Tuesday, September 27, 2011


It's almost embarrassing that after more than a year of being a (fairly) consistent blogger I have seemingly fallen off the face of the blog planet. I've thought about it many times...about the folks who followed it pretty regularly and feeling almost like I let them and myself down. All I can say for myself is that my mind went numb for awhile. I'm not saying that it's all better, but I have been feeling a bit more creative lately. Sadly, I doubt I'll be able to recount all my adventures since Derby ...which I am most certainly aware that I left the blog with a photo from Derby..and then nothing...nada...nil...*insert chirping crickets....* until now.

What I've been going through mostly has to do with my knee. This has been, by far, the hardest thing I've ever had to do physically. While there certainly have been some triumphs in the process, I can not say that it's all better, not by a long shot!

It might've been the pain management. I am typically one of those people who never uses the full prescription or even the full dose. I'm what ya might call a lightweight in those areas. Being "on" something has never appealed to me in any way and I've typically been able to muscle through whatever discomfort I had in the past. I've been told I have a fairly high pain tolerance...but not this time. After I had to refill prescription after prescription and not feeling like I was progressing as fast as "I" thought I should in physical therapy my psyche got the best of me...and I do mean that in the most literal of ways. It seemed to drain more than just my creativity, it felt like it took away my ability to complete anything. Everything seemed like a struggle.

I eventually progressed to the point here I was riding in lessons once per week and was back to a walk/trot/canter on my favorite schooling horse, Jag. By late June (2 months back in the saddle) I had also been able to ride Coconut again as well too which made me very very happy...and hopeful that I was coming out of the fog.

First ride after knee replacement

...but then I had a set back...

Earlier in the year I had a dream that Maeve painted this painting of horses racing in hues of white, cream and gray. It was quite different than the colors she typically works with and in my dream she entered into the Emerald Downs Equine Art 2011 show and WON! When I told her about it she said that since I dreamed it, it was my painting to paint....good gawd...NOooooooo...I can't even seem to complete a sentence let alone a painting but I took her challenge and started going to work at her studio on a pretty regular basis.

I sketched out what I remembered the painting in my dream to look like and eventually transferred it to canvas and began painting. As hard as I tried to stay in the color pallette of my dream painting, I could not help myself and kept reaching for color...and the more color I added, the more it seemed to want and the end result was nothing like I had imagined in the beginning but I found a "finished" point and decided that I would, in deed, enter it into the art show. I wasn't confident that it was good by any means, but I was pleased that I had actually acheived a goal and there was nothing going to stop me from entering that piece in the show. I didn't care how well or poorly it might be received, the point was it could not be complete until it was at the show.

Color Splash (pre-framed)

After an online poll of my friends, I had decided to call it "Splash Dance" but when I wrote out the entry I called it "Color Splash" & that name stuck. I framed it, drove it to the track and happily handed it over to the show organizers ...and exhaled deeply.

The following night was the Artist Preview Party. It's a really nice reception with wine, beer & hors d'oevres followed by the awards. We had some food and Les was off to grab a glass of wine and I was going to get a water or coffee but when I passed the food table, I stepped on an egg roll (or some lumpia looking thing) that was on the ground, slipped & fell. I don't remember much except that someone offered me a hand up and so I bent my right knee to stand and my foot slipped again. That's when I noticed the food lodged under my sandal.

Something in my head just clicked and I told the gentleman trying to help that I thought I just need a moment to gain my composure because I'd had a recent knee replacement and I just wanted to figure out how I was going to get up off of the floor (decently...modestly...I was dressed in a very summery dress with a little white sweater and pearls...I wanted to make sure that I did this with dignity & that, I thought would take a little bit of an assessment of the situation).

That's when I gently pulled back the hem of my dress to check out my left knee, the replacement side and was suddenly horrified to discover that there was a hole..a giant gaping hole in my knee....approximately 5" long and probably 3-4" wide...and bleeding...a lot. I thought "oh crap!", in fact I may have said it out loud, and quickly pulled the hem of my dress back down to cover it secretly hoping no one else had seen it...but that horse had already left the gate and there was suddenly a collective gasp around me & a rush of people coming to help.

