NICHOLASVILLE — The sky at Taylor Made Farm is blue, striped with buttercream clouds.
Foals totter around, considering whether carrots are to be gulped or licked like lollipops.
An ebullient 6-month-old puppy called Rupp roams the grounds as if he has landed in the greatest backyard ever.
Debra Luis has found a version of her heaven.
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A Northern California woman who recently was diagnosed with ALS — better known as Lou Gehrig's disease — Luis wanted more than anything to come to Kentucky horse country before the disease saps too much of her strength.
An online campaign provided some of the funding, and Central Kentuckians who read about Luis' desire to visit horse country in an article appearing on Kentucky.com and in the Herald-Leader were moved enough to offer tours and other Kentucky treats.
For Luis, 60, the trip came just in time. Already she sometimes uses an electric wheelchair to conserve strength.
ALS affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, killing the motor neurons that communicate with muscles. Patients lose the ability to control muscle movement.
Luis, the wife of a dairy farmer and the mother of three adult children, has worked in animal control as a profession and with draft horses as a hobby. She said awareness that she might be sick began with a simple fall. Then her legs began to weaken.
Her speech is affected by the disease; so is her ability to swallow. She can still laugh, though, and she can talk about the awe she feels being in the Kentucky horse country that she has always wanted to see.
At Taylor Made, she raced her motorized wheelchair down the main aisle of a foal barn to Rupp the pup's astonishment. (To be fair, Rupp is astonished by most things.)
Daughter and traveling companion Allie Luis Sutton is with her, although Deb Luis did most of the driving from Northern California to Kentucky. Somehow the position of the car seat and the action of driving is one of the few physically comfortable spaces she has left.
Luis and Sutton already have visited Paducah, Owensboro and Churchill Downs. The two spent Thursday night at Zephyr Farm in Wilmore.
On Friday morning, they arrived at the Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau on Main Street, where staffers had worked with the mother and daughter to gather tour information, and the two women were led to Taylor Made in Jessamine County. Taylor Made, where Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah spent time when he was a yearling, looks like a horse farm in a storybook: If a landscape could smile, Taylor Made would be that piece of earth.
Luis was transfixed.
She was treated like a celebrity by the staff, who trooped out of their offices to the parking lot to have a group picture made with her. It was a photo of the woman who wanted nothing more than to come to horse country, flanked by those who want nothing more than to work with horses all the time.
Yearling manager John Hall was one of Luis' guides on the tour. As he took his leave, tears formed around the rims of his eyes.
Stallion manager Gilberto Terrazas led out Graydar, a dappled charcoal behemoth of a horse with "the best grooming I've ever seen," Luis said. She then visited a barn, where she bonded with Mamma Kimbo, mother of a bay colt out of Tapit.
Mamma Kimbo immediately took to Luis, nuzzling her even after Luis had no more carrots to share.
Taylor Made employee Helen Wells said working with horses is a gift. The animals intuitively realize when there's a human in need nearby, sometimes speaking for God, she told Luis.
"He used a horse to reach me and say, 'There's something better in store,'" said Hall, an Asbury University graduate and a Navy veteran.
Luis said she has learned to appreciate "the blessings that come out of suffering," including her cross-country trek to visit the Kentucky that she has long held in her heart and can now see out her window.
"We keep pointing out silver linings," Ali Sutton said.
Famed American baseball player Lou Gehrig, in his farewell speech, famously noted that some people thought he had caught a bad break in his disease. But no, he said: he considered himself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.
On Friday morning, surrounded by the gentle roll of Bluegrass and the soft scent of horses, Luis might not have felt like the taciturn Lou Gehrig, who died two years after being diagnosed.
But just for a moment, as she leaned over and kissed the velvety muzzle of Mamma Kimbo in the foal barn with the sun beaming outside, Luis was glowing.
That's a moment that jumps out of time, a moment to remember.