The eye-catching orange and white racing silks that bear a ribbon and her initials are far more than a fashion statement for 18-year-old Taylor Logan.
Typically, jockeys who ride the horses of Elliott Logan don the Kentucky stable’s blue and white silks, the colours accompanied by a cursive L, horseshoe and TEC Racing emblazoned on the front.
For the month of November, including their starters at Woodbine, that look is noticeably different.
“I really like them,” said Taylor, of the silks she designed with her father. “I had thought for a while that doing something like that would be cool, but we never really got around to doing it. Then one day I sat down with my dad, and we thought, ‘Let’s do this. We may like it, we may not, but let’s try.’ We both ended up really liking it.”
A sentiment echoed by her father.
“Taylor had a lot of input into the design. We’re very happy with the way they turned out.”
The story behind the silks, featuring an orange ribbon and the letters TAL, first came to light two-plus years ago in the aftermath of a serious medical diagnosis for the teenager.
Nearly three years ago, Taylor was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a term that describes excess and prolonged pain and inflammation that proceeds an arm or leg injury.
“On the average day, my pain level is about seven out of 10. And that’s a good day. A good day is when I can wear whatever I want – I have a lot of hypersensitivity due to it – but there are certain days when I can’t wear particular shoes, or socks, or certain pants. Good days are when I can wear whatever I want to and go out and be with my friends, and I can go to school. Bad days are 10 out of 10 pain level. I won’t be able to lay under a blanket, I won’t be able to tolerate anything touching me, spending most of the days in tears trying to figure out something to give me a little bit of relief. We have a few things that can help a little, but on the worst days, there is nothing in our power that we can do, other than just let it happen.”
She can easily recollect the date and the moment that would alter her life in a way she never had imagined.
Initially thought to be a sprained ankle, it turned into something far more serious less than two weeks later.
“Back in March of 2020, the second of March, I was a gymnast, and I ended up hurting myself one day. Less than 72 hours later, I ended up having these crazy symptoms that were not associated with an ankle sprain. On March 13, I was diagnosed with CRPS. We had never heard of it before and didn’t know of anyone who had. So, that was a time of confusion and worry… we had a label, but we didn’t know what that label meant. We didn’t know what it would look like going forward.”
Those afflicted with CRPS, which takes on both acute and chronic forms, contend with changing combinations of spontaneous pain or excess pain much higher than normal following something as mild as a touch. Other symptoms include changes in skin color, temperature, and/or swelling on the arm or leg below the site of injury.
Most CRPS illnesses are caused by improper function of the peripheral C-fiber nerve fibers that carry pain messages to the brain. The excess firing also triggers inflammation designed to promote healing and rest after injury.
Although CRPS improves over time, eventually going away for most, the rare severe or prolonged cases can be long term.
“Luckily, I was blessed with a physical therapist who knew a lot about it. We didn’t have to go through teaching somebody what it was and then getting treatment for it.
There was a lot of us doing research, the physical therapist doing research and our doctors doing research. I was lucky enough to get an early diagnosis. Some people go months or even years without knowing what was wrong. It was made pretty clear to me that I was going to have a long road ahead of me to get back to where I once was.
“Some people get pain-free, others don’t. It’s such a unique thing because every case is different, very few people have it, and there are very few articles out there, and the vast majority aren’t from a person who has it.”
It’s what prompted the high school senior to share her own story, something that wasn’t easy to do.
Initially reluctant to speak publicly about her battle with CRPS, knowing it could help others motivated Taylor to open up about her struggles.
“I think being able to do this, to build up the courage to share my story, and knowing it might be able to help someone else is what helps me. At the same time, having that hope there will be a cure or something that can make a big difference.”
Her support group is wide and varied, extending well beyond those she’s closest with to people she has met along her CRPS journey.
Over time, Taylor has embraced the team effort approach in facing her affliction.
“From the beginning, my parents were there for me and supported me. My whole family, cousins, grandparents, and more, have been there for me too. I’ve met a lot of friends through this, just through different hospitals and treatments, people who are going through the same thing as me, which has been very helpful. It makes me understand that I’m not the only one. Although I have such great support, I’m the one going through it and there are times when you feel very lonely.”
That’s when she thinks of the horses.
Often, on the tough days, or even when she wants to make a good day better, Taylor and her father will go to where their horses are stabled, a chance to simply be in the moment, unfettered by the burdens that come with CRPS.
“I think that’s been a good escape, to be able to go out and see the horses. It’s a good distraction. In the middle of this, I got my racing license and my father and I started a racing stable, T & E Racing. Right now, we’re in the process of raising the babies, being excited at the thought of seeing them run one day. That’s been a huge thing for me, a nice escape, and a fun thing to do with my dad.”
She’s looking forward to the day, a good one, no doubt, when she can stand trackside and see the orange and white silks, the ones that bear a ribbon along with her initials above it.
On November 9 at Woodbine, Kazushi Kimura, the Toronto oval’s leading rider, wore them aboard Graceful Fighter, a 2-year-old bay gelding Elliott named after his daughter.
“She fights with such dignity, grace, and poise, so that’s where the name came from,” said Elliott, whose top horses to date include Shekky Shabaz, third in the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, Millennium Force, Sandy Bay, Souper Watson, and Wentru. “That’s how she fights her battle. It’s also CRPS awareness month, so it’s great to have this horse running in November.”
Odds are likely that only a few people other than Taylor and her family knew the meaning behind those silks on that Woodbine afternoon card.
Taylor’s hope is that perhaps more will after reading her story.
“I’ve seen the silks on video, but not in person at the races. Hopefully soon, we will be able to get out to a race and see them in person. It meant a lot to me, knowing it was bigger to me than most people would think when I’d see them in the paddock, or on the racetrack. I actually ended up doing some of my senior pictures in the silks.”
A photo that her father proudly shared on Twitter.
“If you talk to her, if you see her going by, you would never know anything is bothering her,” offered Elliott. “She always has a beautiful smile on her face. She’s a happy girl, even with everything she’s gone through and is going through. She’s laughing, she’s smiling. There have been times, recently, when things have been bad for her, and it put her in a wheelchair for months. Throughout all that, she never complained once. She has that smile on her face.”
A look Taylor intends to keep throughout her battle with CRPS and beyond.
“I’m hopeful I can be pain-free one day. It’s not an easy path forward but knowing that more good days will be coming makes me smile.”
Chris Lomon, Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms