An Indigenous storyteller and a symphony musician travel across time and all of Turtle Island (North America). Through art and music, we learn about a mysterious group of small horses who have always been here, and who can teach people of all Nations the importance of taking care of each other and the land we share.

The Spirit Horse Returns is a symphonic concert production especially suited for families, young audiences, and for grades K-7. In The Spirit Horse Returns, a hornist in the orchestra who lives on a farm is gifted an Ojibwe Horse. Not knowing anything about this Indigenous-developed breed but intrigued, he and the audience go with the orchestra on a journey of discovery.

Ken MacDonald and Jodi Contin

“The journey of the Spirit Horse is a remarkable learning path experience: we can open our hearts to a majestic story that will bring us pride, wonder and healing. All audiences and learners alike will now have an opportunity keep that Spirit alive. In this story of the little ponies there are many lessons we can learn. We thank all of the people who have made this possible. Meegwetch.”

Elder Alison Cox

In "The Spirit Horse Returns", an Indigenous Knowledge Keeper takes us back through time to meet these mysterious "small horses of the deep woods" who were helpers and spirit guides to First Nations and Métis people. Exploring a diverse cross-section of Indigenous cultures, we visit the magnificent Horse Nations of the prairies and jig with a joyous Métis kitchen party. The arrival of settlers also brings challenges and changes as the small "Indian Ponies" are pushed aside during colonization and used for such purposes as the Gold Rush and Pony Express.

But just when it seems they will be lost forever, the last few horses are rescued! Through the daring efforts of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working together, the horses are given new life and new hope. We're gifted a beautiful new song to carry with us as caretakers of the Spirit Horses. Finally, we are introduced to an inspiring prophecy that shows each child that they have a place in bringing about a better world where people of all Nations care for each other and for the land we share.

The Spirit Horse Returns combines an all-new rich and tuneful orchestral score by Kevin Lau and Andrew Balfour, delightful songs by Jodi Contin, traditional teachings, and stunningly vivid visual art by Rhonda Snow. It provides young audiences with an inspiring and age-appropriate exploration of truth and reconciliation.

“The time has come to tell the story of the Spirit Horse, and this is an awesome medium with which to share.”

Elder Dan Thomas


2(1.2Picc)2(1.2EH)22 / 4331 / timp.perc / hp / str

Runtime: 55 minutes

Spiral-bound books for each musician are supplied. String parts can vary, and parts are supplied for 10,10,8,8,8,8. A score with all text cues is supplied, as well as online links to rehearsal resources for the use of the musicians, conductor, and stage crew. 

Options to add local and youth performers (eg. fiddle, dancers, soloists) and artwork.


This performance requires the services of two performers supplied by Spirit Horse Returns.

A projector, screen, and computer system for visual art is required. Visual art is supplied as multiple movie cues in a QLab environment. A musical theatre stage manager to call multiple cues must be provided. A cue sheet and script are supplied.

Lighting can be varied to suit the facility.

Educational Resources

A resource package is available which includes in-depth looks at the music and art of The Spirit Horse Returns and is suitable for use by non-specialist educators. Lessons are included that are appropriate for Grades K-7.

Lesson plans and content includes:
• Instruments of the orchestra, musical forms and expression
• Introduction to Woodlands Indigenous art
• Indigenous songs and forms
• Truth and Reconciliation resources
• Trauma-informed resources and suggestions

The Spirit Horse Returns Script by Jodi Contin, Ken MacDonald, and Rhonda Snow. Music by Kevin Lau with original songs by Jodi Contin and with music and consultation by Andrew Balfour. Original art and visual direction by Rhonda Snow. Consulting Elders and Knowledge Keepers: Dan Thomas, Alison Cox, Anita Chechock, Stan Cuthand, Doug Cuthand, Norman Jordan, Skuya Fasthorse, Wabishki-anaang,

Major funding and support was provided by The Canada Council for the Arts and The Festival of the Sound.
Special thanks to the Richardson Foundation (educational guide), the National Arts Centre of Canada (Music Alive Program), and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Canada Council for the Arts
Festival of the Sound

© 2022 Spirit Horse Productions. Video and photography © Ken MacDonald. Artwork © Rhonda Snow.