“Drinkers of the Wind”
Seven horses soar above the sands
"Oh to be a witness of such ancient mysteries as earth and sky
and to behold the spirits soaring there...
All around us, elements appear in forms that speak to our souls
We have only to open our eyes to perceive their miracles
We have only to open our ears to hear their wisdom
Each moment is an invitation to remember our connection
And to honor the sentience of Nature."
~ Kim McElroy
One day in 2009, I received an intriguing international phone call. When the man confirmed I was the correct party, he passed the phone to a woman who gave her name simply as Sarah. She said she was an Arabian Horse breeder and member of the Kuwait Arabian Stud “Bait Al Arab.” She complimented my art and said she was interested in commissioning me to create a painting of horses in the clouds. She said she didn’t need to dictate the composition or look at mockups, that she just wanted an original like my other paintings of horses in clouds. She asked how much it would cost. I told her I was thrilled with her interest and I could place her on my waiting list. She said, “Actually, how much would it cost if you created it now?” Emboldened by her question, I had a feeling she could afford what I would ask, so I quoted a significant price. She was pleased and said she would arrange for payment in full.
After we concluded our call, it took me some time to find information during those early days of the internet. I found the Bait Al Arab website. I put two and two together and realized her name was Sheikha Sarah Fahad Al Sabah. When her assistant contacted me a few weeks later, I asked if it was rude to ask who she was. He replied politely, “she is the granddaughter of the Emir of Kuwait.”
While I was stunned that a member of the Kuwait royal family had sought me out, what inspired me most was what she wanted to talk about in our brief visit: which was of course, horses. She briefly told me the history of the Bait Al Arab Stud farm. I later realized she was not only one of the directors, but her family had started the breeding program. It had been formed in 1980 to honor the desert-bred Arabian. The breeding program numbered 35 horses when disaster struck on the 2nd of August l990 when Saddam’s army invaded Kuwait. When the war was over on the 26th of February 1991, only three purebred Arabian horses remained at the stud farm. The others had died from neglect or were stolen by the occupying Iraqi army. https://baitalarab-kw.com/en/history. I later read that in Kuwait, only 26 registered Arabian horses survived the devastation of the invasion.
As I began searching for inspiration for the artwork, I mused about the price all horses have paid in war throughout human history. These horses didn’t carry riders to battle, but they became a casualty, nevertheless.
In choosing a composition for the original painting, I found inspiration from this cloud formation which reminded me of horses prancing and swirling above the timeless desert sands. In this painting, the human equation is absent, allowing nature to reveal the mysterious realms of the spirit.
“Drinkers of the Wind” is a Bedouin phrase used to describe Arabian horses. A translation of the Koran says, “And God took a handful of Southerly wind, blew His breath over it and created the horse.” In this case, the horses are not being born of the wind but rather returning to it. In that way, I think of my art as like a prayer wheel, so I pray that whenever anyone looks upon “Drinkers of the Wind,” the spirits of those lost horses, and all lost horses, will receive healing.
I never had the chance to speak with Sarah directly again, but I am honored that Sheikha Sarah commissioned me to paint “Drinkers of the Wind.” It is lovely to think that my painting traveled to such a faraway land as Kuwait to fulfill its destiny.
The story behind the creation of “Drinkers of the Wind” is in part about my encounter with a celebrity. But more importantly, in that brief meeting, I glimpsed the heart of a royal person, and I discovered that even though we lived in different worlds and cultures, we could be like sisters with a mutual love of horses.
The night I wrote this post, I was out with my horses when a hail storm came through, followed by this stunning cloud formation. I immediately saw at least two horses leaping in the upper right corner. It felt like a thank you from the horse spirits for sharing this story…