Tuesday, December 23, 2008

  2008 proved to be a year of tremendous victories accompanied with tumultuous struggles for both my mother and myself.  At the end of 2007, all we could do was think about the excitement 2008 would bring with the Olympics around the corner and my being placed on the Short list aboard my trusted partner, Frodo Baggins.  The year began extremely well as once again, my mother and father allowed my horses and I to train and compete in Ocala, Florida.  The ribbons piled high as the season came to a close, in addition to the confidence I had in actually being placed on the US Olympic Senior Squad for the Beijing Games (the equestrian venue was located in Hong Kong due to importation restrictions).  In anticipation for one of the final Olympic outings, formally called Rolex Kentucky CCI**** held in Lexington, KY, I had every reason to believe that my dreams would shortly materialize:  after all, I had three of the top ten horses in the USA (Frodo Baggins, Anthony Patch, and Mazetto), all my horses were in pristine condition, my health and fitness were at peak performance, and most importantly, my confidence in all these aspects was unparalleled.  The week before Rolex, both mom and I participated in the Florida CCI* and 1/2* with our more inexperienced horses.  I rode the first of our homebreds, Seajack in the CCI*, and mom rode her off-the-track Thoroughbred Solar Express who I like to refer to as “Sucky Solar” for obvious reasons (much to mom’s dismay).  The show was a great success with both Seajack placing in the top ten at his first three day event and Solar finishing twelfth with only one rail down in the show jumping.  Both mom and I were poised for what lay before us in the rolling hills of Lexington, KY.  

     The days leading up to my horrific accident certainly didn't foreshadow the huge brunt that would be bestowed upon the Ashker/Stephenson families.  Since I was one of four riders who had two horses at Rolex, there was little free time to spend with my family and friends.  However, even with my hectic schedule of autograph signings and course walks, my horses stepped up to the plate by putting in their personal bests in the dressage tests.  I can vividly remember seeing my adoring grandfather, all smiles of course, as Frodo and I exited the arena to the thunderous cheer of over 30,000 fans and seeing the score board notify us of our top fifteen placing.  I truly believe that was one of my proudest moments thus far in life, and feeling that I have truly accomplished my dreams, as was portrayed in my grandfather’s joyous and teary eyes.

     April 26 will be a date that I seldom forget, along with the rest of my family.  My first ride on cross country was atop a new yet experienced mount, Mazetto, who was previously owned by my dear friend Eleanor Brennan, who passed away at a show in November 2007.  Because her whole family was in attendance, an increasing pressure towered over both Eric (Mazetto’s barn name) and my head as we galloped out of the start box.  However, after over forty five jumping efforts and deafening applause from the 50,000 plus spectators, the finish flags appeared too soon!  Eric and I meandered our way into the finish with ample time to spare and a very proud and jumpy mother!  I was so proud to have lived one of Eleanor’s dreams of riding at Rolex, and I truly believe that she was the reason for both the brilliant ride I attained on Eric, and for my survival of what lay ahead.  

     As I mounted Frodo later in the afternoon I believed that the stars had aligned for our successful cross country round.  I was in a top placing, had a double clear on my previous mount who I only had ridden for four months, and this was both Frodo’s and my best phase.  A higher power must have had different plans for us.  As Frodo and I jumped the fifth element on the course, we must have taken off wrong as we fell to both of our demise.  Frodo was immediately transported to a nearby veterinary clinic where they tried to save his life but were unsuccessful.  Although I have never seen the video of my fall and only a few agonizing pictures, I want to make clear to everyone that I take full responsibility for what occurred.  Whether the accident was a freak one or a rider error (which I think was a bit of both), nothing will ever fill the void that April 26 left in my heart and on a daily basis I think about the ramifications of such a small error and desperately regret it.  

     Meanwhile, I was airlifted to the University of Kentucky, where I would stay for three weeks in the ICU.  My mother and father, along with my grandparents, and gentleman friend of mine and many fans visited my bedside while I lay unconscious in an induced coma for the first week in the hospital.  It truly felt like a horrible dream, and I can only imagine the pain my family went through seeing my fight for my life.  I admire my mother’s uncanny ability to handle the ceaseless media in such a abominable time.  She gave TV and newspaper interviews, all with the positive attitude of “upward and onward,” a motto that she has ingrained in me since day one.

     And thus the perennial process of healing began.  After three weeks in the hospital it was time for the long road home to VA.  Granny headed our squadron driving my sports car and mom and I brought up the rear in the more spacious rental car.  After ten long and painful hours we made it home safely.  The physical pain held little resonance compared to the amount of emotional pain I underwent as I ran down to the barn only to experience Frodo’s absence.  Granny and mom continued to nurse me to health, take me to countless doctor appointments, go on hour long walks as I slowly rebuild my strength, and sat by my side as the horror of reality slowly started to set in my mind.  I tell you, without those two women and their tireless care, my progression forward would have never occurred.  

     After granny went home to CA, mom and I were forced to try and go back to as normal as a life we could.  I started riding and teaching, and mom was finally able to pack away the blender, which she did eagerly.  We finished up the year with having completed three horse shows and have attained the normalcy in which Crow’s Ear Farm operates.  Both of us are relatively happy, certainly healthy, and we both are a lot stronger than what we were a year prior.  It is true what they say, you never know what you’ve got inside until it’s tested...I have to say, we passed with flying colors.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!  Here’s to looking “upward and onward” to a fresh start in 2009!

*** On a side note, I want to thank my sponsors...Thinline, Heritage Gloves, FITS, Ulcergard(Merial), Flair Strips, and County Saddlery for being patient and understanding with me and sticking by my side in such a troublesome time.  This year has brought me a lot of pain and turmoil but has also forced me to grow up, in every sense of the term.  Thank you all for your support and see you out in the galloping lane in 2009!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Milestone Marker

As I trotted down centerline to halt at X, I exhaled a sigh of relief for at that moment, I was satisfied where I was and what I was doing in my life. I tipped my head and saluted-a deluge of rain poured into my lap from the spout of my helmet and I exited Solar on a long rein looking for my Thumb's Up validation, a sign from my daughter that met her approval with a beautiful smile. She always is close to me...and 30 feet from ringside is living proof of that. I could bet she learned that habit from her ole' lady!!!

As hurricane Hanna thrusted her might upon the East coast with a copious rainfall, we remaining riders equally rebounded back on our feet right back at her! EVENTING. The life blood of this sport. Those of us that remained had an unmeasurable amount of grit and determination to finish what we all started. It is so very obvious why Laine loves this sport......it is indeed a reflection of her own fortitude and stamina for Life. Men from the boys. This was certainly a horse trial without exception. By the time I rode following Laine.....it was a steady downpour that remained in that dismal state till just after dark. Only the 'die-hards' remained and the Seneca field of play was near empty in what would be the busiest time of the day for the organizers and judges. I rode my test almost 3 hours early because of the no shows and riders electing to call it quits. I walked back to the trailer looking at Laine saying to myself, "another fine mess kid"!!! I knew there was no way in Hell we would be loading our soaked ponies up and heading 95-South to the sheltering gate of Crow's Ear Farm! Not a chance. My daughter's conviction is the Rock of Gibraltar. It has given me strength to be a nurturing Mother when the most difficult of times came to cripple my life and hers on April 26th. I depend on Laine. As do the monkeys who thrive from that great rock they claimed home to. The two work together just as we both do. I am so incredibly fortunate to have the strongest influence remain in my life. I will forever be gracious to God for not robbing me of that bond.

We were greeted by so many fellow riders...."welcome back Lainey"!!! From our dear CA friend Stephanie Boyer to Boyd, Sharon, Tara, Matt, Jackie, Madness, and all our close comrades......both Laine and I found solstice in each person coming up in the terrible weather and making a point of Laine's first event back and congratulating her return . I Love all of You who gave a little bit of your time to make my daughter's struggle not go unnoticed and support her passion of this sport. There has been so much controversy and negativity associated with Rolex and pressure put on Laine's youthful shoulders. It is refreshing to know that our friends remain......Our Friends. I was tenderly reminded by Kathleen Flynn who read our daily hospital blogs that it was Time & Sunshine that mends most Everything. When she asked how Laine was really doing.....I responded but had a 'quiet' moment where emotions forbid me to speak further. She lovingly looked at me and said those very same words I advised readers. Now they were for me. And she was right. I walked away with a smile from ear to ear....and a tear or two that intersected that grin. I felt lighter in my steps as I made my way to the rig and homeward bound with my precious daughter beside me. Our horses were happy. We were happy. And Laine was in the omnibus looking for the next event! She felt so rewarded to be back in the loop from too long a hiatus.