I honestly can not say how it happened, but the scar from the surgery had been ripped open and had taken a left turn across my knee about half way up. I remember that a very nice young woman stayed with me on the floor while team after team came to see what they could do. First it was the young woman who asked for clean linens from the caterer...and then Emerald Downs security, who bless his heart, called in the EMT's & told them I was 30 years old (love that man!), the EMT's decided that I needed to be taken to the hospital so the next team was the ambulance crew.

I landed on the ground next to Robert Geller, the track announcer who kept me chatting about my piece and we even talked about the fact that I'd actually used Bucky B Lucky's last race as the inspiration. He remembered Lucky, even recalling that he was "a good miler". That made me very happy and really all I wanted to do was talk about Lucky...I didn't want to think about my knee or the fuss or any of that. I guess I wanted it all to just disappear. Sadly, it could not...and the ambulance came and hauled me away to the hospital where it took 22 stitches to repair me.

In a situation that instantly took me back to 2008 and the SAFE show (my first show ever) where I was injured 8 weeks before the show and was grounded until 2 weeks before the show & with 6 weeks off, I could have 2 weeks to get ready to ride in the show...but at that 6 week mark my broken rib was re-broke by a chiropractor and I was sunk!...this time I only had one month until the SAFE show and should have the stitches out in two weeks. They actually told me 10-14 days and I wanted to give it every opportunity so I waited the full 14 days...in a brace to keep it from bending, driving my truck because I could not drive my stick shift Escape and NOT riding...in fact, I had to take it really really easy because I wanted back on the horse as soon as humanly possible.

At the 14 day mark I had the stitches out and was really hopeful that I still had time to get it together to ride in the SAFE show. Two days later I slipped in the garage and ripped the whole thing open again. Apparently it was not completely healed...how was I supposed to know that just bending it would pop it all open ...argh!! So...yes, I was grounded from riding (or trotting in-hand or anything remotely close to risking injury) and would not...again....be showing Coconut to my best ability. It was an instant realization as I was sitting there on the garage floor... I'm not typically hysterical but I cried harder than I think I've ever cried out of frustration that everything I had worked so hard to push through my difficult knee recovery ...with the goal of riding Coconut at the SAFE show...was a complete loss. There was really no way that I would get it back in time safely. Back to the hospital I went to get stitched up again!

I threw myself emotionally into the organizational side of the show, which was also very difficult working around my own heartbreak, but the show was a huge success and I know it needed my extra hands, so there is that.

My knee, however, has survived it's ordeal and as of 2 weeks ago, after the extra time that Dr. Hunter asked me to give it this time, I am riding again...just walk/trot right now.

I keep thinking about a conversation I had with former jockey, Nick Martinez, while we were at the Old Friend's Homecoming party the day after Derby: He told me that he had a bad fall that required him to get a knee replacement and it was 9 months before he felt normal again. He returned to professional racing after 18 months off and continued to ride for 6 years until he retired but still worked as an exercise rider for a few more years after that until he was able to pursue his passion for painting Thoroughbreds full time.

The afternoon before my fall at the art show I had just had a really great ride with Jag & was feeling really hopeful about what my new knee was going to be able to do once I was 100%. I think the biggest blow was not that I got hurt but that it was going to set me back so very far in my recovery and severely delay my return to 100% riding. I was mentally exhausted from the process already by that time and was just starting to see a glimmer of hope...the tiniest of lights at the end of the tunnel. The second fall was just too much and if I hadn't been able to find my blog voice before, it certainly wasn't going to be anywhere accessible within my psyche at that point. But now that I'm back pursuing my passion for horses, especially riding them, I'm feeling a little more hopeful...a little more able to share the good things without peppering everything with the frustration and helplessness of the knee saga.

It occurred to me that I had to write this...to tell the horrible part of the tale...so that I can get on to the rest of it because there are still so many good things that have happened in the last 6 months...so many stories that fit into my theme of making a difference in the lives or horses and horses who make a difference in mine.

I've felt as though I was stalled...mentally...and, perhaps metaphorically as in the treatment for a lame horse. But now I'm still limping but have some light turnout time...it's all part of the process. I'm hopeful it works. I hate being lame!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Derby Day 2011 (sneak preview)

8:30am - Leave the hotel
9:15am - Arive at Churchill Downs

Rain, sun & eventually smiles.

