The horses in our lives come and go throughout, and somewhere along the line we develop breed preferences that usually lead us toward one specific breed or another. I guess I’ve always considered myself to be an Arabian kind of girl. Perhaps it was the fact that my aunt, a well-known equine artist, specialized in Arabians. Those flowing manes and tails, chiseled facial features, and smooth gaits came alive in her paintings and I could imagine myself cantering through fields of clover astride these horses, the wind whipping through those manes. So it was no surprise to anyone, really, that the first horse I would purchase as an adult was an Arabian. Two half-Arabian’s were added to my herd before I was through and I spent the better part of 30 years loving on my boys and not understanding how anyone would want anything else.
When I met my husband in 1996, I knew right away that he was a horse guy. Our mutual love of horses was a huge attraction for me after being married for 11 years to an engineer and non-horse guy. The subject of breed preferences came up fairly early in our relationship and I’ll never forget the day he said to me, “So, what kind of horses do you have?”
“Arabs,” I responded.
“Oh no…you’re one of those!”
“What? Why? What kind of horses do you have?”
“Well, Thoroughbreds of course,” he said, as if there was no other breed.
As it turns out, the Headley name is real big in the Thoroughbred circuit and my new brother-in-law Bruce, has been in the business down in southern California for over 60 years. My husband, now retired from training for the race track, took me in despite my choice of horses, and swore that someday he would convert me. I was skeptical.
In 2008, brother Bruce phoned to let us know that he had just put a horse on a van, headed to our farm outside Seattle. My brother-in-law is an old-school trainer. He goes way back to a time when track vets were scarce and those they had were very busy. It was a time when the old black grooms had remedies for just about any injury or ailment, and you could guarantee that remedy didn’t come from a pharmacy. If a horse in Bruce’s barn comes up lame, he pulls them from training and turns them out to heal. No fancy drugs or tests, just the basics and turn-out. If the horse is young enough to come back, he’ll bring them back. If not, then he sends them on for retraining, rehoming, and a new life with a different career.
Over the years Bruce has sent a lot of good horses our way. My husband’s first wife and daughter nurtured quite a few along and placed them into good homes with new callings. The plan for the horse my brother-in-law had put on the van that day in 2008 was for my step-daughter to do what she does best: heal him, figure out what it is that he wants to do, and get him going solidly in that direction for eventual sale.
Fate has a way of intervening in everything, and this plan for our new horse would never be brought to fruition. Shortly after our big bay gelding stepped off the trailer, my step-daughter was offered a position in an Olympic level training facility in Florida that she just couldn’t pass up. This six-year-old, 17.1 hand Thoroughbred with a 50% tear in his left front suspensory ligament was now mine. Beneath the Radar, grandson of Unbridled, foaled in Kentucky on April 18th, 2002 was now pastured with my two aging Arabian geldings at our farm and I was about to embark on a journey that would take me from broken bones, unbelievable coincidences and repeated setbacks, to an impossible to imagine relationship with a breed of horse I swore I could never love as much as my beloved Arabs.
Tune in next week to hear more about Radar and our journey.