I want to thank first and foremost, my Father and Mother for their loving and unconditional support through ALL of this year. And the many years before. The many years AHEAD. Laine said she is going to see her grandfather witness her in the next Olympic Games before time takes any of us.....for that smile from grandpa is what motivates her to rally onward. Laine is already an Olympic athlete in his mind.....but Laine wants the chance to prove it to him in all his and her glory. I feel she will get that chance indeed. Not only will the Ashker name be a recognized name, the Stephenson Shield of Arms will beam with pride and remain strong.

Which brings me to Ashker once more. Laine's father. Michael. I want to Thank You for your support in financially stretching to the outer limits in giving our kid the chance to live her dream as we did ours. From our 23 years of marriage and half of them struggling in the music business....we have gone through tumultuous ups and downs together in pursuit of 'making it' and now we follow our daughter's aspirations with the same zest for success. It is no surprise I call you when there is adversity in my life because we grew up together, won and lost together, and continue to support one another in our baby's struggle to be Happy and Fulfilled. You gave me my grandest gift. And only you. I thank you for understanding my idiosyncrasies and will take the gravy from our marriage to my grave. "If Almosts Counted".....no wonder I sang the hell outta your song....

My brother George and his wife Judy. I love you both so very, very much. The tough brother you were to me as your little sister carried me through this whole ordeal Georgie. You rescued me so many times growing up......and this would be no exception. And Judy. Your abundant prayers answered ALL. God could not walk away from all the prayer chains you started. I love you Jude.

Lynn Cruser, yo Baby! How in the world could I have got through each day without your silver Bug pulling up my drive at the close of each day to spin time talking over a good glass of wine??? I love you. When I move away....I will be lost without you.

I also know our 2 BELOVED boys Jamie & Frodo are looking down upon our convalescing souls and giving us strength to go forward in their absence. It has been an absolute struggle and immense heartbreak without them. It is a loss that painfully visits our hearts daily. I still have yet to change the feed schedules with their names on it. I probably never will. And Frodo's broom he chewed just the beginning of this year.....will be with me as a reminder of what happiness filled our barn of 11 years. I can say this. We always knew we had the barn of Kings.

Sunshine arrived to greet both Laine and I on Sunday morning with stadium first then finally cross country. We had a complete BLAST and Laine's ride was complete perfection aboard baby Seajack. That team will be a competitive duo next year. Hey, mom didn't do too bad either on Sucky Solar he's so 'affectionately' called! We got 2nd in our Training division. OK, OK.....out of 2!!! Looks like mom has more work to do. But then really, are Mom's 'work' ever truly done????

Time & Sunshine has brought me to this place in my life. And in this place are the friends and family I dearly love. And above that. The gift of Time and another chance I was blessed with to be with my daughter after April 26th. I see nothing greater than to maximize on that once in a lifetime Gift.

So look for me in my red boots and listen to the screaming send offs out of the box. That would be yours truly......doing what makes me most happy and proud......supporting the love and spirit of my extraordinary daughter Laine Evion Ashker.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Hello everyone!
     Today I am writing you all to update you on how my first event back transpired over a tumultuous weekend.  As always, Seneca proved to be once again a well-organized and well-prepared horse trials...that is, until Hurricane Hannah showed her ugly face.  As mom and I watched the television the night before we were to leave for Seneca, we watched a swirling red cloud cross over directly where we were supposed to ride: Poolesville, MD.  However, being that we ARE event riders, the show must go on.  The ground jury hastily decided to run the training level over two days, much to my mother's and my dismay since that meant we needed to find stabling for our horses, and a hotel room for ourselves which equal one thing: more money! Both mom and I forwent braiding our horses since we honestly thought that the whole gig might even be cancelled.  We woke to our blaring alarm clocks at the bright and shiny hour of four o'clock (in the morning) and made our way to the barn where we very rudely woke up Solar and Seajack and loaded them up in the trailer.  At this point, none of the rain or high winds had appeared and we were beginning to think that our weather reporters should find another job.  Perhaps we spoke too soon?  The further north I drove, the heavier the rain poured.  When we arrived at Seneca, both mom and I checked in, retrieved our packets, and I began to tack Seajack up for his dressage.  As I was tacking him up, the announcer informed us that all dressage would run early and they would take people in a "first come, first serve" manner in order to get as many people through their tests as possible.  After about a five minute warm up, Seajack was more than happy to enter at A.  Even with the absence of much needed caulks, Seajack performed his test superbly and I really noticed a change in his frame from his first one star in April to now.  He really seems to be growing up and understanding what it means to be a "big boy" (for those of  you who know me, you know what this term means).  I can honestly say that as I rode my test, I had a tranquil sobriety about me; simply stated, it sure felt good to be back in competition.  I exited the ring and was embraced by a smiling and completely drenched mother who then went and got her horse tacked up to perform her dressage.  Both Solar and Seajack were stars.  Rain, snow, sleet, or sun...our boys never seem to disappoint. 
     I remember in February this year, at Rocking Horse, Frodo and I were in the lead by three points after dressage from Stephen Bradley and From.  I was preparing Frodo for our show jumping round when a storm accompanied with torrential downpours and excessive winds flew overhead.  As our division came to an end, Stephen and I saw the worst of the storm before the ground jury decided to cancel the rest of the days' events.  I remember my coach Buck warming me up with Frodo,  donning his rain gear he bought when we were in Hong Kong the previous year (that should tell you how hard it was raining) and yelling to me instructions as to how to jump a clean round in such impossible weather, only half of which I could hear.  Stephen went before me and as the rain beat down on us, I saw he had a rail with From which gave me a little breathing room for the lead.  As I entered the ring with Frodo, the rain and wind increasingly grew stronger and more perilous.  I recall thinking to myself as I cantered toward my first fence that if we could jump a clean round in these conditions, Rolex would be a piece of cake.  Again, my Frodo failed to disappoint...with knees jerked high and amazingly keen eyesight, Frodo navigated around the course like it was beginner novice level.  Most of the fences I could only see through small squints of my eyes since the rain was hammering down so hard...I really had to leave the rest up to Frodo, and as always, he came through for me.  
     Seajack did the same as his older brother by jumping a beautifully clean show jump round the next, and way more enjoyable, day.  Because it was his first show since the one star, I went quite slow across the country but I was thrilled with how confidently he answered every question asked of him.  Mom also did a great job on Solar having only one rail in SJ, which is a remarkable improvement for them, and a confidence building cross country.  Although the weather proved to be less than desired, the show as a whole was a major success for Team Ashker and Crow's Ear Farm.  I must say that as I watched my fellow comrades traipsing through the mud and sideways rain, I came to the conclusion that event riders are not only crazy, moreover, they are the most compassionate people that I know.  It was such a joy to see good friends like Boyd Martin ("Boydy"), Ryan Wood ("Woodsy"), Sharon White, Stephanie Boyer, and Jennie Brannigan, and Leslie Law all with perennial smiles on their faces even when uncomfortably drenched...one thing is for sure, eventers sure love what they do.  It feels great to be back, and even greater to be back riding against and with my eventing family.  Thank you all for your support through this time...as promised, I am back...eventing just wasn't the same without the Ashker girls...until next time, heels down, thumbs up, elbows in, and kick on!