8:00 pm leave Churchill Downs
10:45 return to hotel


More tomorrow :o)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Back at the Track

Yesterday we went back to the track so that Mike could go through the Kentucky Derby Museum & the track tour. One of the first displays was the tribute to last year's Derby Winner Super Saver. If you've been following my blog for at least a year you may remember my post Super (Horse) Saver the story of how my Pick 3 win with Super Saver as the final horse landed me enough cash in hand to go to Enumclaw and buy Bucky B Lucky out of the kill-pen. That continues to be my #1 most popular post getting hits just about every day. I couldn't help but sport a very big smile when I walked in and saw his Derby Saddle Blanket & Calvin Borel's silks. It was a great visit to memory lane.

Remembering the difference Super Saver made in the life of a fellow Thoroughbred.
 The Kentucky Derby Museum is very interactive. They have a display where you can watch any Derby video replay you want. You can also learn to bet on an interactive animated race so we played each other (I won!) and there's a chance to race each other on the back of a Derby horse. I opted out of this one because it requires you to stand in the stirrups for about two minutes. Les & Mike made interesting jockeys but in the end Mike won.

One part of the track tour takes you by the Eight Belles' tribute in the garden of the museum. I was there the day she broke down and had to be euthanized. Seeing her tribute always brings back the memory of how hard I took that and the gratitude for my racing friends back home in Washington who invited me back to the track after almost a year away, showing me that it's not always like that & to get to see a racing barn who really cares about their horses which led me to get to know many more who I consider to be good owners and positive role models in the racing world. While Eight Belles' injuries didn't indicate poor ownership, it did give racing critics more to raise concerns over. I always say that I dance a fine line between race & rescue.  I am a life-long race fan but I am fully committed to equine rescue. I believe there is room for me in both worlds, but I still mourn the loss of this great filly.

Another bonus of going to the museum was that Secretariat's jockey, Ron Turcotte was there for a signing and Mike was thrilled to meet him and get a signed copy of Secretariat's Derby Winner's Circle photo.

After the museum fun we headed to Lynn Paradise Cafe (a food network recommendation) and had a delightful meal in a quirky and fun atmosphere. I highly recommend this one. The guys both had sandwiches with the macaroni & cheese and thankfully I got a bite...YUM!!! I had the Hot Browns and it, too, was a hit!

As you see above, Lynn's Paradise Cafe has a lot of humor in it's decor. I had to laugh at their horse outside...

Thorough Bread

The guys headed to the Pegasus Parade. I didn't think I was up to walking/standing for a few hours so I dropped them off and ran some errands.

Later on we went to the Tilted Kilt for dinner. It's an Irish Pub/Sports bar and I was THRILLED that along side Basketball, Baseball, Golf & ESPN, there were several Tv's tuned into German Eventing! I got to watch Dressage, Cross Country & Arena Jumping highlights while the guys enjoyed their own interests. I LOVE Kentucky!!!
Today we went back to Churchill Downs for the Oaks. As they say here, "Fillies First" as a nod to the running of the girls on the day before the (mostly) boys on Derby Day. We certainly had a good time and we each got to cash in a few winning tickets! The hat is always a big part of the day and this year's hat is a cream colored version of last year's Derby hat (in black) with lillies from Oaks days past plus two new brown lillies to match my floral dress with brown accents.

My pick for the Oaks, Zazu (from Zenyatta owner, Jerry Moss) didn't quite get there for me. The winner was Plum Pretty, who did stand out to me but that's easy to say *after* the fact. She had a great race! Congrats to her and her connections.

Just before entering the starting gate.
 I did have one winner with a Washington connection. Blind Luck is owned by Mark DeDomenico who's Pegasus Thoroughbred Training & Equine Rehabilitation Center is located in Redmond. We had the great fortune of watching her win the Kentucky Oaks last year & her return to the Churchill Downs winner's circle today in the 26th running of the La Troienne. She did stumble coming out of the gate which is always scary but she came back to win it! Here's a couple of photos from today...

Running second here, but she'll overtake the lead by the end!

