Gary had the same concerns I had: what if my added weight was too much for Radar’s back? So we brainstormed and came up with the perfect solution. We would enlist the services of the daughter of friends of ours. McKenna is tiny, not even 5’ tall, and just tips the scales at 100 pounds—just like a jockey, Radar wouldn’t even feel her up there. McKenna loves Thoroughbreds and even has dreams of being a jockey one day. She would be perfect.
Radar took to McKenna right away. She is quiet in the saddle, has quiet hands and is very encouraging in times of his uncertainty. I continued to lunge Radar two days a week and McKenna came to ride twice a week and he quickly began to come together. After each session, Gary would ask me if Radar was still sound. I would tell him yes, and we would both shake our heads in amazement—we still couldn’t believe it.
As March turned into April, the weather began to sporadically grant us a few rainless hours and we decided it was time to take Radar out on the trail for the first time. McKenna rode and I walked ahead, showing my horse the trail that leads away from our barn and out to the maze of trails that the locals call Island Center Forest.
Radar was curious, but brave and he walked quietly along beside me for quite a while before he suddenly stopped; head up, eyes wide, ears erect. I grabbed his bridle, and tried to look toward his gaze. I didn’t see or hear anything, but this horse was definitely not going any further. Rather than risk an explosive scene, I took my horses’ cue and we turned and walked quietly home. McKenna and I were both happy. Radar did great with no complaints, even though he was walking on gravel surfaces with no protection on his bare feet. Amazing.
Later that evening, I noticed that someone had tagged me in a post on Facebook. The post was referencing the most recent cougar sighting: Cougar was seen at (whatever time it was) heading down 115th Avenue toward Island Center Forest and for everyone to be on the lookout. I sent in my reply and mentioned the strange behavior of my horse that afternoon in Island Center Forest and how I was glad I had listened to him. Someone then replied: Sounds like your horse has an appropriate name! Indeed.
McKenna and I went out on a couple more walks with her riding and me hoofing it myself before I decided it was time for me to get on a horse so we could go out on a longer excursion. I tacked up Hawk and McKenna tacked up Radar one day and off we went on Radar’s first long trail ride. He was perfect. Hawk was a jerk that day, but Radar was perfect…I was riding the wrong horse.
I talked to Gary and we decided it was time, at long last, for me to get back on my horse. I still had those nagging concerns, however, about that vertebra in his back so I made the decision to get the chiropractor out for one more session, just to be sure.
Because Dr. Mike had moved to Oregon, he was no longer able to make the journey to Vashon Island to see patients. So, I asked around and got good references about Dr. Julie Page. I made the call and arranged for four other people to have their horses worked on in order for Dr. Page to make the journey to our Island from the Kitsap Peninsula.
Julie took Radar’s history and looked him over extensively. She was amazed at how clean his legs were, especially considering how long he raced and the extent of his injuries. He did have some of the same stuck vertebrae in his poll and neck, but she felt that wayward vertebra in his back was secure. That was a huge relief. Dr. Page was concerned, however, because Radar’s pelvis was tipped forward. She patiently explained to me what that would be equal to in a human, and I instantly felt anguish again for having put someone on his back.
Fortunately, Dr. Page is not a small woman and she was able to get above Radar’s substantial height and put enough pressure against his pelvis to “pop” it back into its proper place. Boom! Instant relief for poor Radar. “Look,” Julie exclaimed. “He can finally stand square behind.” Sure enough, when I looked, there stood my horse—totally squared up for the very first time in nine years. Wow!
Come back next week to read more about Radar.