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!