When I was told we’d be trying horse meditation, I immediately thought of the film, The Horse Whisperer, and conjured up images of me cantering across the desert, hair flowing in the breeze, accompanied by a denim-shirted Robert Redford. Luckily for us, Sandra Jelly — described as ‘the horse whisperer of Petra’ — is far prettier, with a pair of cobalt-blue eyes, wide white smile and the jangle of rings and bracelets.
She gave up her advertising career in Amsterdam after she saw an advert in a magazine about horseback riding in Petra, Jordan. “I thought — that’s my call! So, I took a sabbatical and, with the last of my money, I bought Gamar (a brown mare), some riding boots and a set of paintbrushes.” Eight years on and Sandra now resides here, offering yoga and horse meditation classes to travellers to help them reconnect with nature and themselves.
A small group of us sit cross-legged on the floor of a Bedouin tent, nestled near the Wadi Baad’ja mountain range, behind Little Petra. We’re in a rich farming valley, surrounded by fields of alfalfa, barley and olive trees. The gentle wind flaps the fabric walls, as flies dance around the rim of the teapot. Three horses are corralled in a simple sandy paddock in front of us. “The grey gelding is Nour, he’s a bossy little man,” remarks Sandra, rather proudly. “Then there are the two mares, Gamar and Remaz, and the foal Zahir over in the corner.”
“Pick a horse you feel you resonate with and approach it without the purpose of interacting — just sense their energy.” We all look a bit confused. “It’s just like observing a candle, you focus the mind but don’t touch it,” she explains. So, I hop over the simple fence and stand with my eyes closed. Nour moseys over and starts nipping at my sleeve and arm. “Ah, that’s a sign you’re emanating masculine energy,” comments Sandra. “The horses reflect your inner feelings. For example, they’ll rear if we’re holding anger.” It’s starting to make sense: I always wear my ‘in charge’ hat when travelling on my own.
About 10 minutes later, we form a meditation circle in the paddock. “Leave room so the horses can weave in and out,” instructs Sandra. Immediately, Nour comes over and starts nibbling my trousers and playfully chomping my arm. I close my eyes and try to let go of my ‘masculine’ feelings and embrace my nurturing side. I feel something unlock inside me and the minute I do, Remaz — one of the mares — wanders straight up and starts nuzzling me affectionately. I’m so shocked by the immediacy of her reaction and sense of sisterly caring that, quite out of the blue, my eyes brim with tears.
“Horses are in their true nature, whereas we get separated from it. They guide us back to our authentic bodies and help us to become fully present,” whispers Sandra. She’s taught me more than Robert Redford ever could.