PS.  I want to wish the BEST of luck to my coach, Buck Davidson, who is riding his short listed mount, Ballynoe Castle RM ("reggie") at Blenheim CCI*** in England next weekend.  To see results, go to www.blenheim-horse.co.uk.  Good luck COACH!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Good Friends never let you down

Hello all!
Thought it may be a good time to write since I have had a hiatus from writing these blogs. In comparison to most of the world I have been actively watching the Olympics, staying awake until the wee hours of the morning, as well as desperately falling in love with the great Michael Phelps! In contrast to most of the world, I have felt extremely disappointed, saddened to have been to close to attaining a life-long goal at the age of 24, only to fall short and worst of all, lose my life-long partner, Frodo Baggins. My mom recently told me(she read this in an email) that, "you should never look at life through your rear view mirror; rather, life should be viewed through the huge front windshield." This, held a lot of merit as I thought about it more and more. As I watched our team take on the xc at Beas River I began coaching them (which didn't seem to work, probably because of the time change) and reminiscing over my experience with the course and how many of the same problems the horses and riders were facing, both Buck and I noticed after crossing the finish lines. However, I was mostly glad to hear that the xc day was a positive day for the sport, with no injuries incurred by either horse or rider despite a few harrowing falls. Now as I type I look on to London. I will now center my focuses on my now two top mounts, Anthony Patch and Seajack, in hopes to find in them what I have had the honor of experiencing by riding horses like Eight Saint James Place, Frodo Baggins, and Mazetto. I cannot feign my disappointment in not having the chance to compete for my country, however I can rest assured knowing that I was given the chance to compete at the exquisite Hong Kong Olympic venue and know that because of my youth and determination, more Olympics are in store for me...now, the hard part of filtering through the horses (figuring out who has the heart, talent, soundness, and mental stability) to achieve that level is the next phase. However, this is my FAVORITE part as I really haven't once been let down by any of my ponies; and if I find they do not want to partake in the rigors eventing has to offer, I will happily move them on to a barn that will fulfill their needs and how my mother always puts it," where they can be a star in someone else's barn." I just don't see that happening...
The next topic of focus is my fall eventing schedule. After speaking with my coach we both came to the conclusion (honestly it was Buck more than I that was persistent) that I would start at Seneca Valley, at the training level. I originally entered Alex, but after some thought, switched horses and now Seajack will start off the season at Training. At the end of September I plan to take both of my boys to Middleburg horse trials at the preliminary level. That is as far as I have planned. It has been very hard for me to NOT have a goal to strive for in each season...sometimes I feel as if I am being left behind...however, I know that taking this extra time to come back to the sport will only help rather than hinder.
Finally, I must express my gratitude to a few very special people. Last night, my top student (who happens to support the sport of eventing but only compete in straight dressage) Celia Rafalko had a "Welcome back to the Saddle" dinner party in my honor. My adoring mother, Lynn Cruser, Anne Mary Bettenson of my supportive sponsor County Saddlery, Celia, and her husband Rick were in attendance. My dear friend Jessica Bowen was supposed to come but sadly had to cancel last minute as she fell ill. Not only was the dinner extremely appetizing but the company really made me feel supported and loved. I can't express the gratitude I felt as all of these people drove out of their way to show their support for me, my horses, and our dreams. Then the surprise came...Apparently, unbeknowenst to me, my sponsors, County Saddlery had a portrait made of my beloved Frodo. As Celia unveiled the portrait, I could no longer hold in my emotions. Never in my life have I seen a more beautiful and lifelike portrait of my Frody. God blessed Frankie Pardoe's hands as she spent days and hours trying to capture the magnificence of the great and gentle Frodo Baggins. As soon as I saw the artwork, Anne Mary dialed Frankie's number (mind you, this was all extremely well-planned and executed) as I told her how much I appreciated her taking on such a difficult task of capturing something that epitomized perfection and grace...my Frodo Baggins. I just couldn't get over the fact that all of these people were here for me, to support me, to assure me that they want me to carry on and continue to succeed, and most importantly, all of these people BELIEVE in me. I was clearly overcome with emotion. I am now trying to find the perfect place to mount my Frodo...somewhere where he can watch over me at all times and keep me safe from harm as he always has. This will be a difficult task...
So now it's time for me to head back to my daily viewing of the Olympics. One day I too strive to be the like Michael Phelps and attain greatness in my sport. There really is no definition of greatness but if you had to capture it's essence in a few words, his name would be on the tips of most everyone's tongues...he is certainly added to my list of inspirations. Thank you all for being so supportive of me through this time. Come Sept, Crow's Ear Farm will be back in action...until then, heels down, elbows in, and push forward.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Support From A Friend

Dear Laine:

I just wanted to let you know not that everyone in the horse world is placing blame on you for the misfortune at Rolex nor the push for increased safety of eventing competitions.

Although I have never competed anywhere near the level that you do, nor have the guts to do so, many of the things I have read regarding the accident I do not feel are very factual of the event. I was standing a few yards away on the far side of that jump and witnessed the terrible fall and it was gut wrenching to be there and to be so useless to be able to help either you or Frodo. It is not something that I would ever wish on anyone nor want to be a witness to again. I did not see any rider errors nor an approach that was different than anyone else's while watching that jump that day. I do not feel that you were competing prematurely at the 4 star level. You competed clean and successfully in cross country for over 2 years at the 3 star level with him. You obviously knew what you were doing and were well prepared or you would not have gone clean on your earlier ride that day.

I'm sorry that they are making you the scape goat for this issue, especially as you were not the only one to lose a partner at Rolex, nor the first rider to lose a horse in the eventing competition or be injured even this year alone. If this terrible incident increases the safety of eventing for all future riders and horses, you will have saved many lives and many injuries in years to come. If that means redesigning the cross-country courses, requiring safety pins for all jumps on course, etc., so be it. In no sport should a single error of a competitor have the potential to cost them their life.

I am very sorry for your loss of Frodo. I lost my horse 2 years ago May in a freak, non-riding accident. After spending a week at Haygards, I had to make the very difficult decision to let him go when his odds of recovery were reduced to less than 10%. To suddenly lose your riding partner is so very difficult and something those outside the horse world didn't seem to grasp for me. Your strength and determination to be back riding again already is inspiring.

Good luck in your future endeavors. I look forward to seeing you ride in the 2012 Olympics.



Friday, July 25, 2008

An Update from Lainey

Hey everyone. Long time no speak. My mom has been much more responsible as far as updating the blog but its time I take over the reins on this one. Everything has slowly been progressing forward. Two weeks ago, right after I returned from California, I took alex cross country schooling at one of my favorite places, Wingreen, which is located in orange, va. Alex was phenomenal, jumping everything I pointed him to which really allowed my confidence in his talents to soar. I know in my heart he has four star abilities...its a matter of whether or not he has a four star heart that my fro and James exuded so diligently. A few days after I schooled al, I took a group of students out and schooled my homebred, Seajack. Seaj has always been known for his quiet attitude and steady disposition and he certainly didn't disappoint. He jumped everything I steered him to which really made me feel proud to know that although my love if my life frodo has left, his two comrades are eager to help fill the void be left in my heart. Soon thereafter, mom and I took our 4 year olds to deep run for a xc school. I rode our homebred, peewee, who I have tremendously high hopes for, and mom rode guppy, our newbee off the track who definitely isn't a slouch at crows ear farm. Both performed really well so I'm excited for these two boys bright futures. Maybe I'll have two more to add to the string for fl next year? Hmmm....not sure, that very well may be up to dad, depending on how many clinics I teach this fall.

On a more personal note, my body is healing well. The doctors appointments are becoming less frequent. However, few imperfections resulting from the accident have yet to be fixed. My dentist, dr. Talton, is trying to devise a way to avoid further surgery to my jaw, because my bite has indeed healed a bit off. Not that I blame the trauma team in ky, my life was at stake so of course they had to hastily repair my jaw. Also, my one tooth's root is exposed so I will be a candidate for a gum graph in the near future. Something totally unrelsyed to the accident, my tonsils, are scheduled to be extracted on the morning of the 6th of august. Since I was a little girl I've dealt with the pains of tonsilitis so I figured what better time to get them yanked? I wish we could just put all my doctors together and in one fell swoop do all three surgeries consecutively but unfortunatley, the doctors won't do this. Perhaps they're starting to think I'm a sucker for pain? Maybe....

My plan for a sept show schedule still stands, which is a big reason for getting these surgeries out of the way. I plan on doing mostly local shows, starting with Seneca valley riding alex in the open prelim division. Keep in mind, my coach is still in England training as an alternate for the US Olympic team, so upon his return, my plan will be finalized.

I feel lucky that although I didn't get to go to hong kong this year, I was fortunate enough to experience it last year along with my coach in the Olympic test event, where I rode al. If I could give any advice for our team, get as much sleep on the plane, pack a kit of jackets ( anywhere indoors in hong kong immediatley thrusts you into a state of hypothermia), and drink tons of water. I'm sure buck is dispensing his advice regarding hong kong as our team trains at capt mark Phillips yard in minchinhampton, England. Well, I wish our team, whoever gets the chance to go, the best of luck. Although I wish I were with them physically, I know they all carry my hope and faith, along with the rest of you horse addicts on their shoulders. Until next time, grab mane and enjoy...


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Another Interview With Lainey

Here's a link to another interview with Lainey. This one's from NBC 12 in Richmond, Virginia.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Here's the Video!

