By Faranak Toma, Minnesota

I am originally from an ancient nomadic tribe in the Middle East. My tribe used to live in a mountainous area till a couple hundred years ago, when they started to settle down in villages and cities. But they have kept their culture, their language, and their connection with each other. They are known for being brave, having good hearts, being spiritual but not religious, and loving nature and animals!

I learned to be proud of the beautiful values that I grew up with. People of this tribe have always been a symbol of spiritual freedom for me. Since long before I was born,  horses and horseback riding had been a major part of their lives. My great grandfather had over three hundred horses.

When I was six or seven years old, we were visiting my dad’s folks, who were living in big tents in the summer. Enormous mountains—partially green, with small waterfalls and springs—were all around. Men, women, and children all wore traditional clothes. Everyone smiled, and you could see the lightness and happiness of their being. Everything was just pure love.

My dad decided to take a photo of me while I was on a horse, dressed in traditional clothes. They picked the most gorgeous horse—a white and muscular Arabian. I looked young and small for my age. That day, I wore a hood with a veil that was pinned so as to frame my face without hiding it. My yellow-and-white tunic overlaid a pink skirt. It might have been my imagination or the way the horse looked at me, but I think he and I were already loving and admiring each other.

Two male relatives were there to help my dad. One held the lead to make sure the horse did not move. My dad picked me up and put me on the back of the horse. The other man made sure everything was in order, and then they put the lead in my hand. That was the first time I ever sat on the back of a horse! I was so excited and happy. Everyone stepped back, and my dad took the photo. All of a sudden, maybe because of the camera flash, the horse started to run. I was shocked, scared. I started screaming and hugged the neck of the horse, leaning into him.

As I did this, the horse suddenly stopped. It was a very quick and strange stop. I knew he felt my fear. I’ll never forget that beautiful moment of two Souls’ connection. I appreciated it with all my heart and fell in love with horses in that very moment. I was not traumatized, because I could see he heard me and he loved me. Soul is Soul, no matter in which body. During my panic, my dad and the other men ran behind us. After the horse stopped, my dad picked me up and hugged me. This time, I held his neck tightly.

Since that day, although I generally fear other animals, I’ve had a deep connection with horses. I feel their love, gentleness, caring, and loyalty. I feel the Soul-to-Soul connection. Pure love!

—Second photo courtesy of Faranak Toma