The weather cooperated with us most of the day. I even had to apply sunscreen a few times but it was also pretty chilly at some points too. I hope tomorrow is at least as kind to us but there is rain in the forecast for later in the afternoon which is right about Derby time! We'll see.

One last photo of us in the sun...having fun!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Millionaires For The Morning Workout

Les has been on his own personal "Derby Hunt" for months, if not the better part of the year since we returned from Derby last year. His hunt does not include actually running, crossing a finish line or winning big stakes (originally typed *steaks* which could have been funny/yummy) races, although the winnings could come in handy! No, his hunt is in finding the best deals in accommodations, transportation & entertainment. In fact, he reserved a couple of hotel rooms very early out the gate in hopes that a certain someone would be joining us (I won't name her because it just might make her cry!). Our travel partners have changed and re-arranged a few times but it finally came down to 3 of us: Les, myself & my brother-in-law Mike.

Mike & Les are very serious about this stuff!

The mix may have changed but the aim did not. He really had to work hard for this year as, for some reason, we failed to make the cut for the initial drawing to purchase reserved seating at the Oaks/Derby. Getting tickets was a bit of a worry for us and while he continued to watch tickets on ebay going for quite a bit more than we typically pay for our tickets, it was starting to make more sense to purchase the Taste of Derby tickets for around $500 each and get food with it too vs paying more than that just to buy a set of tickets on ebay.

It came down to early April when he had this great idea...Since I'm walking challenged at the moment he thought he'd call the track directly and see if they had any disabled seating available. I had already told him that his back up plan to buy an infield ticket for $40 was NEVER going to fly with me. We typically get to the track around 10am on Derby day and standing around until 7pm was going to turn me to mental & physical mush. It seemed like a great idea to me...but it turned out they had very little disabled seating and it was all sold by the time he called. He was about to hang up when he thought to ask if there were ANY seats left and the customer service gal said that yes, they did have some tickets available in Section 120.....ONE TWENTY!?!?!?! Yahooooo!!!!! That's still on the racing side of the finish line and you get to watch the horses pass you twice during the race as you get the excitement of the start and the thrill of the finish. AND...at face value too! Perfect! He was able to buy 3 sets of Oaks/Derby tickets and *whew* our trip was back on track...with very little time to spare!

While he'd been on the Derby ticket hunt he had already moved our hotel reservation due to a better deal that came along, reserved our rental car at a very reasonable rate and purchased "Dawn at the Downs" tickets on Millionaire's Row up on the 4th floor which is breakfast while you watch the morning workouts!

Dawn at the Downs. 7am comes early, but it's worth it!

We arrived at Churchill Downs this morning at 7:00am and made our way up to the 4th floor just as Dialed In was getting his workout. We only caught it on one of the hundreds of TV screens but as soon as we were shown to our table (#6, right by the front window!!! Thanks for the early thinkin' Les!!) I ignored food and drinks and headed right out to the famous Millionaire's Row rail terrace and watched the ponies!

Les & I on the rail at Millionaire's Row
One of my favorite things to do at home is to go have breakfast at the Quarter Chute Cafe and watch the horses pass by on their way in or back from their morning workouts. We get to see several horses in the hour or two we're there but there were horses everywhere you look on the track at Churchill Downs. It was hard to keep up with the who's who and who's where. Thankfully there was an announcer giving a running commentary so we were able to figure out when the Derby & Oaks horses were on the track (plus the Derby horses all had yellow saddle blankets with a rose on it while the Oaks Fillies had pink ones!)

The breakfast was good and so was the conversation. We shared a table with a couple of teachers from Ohio & a group from the Bay area, they all seemed to be avid race fans so it was fun to talk racing with everyone but I'd take a few bites and head back out to the rail to watch.

I wish I could tell you who all these horses are. I only took photos of Derby & Oaks Horses. Among them I do know we saw Derby horses, ArchArchArch, Animal Kingdom, Twice The Appeal, Santiva, Soldat & Midnight Interlude. Oaks Fillies included Daisy Devine, Joyful Victory, Lavender and Lace & Zazu...and that was just who I can remember off the top of my head.

One that I do remember is Bonnie's pick, Shackleford, for whom I still have the exact same two $5 bills in my wallet that she gave me for her bet on him!