Hello Ashker fans!
Here is the KCRA Channel 3 link to view the "Olympic horse rider recovers from injuries" interview from Deirdre Fitzpatrick hosted in Sacramento, CA this week. You may get onto the site and get the video by using this web address:
Hope you enjoy!
I will be putting some x-c school pictures up shortly as we ride so you can see the progress we are making with our Crow's Ear Farm crew!
As soon as NBC Channel 12 Richmond, VA puts up their interview next week I will add that one as well.
Until then stay healthy and happy and keep cool! I believe the hot weather is following all of us!!!
take care,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

KCRA Channel 3 in Sacramento, CA

will be airing Laine's report TODAY, Thursday July 17th at 5pm! If it gets shifted to another day due to our President visiting wildfire areas, it will be moved to this Friday. Additionally, it will be on their web-site of www.kcra.com.I hope all of you enjoyed yesterday's NBC Channel 12 in Richmond, VA! It was a lovely piece and Laine's phone was text mania after it aired! That too, can be seen on www.nbc12.com under Olympic athletes.If I hear more details I will certainly let all of you know.Until then, keep smiling! Life is good.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Laine's Interview

July 17th

I wanted to let all of you know that THIS Wednesday, Channel 12 on NBC will air Laine's interview at 5:30pm (or a few minutes after). We had such a wonderful time filming baby Seajack jumping through the grid we set up and Laine sitting tall and confidant smiling all the way through the jumping session! Joe Sullivan was most impressed with Laine's attitude and 'come back kid' spirit, not to mention his astonishment when seeing our barn mascot, ET!

James the cameraman was such a perfectionist placing the camera in different spots so backgrounds and light would be most beneficial. It was a lovely experience and I think all of you will enjoy seeing Laine's progress.

We declined the ESPN interview due to the chance it might be turned into a negative light with the loss of our precious partner Frodo.

I will update all of you when I hear from NBC Channel 3 Sacramento, CA as to the date when Laine's interview there with Deirdre Fitzpatrick aires.

until then thank you for all your support.....we continue to rally forward from your kindred spirit and prayers.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Back From California!

Hello Everyone!
Laine and I went to CA for a family visit which was wonderful! Being with my family and dear friends was incredible and so therapeutic for us both. We are progressing slowly with their help and support.

I wanted to give all of you a head's up on an interview with Laine on NBC Channel 3 out of N. CA. I believe it will be aired either the end of this week or next. When I get specific dates I will record them on this site. Also NBC Channel 12 out of Richmond, VA will be doing an additional interview along with ESPN shortly. Everyone is concerned on Laine's progress and a lot of admirers have been calling up stations and magazine journals to be updated and made aware of her future efforts. Heck, I even got interviewed! So keep close to this site and I will let you know dates once they become known.

Laine continues to march forward. Slowly. She gave 2 cross country lessons today and it made her feel like she was getting back into the swing of activities. Both riders wore smiles from ear to ear leaving today and her other lessons have been equally pulling away with new found skills to better their rides. It is so valuable to be a teacher AND a rider....and pull out the very best of both. Laine does that so very, very well. It is her passion to leave students with homework so they can aspire to be more educated equestrians. There has to be challenge and focus. Let's say, Laine is like a MiniMe Buck, but in a young female version (little sister would probably be most appropriate!) Buck has taught Laine to be the rider she is today. Sharing what she has learned with other riders is a bonus. I feel Laine is finding some degree of growth and comfort....a step moving forward from these lessons, which is a blessing and relief in itself.

Laine's jaw could be a problem down the road. Her bite is off and crooked....so the dentist wants to file down her teeth in different areas to re-align them as close as possible to their original position. I am not sure if this will remedy the problem but we hope so before we go further into another jaw surgery. She also has a huge knot on her back from the broken clavicle causing her muscle tightness and tension. It has a bit of a humpback appearance and we are trying massage therapy and heat to get it loosened up. It's a slow creep forward from all her injuries but it will all come together and they will be issues of the past.

Laine is asking me if I am starting dinner now....so my friends I will write back as soon as I know upcoming interview dates.
I can feel all your hope and prayers around me and that is why I am a strong woman and mother.
Thank you.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Valerie's Update

It has been a while since I have put in my personal update on daughter Laine. We have been busy in the barn care taking our 10 beautiful horses & ponies and keeping them cool and comfortable during these hot and humid months. They stand in front of their fans and sweat!!! I had new waterers installed and of course only 'my' horses are the dork individuals that stand bewildered in front of them wondering how to get water by pressing the paddle down!!! I was amazed that baby Seajack was the first one to easily figure it out! Both Laine and I were amused by the 'smartest horse in the world' and his discovery!

We have our good days and some not so good. The pictures of our dear Frodo keep coming to our mail box and rear porch door.....paintings of Eric & Frodo by local artist Don Davis which are an unbelievable labor of love and respect for my daughter. I came in the door with a big smile 2 nights ago to a big box waiting in my hallway.....Frodo's ashes. I can not convey the deep dark spot in my soul that remains there in his absence. My life has been like the Griffin roller-coaster ride at Busch Gardens....one day you are up....the next you plummet down. I am careful not be too emotional in Laine's company as she is on the mend....but I let my hair down calling her grandmother or my dearest friend Lynnie. Both my mother and Lynn have always supported our endeavors and I am fortunate to have extra shoulders to lean on. It all seems so fresh. The accident happened 2 months ago....yet it seems like yesterday. I ALWAYS find peace in one thought that prevails beyond my grief. Laine pulled through April 26th. She remains with me today when somewhere in her darkest hours in ICU she rallied for survival because she confessed she would never have left me alone. We have a promise between one another. When I am put away in a nursing home, I will see this little white convertible pull up...with a gorgeous lady and red scarf blowing behind the wheel and that will be my 'knight in shining armor' my own mother promised me growing up. And for Laine's 'warrior mentality' even off her feet......I will forever be Blessed. Each and every day remaining in my Life. Together we are finding our ways through this fog. I can face the rest of Life's turmoil now because we made it through this, and step by step we are inching forward.

As always, I can't thank you enough for the continued support that fuels positive thoughts in my day to day life. I am awakened spiritually to realize how fortunate we've been to have friends all around the world who are still concerned with my daughter's progress.I hope in the years to come....if any of you see me at the events or on cross country ....you will stop me for introductions, but only momentarily for it is the vision of Laine and her partner that puts wind in my sails to continue with our dreams and the pursuit of excellence that makes life so worthwhile.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Frodo the Magnificent

There are horses and courses throughout the land,

Theres riders and sideliners who would give you a hand,

There are horses with heart, that stand apart,

There are riders and friends, who would give you their heart,

This poem is about one, who stood alone,

Her passion to ride her horse was her home,

They traveled to lands across the sea,

It was Lainey and Frodo the best there could be,

They ran down the trails, they jump far and true,

It was two into one, always coming through,

The hours of training, the long days they worked,

Their dream of victories, despite the hurt,

From one state to another, they graced the lands,

And horse a rider with guiding hands,

Their love for each other, so tried and true,

No matter the obstacle they would never be through,

Then a terrible day that turned light into dark,

A moment of uncertainty that would pull them apart,

There were days filled with tears, Life and death far and near,

Then by the grace of God and the thousand of prayers,

Lainey opened her eyes, we knew God was near,

Lainey has been blessed, by God above,

The prayers, the letters, thousands of emails all about love,

Home with her Mother, home with her Grandma,

Out of the hospital, a lot less trauma,

If you ever meet her, you’ll know her game,

She’s guts and glory, and Frodo’s fame,

The end of this story, is the beginning of a dream,

You see Lainey and Frodo still are jumping clean,

For she now has a spirit that runs above,

Frodo looks down on his Lainey and love,

For he’s Frodo the Magnificent, the horse that was so blessed,

It was Lainey and he that flew by the rest,

This isn’t the end, and certainly not the past,

This is a love story that always will last,

To my beautiful niece,

Love Uncle George XOXOXO

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update For Our Friends

Good Morning our dear friends,

I have not talked with all of you for quite some time now. I felt I should give an update on Laine's progress.

