Dr. Page voiced the same concerns my husband and I had: what would happen to Radar’s back when my weight (quite a bit more than McKenna’s) was added? She was confident that I would now be able to strengthen his back, and that process would bring his topline up so he should be able to support me just fine. If there was going to be an issue with Radar’s back now, she felt it would be in the form of “kissing spines,” but we wouldn’t know until we tried.
I now had Dr. Page’s blessing to get up on my horse and get him walking up and down the winding hills of Island Center Forest and that is exactly what we began doing. I have ridden him out with one other horse, with two, and again with three more horses, and he has been stellar each time. It took him a few rides to realize that the large boulders along the side of the trail weren’t going to eat him, but by our fourth ride, he was no longer giving these rocks a second glance. Which is saying something—remember, prior to Radar, I was riding Arabs. It took my Arabian ten years and the blinding of one eye before he would walk by these same boulders, so four rides is nothing and I am so proud of my boy.
A month has gone by since Dr. Page told me to get up on my horse, and Radar has been working like a champ. Recently, there were rumblings on the Island that others were needing chiropractic work, so I made arrangements for Julie to spend another day working on Island horses.
Two days ago, I was informed that my horse is muscling up nicely, that his back is strong and secure and that his pelvis is in the correct position. Julie told me that it was time to get him walking up the “big” hills, no more restricting him to the smaller hill climbs. This means I am free to take my big boy to The Valley of the Firs, a most spectacular section of trail that winds up and down forested alleyways and culminates with a section of trailheads that we like to call The Man from Snowy River Hill. If you have never seen this movie, you absolutely should. If you have, then you know exactly what kind of hill I am talking about. Will I ever be able to get Radar up that hill? I can tell you that my Arabian loved this hill, would Radar?
Dr. Page suggested that we may want to put shoes on Radar’s feet all around for better traction. I don’t think I told her much about Radars feet, so she has no idea what we have been through with his poor hooves. So I just smiled, all the while knowing that he has a pair of Boa Hoof Boots that fit him perfectly—we throw these babies on and we are literally off and running and my horse doesn’t have to suffer the ill-effects of horseshoes in between rides.
This isn’t the end of Radar’s story, it’s just the beginning. I have so many hopes now for a wonderful future with this magnificent example of a horse that I shudder to think of how many times, over the last nine years, that I had totally given up any hopes of every being astride this handsome gelding again. I knew all along that I could never send him away, though; he had stolen my heart very early on. Besides, who would want a broken down Thoroughbred taking up space in their barn? Even if we had sent him on to permanent pastures somewhere else earlier on, we would have always been left with unanswered questions and nagging thoughts about what might have been. No one would have blamed me for giving up, the good Lord knows I gave it everything I had and then some. But by about year number three with Radar, I knew he would be my next forever horse and whether he was sound or lame, being ridden or not, Radar wasn’t going anywhere without me ever again.
To this day, I am beyond grateful to the many people who put their heads together and who played a part in Radar’s rehabilitation; he would not have gotten there without each and every one of you. I am also so glad that I dug in my own heels and continued to look for answers, rather than giving in to the suggestions that his case was hopeless and I was foolish in persisting. It may have taken nine years, but every day and every single set-back and subsequent recovery gave me some valuable insight into what it takes to put a broken-down horse back together again—it takes a village…it takes persistence…it takes hope…and it takes a horse with a heart big enough to weather the worst that life has thrown at him and still come out on top. Yes, Radar has proven to us yet again that it doesn’t just take great breeding to make a great horse—sometimes it also takes a few setbacks along the way to show them what you’re really made of.