That's Shackleford right in the center
(as Bonnie said "going the wrong way")

It was a wonderful morning and I'll have to add it to "My Picks" of Derby-Must-Dos. We were actually among the last to leave and got herded out by track employees but on the way out we did get one last surprise. A HUGE hand-blown glass replica of Churchill Downs.

This display was at least 4 feet high and 10 feet long.
This is just the center section!

Every horse, every spectator, every detail...hand blown!
 Someone had a grand passion and look where their work ended up...on Millionaire's Row...kinda like me and my passion, on Millionaire's Row for the Morning!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Derby Picks

A few months ago Liz contacted me on behalf a young lady who (among some other amazing adventures) chose to go to all three Triple Crown races for her Bat mitzvah gift. Yes, she's one VERY lucky kid, indeed: so not knowing how long they're planning to be there I gave them the "Jet's Picks" when it comes to the Kentucky Derby and I'm sharing it with all of you....you know, if you should find yourself here some day! (or if you should be so lucky as to be on the Triple Crown tour)

The first thing to consider is that Derby WEEK is amazing. To the best of my knowledge, there is not another horse racing centric event series like it. Of the three, ( Derby, Preakness, Belmont,) Derby is the only one that creates THAT much of an event. The week preceding Derby Day is FULL of fun. It is also full of changes to things that are not available in any other time of year because everything in the entire Louisville area is in Derby Mode.

While it's possible to fly in see the derby and escape immediately, I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would...especially if they LOVE horses!!!

One of the Must-See's is the Kentucky Derby Museum & lunch at the Derby Cafe. I think we were able to do both on a Wednesday before Derby but it's closed for Oaks Day on Friday and Derby Day on Saturday. Thursday is typically a private luncheon so the cafe is closed but it's a good idea to check their calendar or contact them first to see what they have planned.
http://www.derbycafe.com/ (Hot Browns are a tradition & very yummy there!)

That's probably a good day to just go to the track and explore, watch a few races while the crowd is minimal. Oaks & Derby Day are a ZOO! You can typically get to your seats and some key other places but it's not a day to get the feel of Churchill Downs. I'd even suggest that Mom/Dad join the Twin Spires Club and start getting updates on events.

Then there's the Derby Festival. LOTS of events and a HUGE Waterfront party in Downtown Louisville on Friday night after the Oaks. There are usually large act music groups who play..for free! Lots of Derby excitement and family oriented as it's intended for the locals. You buy a Pegasus Pen at any Kroeger Food Store and it gets you into any of the Festival events. I think they're $4 and they are at every check out line.

Speaking of Kroeger: at the Middletown Kroger Food store on Shelbyville Rd (**eta** I just learned that they moved it this year to the Hubbards Lane Kroger...just in case you were headed out to see it) they make the Derby Rose Garland on Friday night before the derby. I know it sounds silly but it's a LOT of fun to go there and watch them sew the roses on. It's a huge deal! They have live music & the whole store has Derby Traditional food for sampling plus a life size model horse with a mock Rose Garland that you can take your photo with. The line to see the garland being made is a little long but they come by with free rose petals, pins and sometimes snacks! I take folks there and have never waited more than 45 minutes to see it. You've never had so much fun in a grocery store! I believe they also do it on Thursday for the Lilly Garland for the Oaks race on Friday.

I also love TACK shopping in Kentucky. There are several great ones around Louisville and Lexington as well as a race tack shop right near the track: Luckett's http://luckettstackshop.com/ makes custom racing/exersize saddles and leather halters. I bought really nice used ones from a box for $15 each when I was there last year. But a new one is a really cool way to remember the Derby at home every day in use with your own horse (I have one other suggestion about that too...later). Bob Mickler's, The Hitching Post & Kentucky Horse Supply are also great. My husband let me have a whole day of tack shopping for my birthday last year in Louisville and I wished I'd packed an extra bag! It was so fun, I felt like a horse crazy 13 year old, myself!

Most of the Horses are out in Lexington. There are few in-person horse experiences in Louisville, especially during Derby but Lexington is about an hour away and my personal favorite place in Kentucky! The majority of the breeding farms are out there and you can go on organized tours through Thoroughbred Heritage Farm Tours: http://www.seethechampions.com/ or you can contact local farms on your own to try to arrange tours.