We have been to numerous doctor appointments. Each doctor represented one of the multiple injuries on Laine's slender more than ever body. Laine's Jenny Craig diet before KY has nothing on the 'wiring jaw' approach! She looks lovely, but then again.....I always thought she did.
We are on that road to recovery. Right smack down the middle lane. All systems forward. We encounter only
green lights and that is all we accept. Again, I see that "Warrior Mentality" in Laine. We made changes to our competition calendar for fall.....and it has
actually been nice not getting up crack of dawn hours and following a serious schedule. Our horses have been spoiled rotten. They look like little aliens with their ears all pricked sporting all of their new fly masks grandma bought them! Life is coming back slowly to Crow's Ear Farm and even Dos, our attack rooster is on his game for attacking my little pink Tracker as we pull each day into our drive! Boy it is so funny how the tiny nuances in Life can pull you together and make one appreciate the good we all have around us.
Family. Friends. Furred & feathered. At about the same time our dear boy Frodo departed this world, along came a tiny solid black with white dot (how ironic is that?)small, 4 week old kitten....abandoned on our road where our friend Jessica Bowen rescued and brought her in. She was caretaking my farm while Laine and I were in KY and we call our new hobo "Princess Arowyn" after our beloved Lord. Of the Rings.
Arowyn scampers all around our feet and is one of the most adorable and happy little kits I have ever been around. Laine especially.....loves her. I know Frodo and this is his attempt at saying "my Lainey, I am never too far away from you...ever". God we miss him. Beyond words. It is a heavy swelling deep in our soul that triggers relief by emptying water with every minute of memory we embrace of his sweet existence. No doctor can mend that break. Laine is extremely fortunate to have had 8 years with her Frodo and a partnership she will never duplicate. We had the privilege to know and love Frodo and within that spanse of time together he added and changed so much in our lives.
Laine's father came for a visit from CA and the vision of his daughter laying in the ICU bed with tubes everywhere diminished as she walked up and slowly put her arms around him. I know that feeling. It is the same one I have that releases water. We as parents have been blessed. We are so fortunate. God gave us another chance for happiness. No matter what happens in each of our 3 little lives......we return to this thought.
Life is delicate. It is a Gift. What we make and take from it is most precious. Looking back on my 52 years of life, I was fortunate to be raised from the love of my devoting mother and father. Their love is infinite. My brother who has always been my hero as he watched over me growing up....I cherish. We will combine our lives when I get back home. Laine's father. Michael. Ironic. Today would have been let's see....our 31 year anniversary. I am smiling. He gave me the greatest gift of my life. Even in our divorce we remain rocks for one another and for our daughter. Sources of strength. Positive energy. Everything we 'just' missed out in our lives that brought us heartache was put in it's place when Februrary 10, 1984 the REAL DEAL was born. From that point on I have been running across fields dashing in and out of roped gallop lanes.....following daughter Laine and her pursuit of her own dreams. Just as my mother and father did for me. And how Michael and I did starting out. Everyone has them. A dream.

In this life what matters most is how you achieve them. The road we journey to those dreams offer undiscovered treasures along it's long and winding way.......those being our families with their inexhaustible support and the incredibly bounty of friends we are so lucky to 'find us' along the way. Opening up those treasures one discovers
themselves. Riches beyond belief.

Happy Wednesday, June 11th everyone. We all have something to be thankful for this day.

thank you for all your continued support.......

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Change of Heart

Hey guys!  Lainey here!  First and foremost, before I go any further I would like to send my condolences out to Karen O'Conner and the Theodore O'Conner syndicate for the untimely death of the super pony Theodore O'Conner.  I know off first hand how much Karen loved that pony as I shared the same feeling as she did from the moment I first saw her ride him.  He has been an inspiration for not only event riders, but for all horsemen alike.  He will be greatly missed.  However, I can sleep well at night knowing that he will be galloping with my beloved Jamie and Frodo in lush green pastures.
I wanted to write everyone to let you know there has been a change in my competition schedule.  After my coach Buck Davidson and his lady friend and fellow event rider Kristen Bond drove over six hours to visit me, Buck and I sat down to discuss a reasonable show schedule that would ensure my safety and build my confidence.  He decided, as rudimentary as it may seem, and much to my dismay, that I should start back doing one training level horse trials when my body decides its ready (which realistically will be near August).  He then went onto say I would do two more prelims and then finish up the year with one or two intermediates with Alex and perhaps the Florida CCI* with Seajack.  So, Fairhill is out for this year.  
As much as I didn't like hearing it, I knew Buck was right in telling me to take it slow.  So many times when we athletes become disabled, our minds feel ready before our body has time to object.  More than anything, I want to come back to the event world to be one of the best over a long period of time, not chase the clock and try and hurry my horses along to try and be the best just for the moment.  I figure that safety is my top priority as it always has been.  
So, you will be seeing me start back at the basics.  Although I don't plan on being there long, I think it will be a time for me to have fun and enjoy the sport for what it is, instead of always having loads of pressure weighing on my shoulders.  Although I don't have a schedule laid out yet, just because I don't know when I will physically be able to endure the trials of an event, I will get one out to you all as soon as I am able.  Thank you all of being so supportive throughout this time of need.  You all have inspired me to get better even faster!  Thank you once again!



We now have Laine Ashker armbands available to purchase. They are in Laine's colors of yellow and burgundy. They may be purchased at area events for $5 a piece or through the mail (10 armband minimum or $50 minimum donation to purchase by mail). We will keep a list updated of where you can get your Laine Ashker armbands here. All proceeds from the sales of armbands go to the Equestrian Aid Foundation. You must mention "Laine Ashker" if you would prefer the proceeds to go directly to Laine's fund. You may purchase your Laine armband at the following events/stables
Poplar Place Farm June Event - Hamilton, Georgia
Rocking Horse Stables - Altoona, Florida
(please insert any other event/place you guys will have them available on this list here)

To order by mail please send a check made out to Equestrian Aid Foundation (minimum of $50 donation/10 bracelets or more) to
Ruthie Harbison
Laine Ashker armbands
15445 51st Drive
Wellborn, Florida 32094
Please remember to include the shipping address for where the armbands are to be received.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Update and a Wonderful Surprise!

8:45am Tuesday, May 20th
I have been busy with follow up appointments for daughter Laine and keeping the barn people happy while we are on the mend. Laine is looking much better as swelling is going down and she is able to shower, dress and walk about a half mile on her own! She complains of pain in her jaw and back but the meds seem to help take the edge off. Now the 'baton' will be handed over to a friend of ours, Dr. Marc Warner, whom is a vascular surgeon and will coordinate follow up visits with specialists. Dr. Talton, DDS. has taken Laine under his wing and promises to give her that white beaming smile back when the wires are taken off and she is able to "open" her mouth for repair procedures. Laine has all of her teeth but her bite is off and some of her front teeth have roots exposed due to the injury. Time will tell if these will be problem areas but Dr. Talton assures everything is 'fixable.' We have had such an incredible support system with doctors and friends.....right from the beginning! Our neighbors have brought over scrumptious meals.....home cooked....that even I fight over to get my hands on before Laine!!!! Who cares if they are 'mandatory' straw meals......they are DELICIOUS!! We have so much to be thankful for......and being home.....it seems the second wave of loving support has 'unfurled.'
We are trying to get Mazetto. I guess he misses Laine and though he is in a lovely pasture with "Dan"...Winsome Adante, everyone there says he needs to be back with Laine. I could not agree more and so we are on a mission to try to bring him to Crow's Ear Farm and that infamous stall #2. I will keep all of you updated on our progress. Laine has already spoken of Fair Hill *** in October and her
2 rides there with Alex and Eric!!!! I so much feel a gray hair coming on to add to my Bonnie Rait collection!!!! I am so proud of her and the 'pioneering' spirit Laine possesses. Her happiness is what I want most. And like her coach Buck....this passion for riding runs deep in her blood. I will support her. Valerie Dorice Ashker

So the Surprise???!!

May I introduce the young, amazingly talented, beautiful & bright, intellectual, UVA graduate, courageous and brave-hearted epitome of "warrior mentality"
Laine Evion Ashker!

