dignity, with respect, we were so moved by your genuineness and your hospitality.
The love you all showed us was astonishing. We enjoyed being with the horses, it was a new experience for us, but your love was what we needed most.
None of us had ever thought that we would see a horse, that is something for the movies. So, to be serenaded with music, and to ride the horses was wonderful. We were not really prepared with appropriate clothes, most of the women had open sandals and wore their best clothes, next time we will wear more suitable clothes.
Everyone in our group wants to return. All of the women asked for “next week”. God willing that it will be very soon.”
Wahid, Head of the Duhok branch of the Organisation for Dwarfism
“We are defined as a humanity by our commonalities and by our differences.”
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Washington DC 2017
“First of all, I do not agree with calling them “little people” I know that Wahid used that phrase, but that makes us “big people” and if that is so, there are “medium people” and humanity is separated by size. We will refer to them as the group from Duhok and call them by their personal names and finish. No division.
I have to say that it was the first time in my life and in the years of Springs of Hope Foundation to host such a group. Wahid and I have been friends for years, but we have never met on “my turf” so this was a first. It was an honor to help them. Their life is special, it is different, they can not work like others and sadly there is little provision in our society for them.
They were all so happy. This afternoon meant a lot to them. If you remember, when they arrived they were nervous and anxious, their faces were stressed, not smiling. To go back to terminology, they had walked straight into the world of big horses, big people not knowing how it would be. It took courage for them to come to visit us.
Some of them, Wahid said, had never left their village, they had never even been into Duhok and here they were in a Yezidi village in a totally new world.
They saw how we welcomed them, we respected them, played music in their honor, explained the horses to them, and gave them cake and fruit. They felt accepted, they were accepted, that is most important. It was so good that the ramp was ready on time, that made them feel equal and able.
Each one, one by one, came to thank me for the experience. Each one asked when they could come again. I will speak with Wahid, if you agree and we will set up a programme of say two of their group a week.”
“Can I see God’s image in someone who is not in mine? Whose colour or cultural class system is not mine? Can I be enlarged by difference?”
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
I did agree. It is for those who are a little different, who have special needs that Horses for Hope exists. We are not a riding school, we are partnering with horses to help heal the wounded. Hence it was so appropriate to take on two rescued horses, who are blossoming with love plus respectful training.
It was a blessing to have our Cowboys with us for almost two weeks, but on that day it was even more needed. Together they have about 90 years of training and horse whispering experience, not to mention people experience so with confidence we could commit our group into their hands and watch the gentle process of healing commence.
As I have pondered this day, one same as other encounters with our horses, yet oh so very different, I saw a healing begin that was once again the same, yet oh so different. A healing taking place on the basis of commonality, of acceptance, of as Rabbi Sacks so wisely termed, “The Dignity of Difference”.
Go for a moment to the book of Esther where Haman pointed out to the King that there was a people in the land whose “laws and customs were different” …we know how the plot to kill those who were different was cooked. There was a dislike of those different, a hatred of those different, and the desire to kill those different.
I would, with caution, suggest that this same fear, dislike, lack of tolerance, yea hatred of the one different, on the religious, and ethnic or cultural level still exists in this region and is responsible for much of the bloodshed and evil that men have perpetrated here.
As I looked around, Kurdish dwarves on big Arabian horses, our table spread with the lavish abundance that heaven gives us, I saw a reversal taking place, a reversal that opened the door to individual and community healing. I saw the face of God in our strangers. And I saw that each one of us was richer for embracing the one who was different yet the same.
And by the way, we are looking for the most gentle and patient of equine therapists to help train us in the specific use of horses for healing. We would ask that if you know someone who is able to adapt cross-culturally and spend a period of time with us. Someone who has such a love and gifting with both humans and horses, please connect them with us. Those who see the Face of God in the one who is different.