I also highly recommend the The Thoroughbred Center in Paris, KY (minutes from Lexington). I'd take the early morning tour so you can see the workouts. They take out out to the practice track and through the barns. On our tour we met a trainer and got to hear how he prepares horses for racing & got to pick his brain a bit. It was awesome! They have something like 1,100 horses there and train year round. It turns out there are 5 tracks in Kentucky and this place is central to all of them. They run horses year round, a month at a time at each track, plus an extra month at Churchill & Keeneland (the MOST beautiful track I've seen!). http://www.thethoroughbredcenter.com/ Book your reservation well ahead of the trip on that one.

Another excellent Lexington adventure is the Kentucky Horse Park. It's like Disneyland for Horse people!! I have not been there since the World Equestrian Games but I have been there twice before the games and then spent all two weeks of the games there last Sept/Oct. The facilities they put in for the games are magnificent. You can ride trail horses (slow, but a run way to see the place) for a tour but you can also drive out through the Rolex 3 day Cross Country course (which runs the weekend before Derby, typically...so much of it is still set up). Inside the park there is a museum of the horse, several breed demonstrations and a Parade of Champions where you can meet the horse that won the Derby on my honeymoon, Funnycide...among others!

Also located on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park is the Makers' Mark Secretariat Center where they take off-the-track Thoroughbreds and retrain them for post-racing careers in pleasure, jumping & dressage, getting them ready to be adopted. It's a really great way to give a race horse a chance at a great life beyond the track. I understand they do allow visitors but not on Sundays and it's a good idea to contact them well ahead of your trip too. http://www.thoroughbredadoption.com/Makers-Mark-Secretariat-Center-c8.html

If you are in Lexington on Sunday after the Derby, you can also attend the annual Homecoming Party at Old Friends, a racehorse retirement facility. We've gotten some of our BEST Derby mementos there at their fundraising silent auction. Two years ago I came home with a 5' original painting and last year my husband got an autographed Hall of Fame induction "jersey" for Bob Baffert! They have this party and usually have food & some really cool auction items. They typically have several halters worn by actual TB Champions. Two years ago they had Big Brown's halter, donated by his owners. There are sometimes art, photography and other stuff there, I've even seen the personal scrapbooks of certain horses auctioned there. It's a great evening for a great cause: to give a retirement home to Thoroughbreds.

I would suggest to spend Sunday/Monday in Lexington to get the full horse experience.

While in Lexington there is also Quillin's Tack Shop...where they make the special PINK Leather Halter for the Kentucky Oaks Fillies (and a certain special Arabian Mare in Washington!!!!) They are another race centered tack shop but it's amazing to see what they make there and it's not ALL about racing! http://quillin.com/jshop/

Another fun day in the "area" is Shelbyville (bout half way between Louisville & Lexington). It's the Saddlebred horse Capital of the world & the local visitors bureau will take you on a farm tour for free (if you decide to donate, it goes to a therapeutic riding center) and you get to see one of THE most lovely working farms I've ever been to! http://www.shelbyvilleky.com/horse-farm-tours.html This is also the home of Claudia Sanders Dinner House (that would be Mrs. Sanders of the KFC fame) she opened a dinner house with her private recipes after they sold their Kentucky Fried Chicken business. The place is fun & the food is served family style. I would never actually go to KFC in Kentucky when I have THIS option!!!

I will also add that my husband has also attended the Belmont and just did not have the same experience has we've continued to enjoy in Kentucky going to the Derby. At first we thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime but we just couldn't stay away...and it's almost yearly now! I tell him we're practically residents!!!

OK....that's about all my brain can spew out at one time...but I LOVE Kentucky and hope that any of you who make the trip has a, likewise, amazing experience.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My Old Kentucky Home

Yes....I'm still alive...

ya know, I actually did write a little but thankfully in my pain managed haze I had the good sense not to hit the publish button. It seemed a little like the right thing to do to chronicle my progress but as I went back to read it I found it just a tad too graphic and not really things I want to share. It may have proved humorous for some who know me but I'm thinking (now) that my drug induced rants on knee replacement recovery are just a little too much for this forum. I will, however, write about the process because I've learned that I am not the lone equestrian who's undergone joint replacement and have chosen to continue to ride.