Hello everyone
I know it's probably seemed like an eternity since I've last written, however, in my defense, my life has seemed much like a whirlwind recently. First and foremost I need to express my thank you's. The first people on my list have to be my parents and my close family (this includes you Brandon), which most of you have already pointed out in all of the lovely cards that have been sent. Throughout this terrible nightmare, my parents have been like steadfast pillars, unwavering in the turbulent winds that have been heading our direction. I have been so proud of them because instead of giving up and panicking through this situation, they've become stronger and allowed me, the one who supposedly never shows her weaknesses, have a rest and shed many tears on their shoulders. Next, I would love to thank all of the horse and non-horsey people alike, who have expressed their support through flowers, emails, gifts, telephone calls, letters, or words. Let me tell you that these things, although perhaps nnot outwardly, have really aided my healing as it is nice to hear there are people on my side, hoping my recovery is a speedy one. Lastly, I would like to thank those who have been writing/saying terrible things about Frodo and I to the public: you have once, again inspired me to rise about the standard of expectation. It's funny because whenever Buck told me that it was impossible to do something (ie: make the optimum time on a xc course), it gave me such a huge push to strive for it even more! Thus, I hope at Fairhill later this year, I will prove you all wrong. That's all I have to say about that....moving on.
Life since I have been home has been pretty slow going, which for us eventers, is the hardest type to deal with. I have had an abundance of visitors which has been nice because it keeps my mind moving on, and not dwelling on what happened nearly three weeks ago. This has been, by far, the toughest thing I have had to deal with. I would like to say that at the age 24, I have many more years to live so there will be even more difficult times that lay ahead, but if that were to be the case, and if I really believed that, I think I would have given up a while ago in the UK hospital. Losing Frodo has completely turned my world upside down. Frodo was not only my best horse, but my best friend, the horse I wanted to see first when my beloved Jamie passed last year. He embodies everything I want to be. So, losing him has caused a lot of suffering and pain that I am sure wont be healed long after the rest of my body does. On a brighter note, it was so nice to see how he affected other people's lives as well. Many strangers wrote just to say he was the most beautiful horse they'd ever seen, or because of his history with the movie
Lord of the Rings, people who don't even watch the sport tuned in to see him. I must say that I was lucky to have had him for the 8 years I did.
So, what lay ahead for me? My plan is to be back riding sooner than later...DUH! The only thing really holding me back are my ribs because whenever mom is driving and there is a bump in the road this terrible pain shoots down my back...so that is a bit problematic. I have to speak with Buck about a schedule but since I missed Jersey Fresh with Al, I plan on doing Fairhill with him. If I should find my beloved Mazetto back in my barn before then, I'll plan to bring him there as well. I also plan on teaching as soon as my wires come off of my teeth. I taught mom a lesson on Alex the other day, but because my mouth is wired shut, the volume of my voice is quite low which makes it difficult for anyone who lacks a bit in the hearing department.
So my Olympic dream for this year has officially been eradicated. However, I wish those who travel to China the best of luck and I have all my faith bestowed in the fact that the US is more than ready to bring home a few gold medals. I am thankful that I got the chance to go over last year, which eases the disappointment a little. Next goal for me? World Games in Lexington in 2010 and London in 2012. I want to thank all of you for being so supportive and kind to my mom and I in this time of need. You will see me back in the saddle sooner than later. I look forward to seeing all of you at the shows. Please keep my Frody in your hearts and minds as you ride as I know I will for the rest of my life. Thank you so much! Until next time, shoulders back, leg on, and chin up!


For comfort in this time

Something I wrote for You all.
I Hope it brings some comfort in this time.

My Best Friend
Who needs a Reason? You'll Always be my Best Friend.
Time has gone, You'll Still be by my side.
I'll never forget You, or any of those Times.
There's a list upon many, but why stop now?
The pasture glows in the midnight sky, I know your watching me.
Lay here, under these stars and talk to You, Just like old times.
The world isn't the limit, We've seen it all.
You kept me Safe, and We finished together.
I know You'll Always be there to cheer me on.
To whisper into my ear, when I need You Most.
I'll Miss You Best Friend.
Don't cry tears of Sorrow, For A Best Friend Never wants to see You cry.

Ride Each Day Like It's Your Last, Ride Like Your Best Friend Would Want You To.
Ride Because Your Best Friend, Will Always Be With You.

My Prayers Are With You All.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy to be home!

10am Friday, May 16th

I am so absorbed in getting back into the 'routine' here at Crow's Ear Farm that I have missed a couple days of postings! I am sorry for that and I know all of you want to know how Laine is doing.
She is doing well except for her daily walk to the barn and seeing the vacant stall #2. This part of her recuperation will be a lasting pain that will just have to be managed with Time. Her traech opening on her throat is healing well and becoming minimal along with her face and the swelling on her right side. Sleeping is a problem with the broken scapula and we have to be quite engineering to place pillows where they are needed for comfort. I am becoming a "Smoothie Queen" with the new processor and enjoy watching her sip up my efforts neatly through her Hardy's straw (I confiscated yesterday as they are wider than the normal package of straws we bought)! All is returning to some degree of every day life here on the farm.....I didn't even get bucked off riding both our 4 yr olds who have not got out on scheduled rides in quite some time!!!!!

Michael and I want to thank all of you for the love and support along with prayer chains on our daughter's behalf. Really, without your touching e mails......all this might have ended differently. I can't thank all of you enough.....but know it is from the bottom place in my heart. We are working on getting sponsership in acquiring Mazetto, Eric is his barn name.....so stall #2 can be filled with Laine's partner of 4 months and continue forward for wonderful years of adventure ahead.

I will write more in the next day or two.....meanwhile please know how thankful and appreciative we are in your love of Laine. I am astounded of the mail Laine is receiving and when we opened the box from Shawn Faust we fell apart. Tears of gratitude ran down both Laine and my face for in the box was this INCREDIBLE portrait of our dear boy Frodo so lifelike and amazing work of talent from a brush and unknown soul. How do I thank this lady? I guess hanging it in our hallway with Jamie's picture will have to do. And a daily dose of " I love you Frodo" greeting each new day........

the words Thank You can be so huge.......

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Frodo remembered

This is a poem I ran across in one of my Dressage magazines. . . I wanted to share this with you.





I have attached a picture of Frodo in Dressage from the Rolex. . . "What a truly beautiful boy!"

Best Wishes!

www.teamghost7.com <http://www.teamghost7.com/>

Pause on the email

Laine's email box is FULL!!! Thanks to every one who has written to Laine but she is not yet able to read and respond to her email. So could you please hold off on sending her email at this time? You can still email Valerie at ValerieAsh@aol.com. She's still reading her email.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Poem from a friend

Shared by Rachel Asmus...

Meeting Again At The Rainbow Bridge
All the animals who have been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; his eager body begins to quiver. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together

Monday Update

Monday, May 12, 2008

We get released TOMORROW and probably will start our drive back to Crow's Ear Farm on Wed early morning!!!! I think if we actually leave the hospital tomorrow before noon grandma and myself will take Laine to get a mani/pedi and brows beautified! I am so excited this is all coming to a close even though this hospital, the staff, the doctors and incredible nurses have been nothing short of Top Drawer. I can never Thank of these wonderful people for their beyond the call of duty care of our daughter Laine. I know their support has had so much to do with her walking out of here tomorrow. Along with ALL YOUR PRAYERS. thank you.

I will keep all of you posted as much as possible and was hoping to have daughter Laine step in. She has not been much about hearing or talking about horses at this moment but I believe it is her way of taking the first step in her emotional rescue and recovery. We are so incredibly proud of coach Buck taking 2nd yesterday at Jersey Fresh *** and then his horse got vetted to be looked at for the Team. How wonderful is that!!!!!!!!!!!! Our dear friend Amy got the blue and I can never thank her enough as well as Karen for their heartwarming phone calls. I love them for taking Laine in as their friend and fellow competitor making time to show their concern. Everyone at Jersey I guess were wearing Laine's colors on ribbons all weekend long. As we did for our dear Eleanor at Kentucky. Our comradery between all of we eventers is special and brings a comforting feeling when we hold the fort down together.

I close only for now and hope you all have a wonderful start to this week. I know getting home to see my dear friends Lynn Cruser and Jess Bowen will be the start of good times to come. Then seeing our 9 boys and 1 little prissy pony mare........
they all wait......for the fearless duo of mom and daughter....grandma too.....and get Crow's Ear Farm back on track for the remainder of this year.

I will never forget any one of your precious e mails.......my heart has been touched by so very very many.


Here are a couple of pictures we'd like to share with you...

Room #653 Laine Ashker

Another view of #653 with Laine's monkey her nephew sent to her. That monkey was with Laine Sunday after her accident and remained in her bed till now. I know that stuffed animal will remain special for a very long time.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Sunday Update

10:15am Sunday, Mother's Day!

Short but sweet Laine is doing better!!!! I have been over an hour by her bedside helping her sip the ice water cup from a sponge applicator and she so much enjoyed that. My back has a cramp from leaning over so long!!! She asked me if I and grandma will continue to 'spoil' her when we get home!!!! Of course all of you know my reply!

Laine's possible discharge date is Tuesday, May 13th. We will know probably by tomorrow when the Blue Trauma Team meet and conclusively agree she is able to go home. I will inform all of you that news.

I want to wish all of you mothers a very special day today.........I never really appreciated these holidays until this one. I hope yours is filled with the happiness mine is.
That is my Mother's Day wish to all of you.

till tomorrow......

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Saturday Update

4:30pm Saturday May 10th, '08

This day has nearly gotten away from me! I have been continuously downloading precious pictures of our beloved Frodo and Mazetto for Laine to enjoy when the time is right. It takes ALL day to do this!!!!! I am so grateful to all of you who sent pics to me with some of those brilliant moments of Laine 2 weeks ago which now will never be lost. Thankyou. Your e mails have made my days brighter in the wake of disaster and beyond. When one door closes another will open and I have come to depend on all of you to rekindle that thought daily.

We will be going HOME next week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Laine might have her trachea tube OUT tomorrow and then be released as soon as Tuesday!!! Mom and I will slowly start our chores of packing up and organizing the van for Laine's transport. I will be driving Laine's convertible Crossfire! I am putting my lipstick on...Gucci sunglasses and BIG SMILE when I get into her car! We are going to celebrate LIFE returning to Crow's Ear Farm! Our 2 Shelties, Ivy & Huey will be waiting along with our 10 horses...5 chickens, our love bird Milly (KillMilly.com) (she is like a boomerang on Laine's shoulder!!!), cockatiel Angie whom I hatched and handfed 15 years ago, 4 barn cats, one of which is ET...she surely looks like it and a cat you will never forget, and just our beautiful farm with all the flowers in bloom and welcome home colors. I know Laine will be so happy to become attached again to our little place we have built up together. It has been a good home for sure.

Mom and I will take care of our girl 24/7 and I am going to assign Laine's first task of getting the mail! Things will slowly progress at a natural pace and we will be OK. It is directly a result from ALL OF YOU.

Boy oh boy........what a Mother's Day it will be. I have my "Peeps" back with me and that is all that matters. Really. When you think of it.......
My grandmother used to tell me "you can have a sweetheart any day, but not another Mother".
She was right. And I can validate it by MY mom being here.....myself and my daughter....3 generations.....strong as the Mt. Everest, deep as the Grand Canyon and free as the Monkeys on Gibraltar. It is our LOVE that conquers all. And WE are on our way back UP.

Happy Mother's Day

Valerie Ashker

Friday, May 9, 2008

My error on Update!

please note everyone it was my own error regarding Laine's e mail address. Her address is LaineyEA@aol.com

I will let you know when her bracelets become available.....they will be the same type as Ralph and Darrens'.

Laine is slumbering right as I type.......so incredible to see her content. And just now.....the sun is finally trying to peep thru these Kentucky clouds....



Friday Update

noon on Friday May 9th

I was ancious to see daughter Laine this morning with my mother. I continued our morning routine minus Michael (who left yesterday) whisking off to Starbuck's at 6am for that cup of java joy to begin our new day. My mother and I two stepped out of those Starbuck doors!!!!

Laine looked GREAT! Her skin looks beautiful....her face has lost all the edema around the jaw line.....and she looks more comfortable this morning. We walked to the 'window area,' which is a 'marker' that has been her goal 4 times a day. We did a flight of stairs.....we will do them again too later today! She is supposed to get a new smaller trachea replaced today and possibly removed in 2-3 days totally!!! In fact we might get the thumbs up to actually get RELEASED within 3-4 days time....AND GO HOME!!!!

Laine is talking thru her trachea more clearly and called her big bro Buck to catch up on Jersey Fresh. He rides later today and I know she is anxious to hear about it. Between Kristin Bond, Karen O'Connor and Buck.....I think we have a really good chance of taking home that "8 St. James Trophy"!!! Every competitor there this weekend and organizers have Laine in their hearts. They are all wearing a ribbon of burgundy and gold in her honor. Laine's face squinted when she was told about it by friend Kristin and I grabbed Kleenex to cover Laines' throat from the stream of heartfelt tears. There are bracelets being made as well for Darren and Ralph...I will put them on the web site when they are available. We have so much support and it makes me realize why Laine is a 'miracle' here at UK. I love ALL of you for continued prayers and well e wishes........please continue with them. Again, Laine's e mail address is LaineyEA@aol.com.
Some of you are misspelling it so check to make sure you have it right.

I will write again shortly.....and I know when Laine is a bit stronger....emotionally......she will take the reins over from me and start writing. We all heal from this daily blogging and without all of you we would never been able to start and complete our recovery as well. THANK YOU.

I don't have many photos of our dear Frodie from Rolex so if any of you got some good ones.....please forward them. I have made 2 folders for Laine in future references she will see during her recovery and leisure....one of Mazetto and one of her beloved Frodo. I would like to get as many pictures as possible of both partners. Thank you again,


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Update 5/8/08

1:30pm Thursday 5/8/08

There is an emptiness in Laine's new room today....Laines' grandfather and Michael have left Team Ashker to get on their way with resuming their business and 'normal' lives at home. Both gentlemen take westbound flights to my sunny state of CA and I pray they are safe through their journey. Indeed it has already been a long bumpy ride. They both departed with a sense of contentment for Laine's recovery has been steadily marching forward.......of course just what all of us reading this, expected! Laine certainly is the epitome of her famous saying "warrior mentality". (Mind Gym, a book that is a favorite of hers).

I am not sure how long we will be here in lovely Lexington, KY. A week or so......it just depends on her daily progress. She is receiving a smaller trachea tube today....and that is the final step toward having it completely out! I am thrilled. I have made quite a few friends here...as I have through the internet and Laine's web page. Starbuck's continually welcomed us each morning at 5:30am with triple shots to jumpstart our day. Our incredible Mexican meals were always delicious at Abuelo's where Tonya, the lovely lady manager treated us like family. Ramsey's has the best fried chicken and I must admit that glass of Pinot Grigio was really satisfying at the end of each day after leaving the ICU unit at the UK hospital. Speaking of UK.....the nurses have been OUTSTANDING. I was so upset this morning when Hannah Hubbard, one of her ICU nurses came upstairs to say goodbye to Laine.... she cradled my daughter's life for 13 days with the magic in her heart and hands! How does one say "Goodbye" after this whole ordeal? A ''thank you"? I can't even imagine those girls realizing how much they mean to us. And Blue Team doctors. Their guidance kept our long and winding road on track and mapped out. This experience has been grueling and painful.....but these people have come into our lives and gave our daughter back to us. I will be forever grateful and never forget any of them.

Laine will slowly face life solo without her partner. This devastates me. I know and feel that deep pain ....and how it aches daily with the loss our my dear, dear boy Jamie. We will suffer together and each day will be a bit more bright as the adage of mine "Time and Sunshine" take effect. We were blessed to have these friends in our lives....and they added so very much to our spiritual happiness and confidence to compete in the sport we have trained in VA for 11 years now. We will have to do some renovating, some shuffling...and re-assessing as both Laine and I venture on to another road together. And that is the magic word right there. TOGETHER. I can get through this as long as we are together. It is from Laine I gain strength. I find my happiness and my reason. Primarily though, I find Me. I LOVE my daughter. After reading the hundreds and hundreds of e mails from mothers all over the world, fathers too.....I can say I am in huge company. All of you.....each e mail from people 8-99 (yes, 99 yrs old!)......should and could have been writers. Words straight from the heart. Poetry. Paintings and Seajack drawings. Memorials. Get well soon tapestries, flowers, cookie & fruit baskets. The computer age has not traded our humanitarian qualities. I always worried about that. I will not now. Perhaps my goal to ride across the country on my pony Willy, is not be as crazy as my family thinks! I love meeting people and making new friends.

I thank all of you for your encouragement and prayers. Being a mother and in the middle of my change of life I won't forget your daily dose of love and words of encouragement from this little lap top.

Whether I am changing Laine's cannula or watching my mother place her gorgeous flowers around the window ledge in her new room, I feel comfort and joy in knowing that I am not alone. I can do this. I am Laine's Mother.
and to all the Mothers in this world,

Happy Mother's Day. It certainly will go down in history for me...as my finest to date.

Thank You,


you may send Lainey e mails to LaineyEA@aol.com and by all means keep writing me ValerieAsh@aol.com


Flowers, and the view from Laine's room

Thursday Update

Up to the Sixth

Yesterday marked a major milestone in Laine's recovery, for after twelve long, grueling, scary days in the ICU, she was moved to the Step-Down ICU and into her own room; a transition that confirms her recovery is well underway. Its a nice room, with a beautiful view of the University of Kentucky football stadium and surrounding campus. Yesterday was packed with small accomplishments; the variety that would normally go unnoticed. She took a short walk, made several trips to the restroom (with minimal assistance) and she enjoyed a liquid dinner consisting of soup, potatoes, juice and pudding. Early this morning, the nurse and I strolled Laine up and down the halls of the sixth floor. She enjoyed walking and told me that she felt stable, as if she could walk further and faster.