Just a quick update to say that this has been very difficult and it's only been the last week that I've begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I've ridden twice now and am taking this recovery time to revisit my riding basics. But that's all going to have to wait just a little while because I happen to be smack dab in the middle of another exciting equine adventure...

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Louisville, Kentucky for another week of horses and fun for Derby 137. My husband, Les & my brother-in-law, Mike and I are here and already having fun in the place I'm calling my Old Kentucky Home-away-from-home.

We had great luck with out standby flights and even got here 3 hours earlier than expected (as well as 3 hours earlier than our luggage) so we rented our car and headed for one of our local favorite burger joints, the Steak n' Shake but got side tracked by the discovery of another location of BuckHead's, the restaurant I discovered Cheese Boulders last year across the river from downtown Louisville over on the Indiana side and have craved all year since. We thought we'd set aside some time to head over there but this other location pretty much jumped out in our path over and all the burger & shake thoughts were quickly cleared as we steered into the parking lot. Within an hour of landing I had cheese boulders placed in front of me and I suddenly felt so welcomed back. I think they love me here, I really do!

I don't have a ton of time to write tonite because I really should try to get some sleep as my adventure leads me to Churchill Downs tomorrow morning for viewing AM workouts from Millionaires Row. How exciting!?!?!

It feels good to have the keys beneath my fingers & I look forward to sharing this week with *all y'all* & I promise a little gift in the morning before we leave so I hope you'll come back and visit!

I'll close this with a fun hat I saw today: "WORK?? It's Derby Week!"

Monday, February 28, 2011

While I still have one good leg to stand on....

A few weeks ago I was riding with Ruth, getting compliments on my leg placement and seat but when she approached me to to suggest a different placement for my foot (toe in) and moved my foot into position a pain shot through my knee and made a sound that gave us both a fright. This is the pain that I ride with, the one that sadly limits the time I am in the saddle and the one that really prevents me from progressing.

"How do you ride with your knee like that?", she asked. "With my foot like this (pointed more straight ahead) because it hurts any other way" I replied. In her stern voice she flat out told me that I needed to make a commitment and that if I intended to continue to ride I would get that knee fixed. On my ride home I thought about it and decided that Ruth was right. I could continue to ride like this, through the pain, and I might be able to make it another two years but then I'd be DONE! Or I could get it fixed and I might get another 10 years of riding. That night I told my husband that I was going to make the appointment I'd been dreading...to start the process of getting a knee replacement. He wasn't exactly happy with my reasoning (he would have preferred that it be because I wanted do something really important, like "walk") but he did agree that it was time...perhaps even well past time. I called the next day and made an appointment & their first available was 2/22.

Twelve years ago I was on a ski trip to Big Bear with my family. I KNEW skiing was not for me so the dog and I hung out while my Mom (yes, my MOM!), my son, my brother and his friend were all up on the hill. I was walking from the lodge to the observation deck across a gravel path that had iced over and I slipped, fell and twisted the heck out of my knee. We were just a couple of months away from moving to Washington state so while I did get it looked at 2 days later in Los Angeles, I decided to wait until I got to Washington to start the physical therapy that the doctor suggested. I got to Washington and no longer had insurance so I decided it could wait a little while longer. I babied it...a lot!

About 3 years later we bought a two-story house and within a month of using stairs every day the knee was toast. I had also fallen two more times and finally went to the doctor (because now I had insurance!). The menicus was not only torn (almost shredded) it was now dislodged and had fallen back behind my knee. I had surgery to trim up the tears and put it back into place but who knows how long I'd been walking on it with bone on bone action and there was already signs of damage. To top it off, I'd come to rely so much on my *good knee* that I'd damaged that one too (sounds like lameness issues, eh?). I was told that I needed TWO knee replacements but at my age (then turning 40 the next day) that they'd like to see me go as long as possible because the knee replacement at that time would only last 8-10 years and they could only replace it twice. So I toughed it out.

I started riding again (because that seems like a great idea for someone with a severe knee injury right?) at the age of 45. When I got serious and hired Chrissy as my trainer I noted that I was good for about 30 minutes before the pain started to slow me down. As I worked up to 40 minutes and then a full hour, I really felt my riding was improving. I started doing schooling shows and rode for a few hours, but not continuously. Then came some trail riding and did a couple of 2-3 hour trail rides where I thought I was going to blow out the knee ON THE TRAIL and hoped Coconut would be able to get me back. Most of you probably know that going down steep hills is hard on the knees but once you're up there, you have to get back down and what was I going to do, get off and walk back? So yes...I suppose it was time to get serious about this and enter the program to get the knee fixed.

Over the last year I did start to address the problem by consulting an Orthopedic surgeon who started me on Synvisc injections. Synvisc is basically (as I understand it) purified chicken fat that, when injected into the knee, creates lubrication and less friction between the bones. Those are supposed to last up to 6 months and the first round seemed to have some good results. The second round was not as successful. I got injected days before I left for the World Equestrian Games were I walked extensively every day. I knew a week into it that I wasn't getting much relief from it, but I pushed on.

I tend to sit pseudo-yoga style at my desk and about 4 days after my conversation with Ruth, I was working at the computer and went to unwind my legs but discovered that I could fully extend my knee and could barely put any weight on it. I had no choice but to break out the crutches and was on them for the next 36 hours.  The next morning I called Dr. Hunter's office and told them that even though I had an appointment in a week, I really felt like I was having an unexpected urgent issue and they were able to fit me in early the next morning. Of course when I woke up for that appointment, the problem seemed resolved but I didn't know what could trigger it next so I kept the appointment anyway.

They took a series of x-rays and Dr. Hunter came in within a few minutes and said, "I don't know how you even walked in here today" ... the knee is completely blown. He said if he didn't know me, he'd say it was the knee of a 78 year old (about 30 years off!!!) and shook his head saying there was nothing he could do but replace it. Apparently it's covered in bone spurs and too damaged to try to treat. He asked if I could clear the next 6-8 weeks and since I happen to be in a position to do that, he put me at the top of his list and I got a call later that day that they scheduled me for Monday the 28th, just 10 days away at that point. No time to go through the seminar, prep classes or any of that...get in and do it, pretty much, NOW!

When I told him I wanted to ride at least another 10 years, he said, "Why not 15-20?" and I smiled BIG and said "OK!" There will, however, be no running in my future (oh darn...bwahaha) but riding pleasure, trails and some dressage would be ok. No Jumping though! Hey...I'm starting to sound like Bucky B Lucky! I knew we were kindred spirits. In fact I went to visit him on Friday and he kept sniffing my knee. How weird is that? Do you think he knew? Maybe when we're both all better, we can team up for a ride. That would be amazing!

A little Lucky Love before I go off to fix my leg. You next handsome!

So projects that I'd been looking at doing over the next few months either had to go on hold or get done in a hurry! The last week has been a whirlwind of stuff that I felt pressured to do. Now it's hours away from when I need to leave for the hospital and I'm looking around thinking that I guess some of it will just have to wait until I can get to it. I did what I can...it's time to get better!

I'm not too worried about the procedure. I have a highly recommended surgeon and my own personal recovery nurse. It turns out that my friend Becka, who's mare Autumn was my first lesson horse at Chrissy's & is now Coconut's neighbor on the other side at the barn, is a recovery room nurse and she has a plan for me! I will be in good hands all the way through this so nothing to fear...and every thing to gain, I think! I'm starting to consider how much more relaxed I can be in the saddle once I am out of pain. I know there is a LOT of work I will have to do to get rehabbed from the surgery and get used to the new knee but I have every reason to believe that if I can power through the pain to ride and do the things I love, then I should have no problem applying myself to, what some call, a difficult recovery. I'm pretty tenacious... but I also know that I could be writing "omg, this is the hardest thing I've ever done" posts later. I hope someone will cut and paste this back to me if I do turn into a screaming/crying mess. Maybe Ruth can come over and remind me how committed I need to be...you know...if I am serious about this riding thing.

Tonight I'm hopeful. Tomorrow I'll sleep it off & then it's on to a new adventure!