Late, yesterday, Lainey learned of the fate of her precious Frodo. Deep down I think she knew all along, but the look in her mothers' eyes when she asked the question, was enough to confirm her intuition. There is no preparing for such dismal news and even less when in the state she is in. The pain and emotion were palpable. I'm sure Val will write more this later.

Today, I'll finish by saying that we have turned a corner and rounded the bend and soon Laine will be headed home to Virginia. We've been reminded by many of Laine's many doctors just how fortunate she is and just how dire her condition was. Above all we are blessed, thanks to all of you and the special prayers you said for Laine.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Missing Laine's Smile

Sent: Tue, 6 May 2008 5:38 pm
Subject: checking in

Its funny how EVERYONE knows Laine. I mean we all know its bc she goes out of her way to smile and cheer you on. I felt so special when I met Laine bc she makes you feel like your the most important person she has met all day. I am glad that she now see's that SHE is the most important person we have all met EVER! Everyone talks about her smile bc it is always there...and boy o boy is it ever the nicest smile I have ever seen. It lights up her whole face and my whole day:)

I can't wait to see it again. I knew she would pull thru this faster and stronger and better then anyone possibly could bc its in her nature..she's a real competitor, a REAL champion at EVERYTHING she does.

She is a radiant human spirit and maybe she is being shown that she can survive anything even human pain and suffering. And now that she knows how strong and wonderful she is she will be unbeatable, unstopable, and even better then ever! Bc not only do we already know that, now Laine knows we all are right behind her enjoying the wake of her greatness as she rides thru life like a true champion. I wish I could give her a GREAT BIG HUG (very gently) :) SO please let her know that Morag and Selena are checking in on her at all times and if she needs ANYTHING to please let us know and we will be there by her side.

LOVE to all of you


Don't Give Up Laine...

Sent: Tue, 6 May 2008 5:24 pm
Subject: RE: (no subject)


Here are some word from a song that I love...sad but unfortunately too in these circumstances. It is Peter Gabriel..dont give up..I have written down what I think Laine would need to hear from it, soon. If you want play here the whole song eventually..It was introduced to me when a friend of mines' horse died at Essex. I have always thought it was beautiful...the don't give up part is the most important. I love you guys too....my almost every thought of the day is with Laine. I am ashamed that I was always impressed with her, and never told her....SO glad I get the chance...and I will ten fold!!!

Don't give up, you still have friends
Don't give up, you're not beaten yet
Don't give up, I know you can make it good
Dont' give up, you still have us
Don't give up, we don't need much of anything
Dont' give up, cause somewhere there's a place where WE belong.

Rest your head, you worry too much, it's gonna be alright. When times get tough, you can fall back on us.

Don't give up, you still have friends
Don' give up, no reason to be ashamed
Don't give up, we are proud of who you are
Don't give up, you know it's never been easy
Don't give up, cause somewhere there's a place where WE belong.

Love you Laine...more to come from you...greatness, I would suspect!!!


A Heartfelt Message

Sent: Tue, 6 May 2008 6:21 pm
Subject: Laine//Frodo


After all you’ve been through and all you’ve experienced, let me just say that you are more of an idol and hero to me know than you ever were before. You’re everything a hero should be—wise, talented, courageous, strong and most of all yourself. No one needs a cape to be a hero, but in your case a saddle and a steed would do pretty well; as it does for many of your other fans.

First off, I just wanted to say thank you for doing what you’ve done—riding and just being around horses. It makes you who you are, and horses can defiantly be better friends and mentors than a lot of our actual human companions; that I know from experience. And if you’ve heard the quote: “Horses are the most agreeable friends. They always listen and they never pass any criticisms,” I think you’d agree. There is nothing quite like a horse.

Second, I want you to know that all of us are out here to support you through not only this time, but for all the times to come—whether it be in the Olympics or in a winner’s circle—we have all realized through your strength and uncanny equestrian abilities that you are not like many others. You’re one-of-a-kind, and you should use that to the best of your abilities. We (being friends, family or just strangers,) all love you, and are rooting for a full recovery as well as for you to be in the saddle again soon enough so we can admire and envy off of how amazingly you look on horseback; as well as any other time.

Next up, your dear friend Frodo. You know, it may not make things easier, but wherever he is, not only is he happy, but I bet he misses you. Without a doubt he’s going to be looking over you forever, making sure that you are happy and safe. I’ve gone through similar things that you have, but the worst is always the loss of a best friend. I also know that over time getting the same “I’m so sorry’s” and “I bet he’s in a better place,” can get slightly annoying or agitating; how could anyone know what it feels like, what you two had? How can they know if he’s better off? But just a small word of advice, don’t get tired of them. These people want to try and help you, and believe me, it’s not easy to sit and read a blog of your favorite equestrian day after day, wondering what’s going to happen to them, or even what’s gong on. These people are doing everything they can to tell you how much you mean to them, to express their deepest, most sincere condolences, and they are doing the instinctive thing everyone is born to do; try and help someone.

I bet Frodo loved you, and I can only imagine how much. Together, you two could have done anything, I think, and that’s also what has been such an inspiration to me and countless others around the world. If there is one quote that I think fit you two perfectly, it would be the following, without a doubt:

Tell us it can't be done, and we'll do it,

Tell us a goal is to high, we'll reach it,

Place obstacles in front of us, and we'll leap over it,

Challenge us, dare to defy us, But do NOT underestimate us,

For together, anything is possible

That’s the first thing I think of after hearing either your’s or Frodo’s name. You two looked so absolutely breathtaking together; a true team, something that many equestrians can only dream of having. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever seen someone “dance” like you two did during Dressage… it makes me question my own abilities, yet also gives me something to work towards, so thank you again for how much you’ve impacted the Equestrian World with not only Frodo, but you and everything you’ve given it, and even us.

If it helps the slightest bit, something that helps me after the loss of a great companion is to write them a letter. Tell them everything you’ve loved about them, everything you’ve thought about them, how you felt with them; everything. When you are done, you can say a small little “thank you” under your breath and light the letter on fire (or, if that doesn’t appeal to you, you can use your imagination^_^). I did this after the loss of my greatest friend (and steed,) Pocano, and though I might not be extremely religious, I felt like I was doing right, like I was saying something or giving him something that no one else could have, and that is one of the greatest feelings someone can ever experience.

I cannot wait to see you in the saddle again; that’s where it seems you belong. We will all be here for you, through future highs and lows, and please remember the lives you have changed just with your existence. You’re an amazing, truly gifted person, Laine, never doubt that.

Wishing for the quickest recovery,

Katie Stimac

Wednesday Update

Getting Better All The Time

Day twelve and another day of progress for our brave girl. This morning Laine had her last chest tube removed and along with it a major source of pain. She has plenty of others. These chest tubes create escape hatches for liquid or gaseous pressures that build up in the chest cavity as a result of trauma. Laine required three tubes. They are plastic pipes, about 3/4 of an inch in diameter and they are fitted into the chest by drilling a hole at the side so that the tube can be slipped through the muscles and inserted deep into the chest cavity. There are two settings that allow the tube to either aggressively suck (I.e suction mode) or to allow drainage-only called "water seal". The point here is that Laine had three chest tubes. They did their job, relieved the pressure, allowed for drainage, but hurt like heck.

Two other notable steps were taken today. The tracheotomy specialists provided Laine with a little device that fits over her tracheotomy port and allows for the exhaled air to be routed up through the mouth, thus producing the air that enables her vocal chords. So, for the first time in twelve days Lainey was able to speak. Think about not being able to speak for nearly two weeks --- after enduring the most emotional and difficult experience of your life! Well, sure enough, along with the words, came an outpouring of tears and emotion. Somehow I knew that was coming. Like a damn that bursts open once the first crack in the wall appears. In any case, it was a welcome relief and probably the first of many. But since the adapter restricts airflow, it can only be used for short spurts initially. What's clear is that soon enough, Laine will be asking the hard questions. What happened? Why? Asking about her horses? These will not be easy conversations.

The other major milestone is that Laine had a swallowing test, which she passed with flying colors and was cleared to drink. So, her first meal was apple juice with an apple sauce chaser. Yum! I'm sure those little morsels tasted just as good to her as a Thanksgiving day feast to the rest of us. This afternoon there is talk that Lainey will be moved out of ICU and also physical therapy will come to work with her and get her mobile again. It's all part of the healing process that is now well underway. So, it really is getting better all the time and we are all ecstatic with Laine progress.

Thank you all for reading.

Michael Ashker