My Blogging Journey

The Start

Quite incredibly it was my mum who suggested I start a blog – she thought it would be good to document my hip replacement for my own record and on the offchance it might help others going through the same thing. I pondered the idea (having previously blogged at university and then abandoned it) but when I got my operation through I was motivated to start.

The Premise

I wanted my blog to be about my hip replacement but also about my pony – getting back to riding was the biggest motivation for my recovery.  I have so many riding goals and aspirations and one day I’m sure I will achieve some of them!

The Experience

I have always enjoyed writing – I said I’d write a book while I was recovering but I didn’t get very far with it, my blog has been much more successful! I have also been able to push my interest in photography further – I’ve always been a snapper but now I really care about the quality of my photos. I also enjoyed making my own blog logo!  I would love to work for a horsey magazine doing write ups with photos!

The Reaction

I was bowled over by the number of people who seemed to be interested enough to read my blog – I even bumped into a mum of a child who used to go to the school I used to work at who said she read it – amazing! It has reconnected me with some people – a bonus!

The Goal

To get feedback that my blog has helped others has been fairly surreal but really good – I  hope that new people will continue to benefit from my account of my experience and that my current readers will enjoy following the next steps for me and Pea!

The Community

I have found blogging really therapeutic on its own but it has also allowed me to join lovely little communities of hippy people and of horsey people, some of whom have suffered injuries, with disabilities, from low confidence, who I can admire or relate to.  The internet can be an unpleasant  place sometimes but it can also be a really supportive one.

The Achievement

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If you didn’t already know.. on Wednesday I found out that I have been chosen as a finalist for the Equestrian Blog of the Year Award. I feel so privileged to have achieved this and for my ‘silly little blog’ to be recognised alongside some really amazing bloggers.

If you would like to read more about the award please check out:

http://hay-net.co.uk/equestrian-blogger-talent-recognised-in-awards/

Update!

I won the ‘Rising Star’ award – I absolutely couldn’t be happier to have been recognised and to have been chosen for one of four awards is just unbelievable!

http://www.hay-net.co.uk/winner-of-the-equestrian-blogger-of-the-year-award-2018-announced/

Tips from HOYS

On Thursday I took a little trip to Birmingham for the second day of HOYS.  Yet again I struck gold by having my day off on ‘dressage day’.  There was a Q & A in the Live Zone with Olivia Towers and Alice Oppenheimer, a masterclass with Carl Hester and the Dressage Future Elite Championship which was won by Charlotte Dujardin.  If you didn’t make it – here are the main things I took away from the day – they weren’t necessarily new lessons but certainly timely reminders.

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Stick in the stretch zone

At the Q & A I asked for any tips when getting back to riding after a medical reason kept you away from it.  Olivia answered with the ‘safe, stretch and danger’ theory – that staying in the safe zone would be not riding at all, being in the stretch zone would be gradually getting back into it and being in the danger zone would be getting out there to a competition straight away.  It made perfect sense – I’ve definitely been in danger of going into the danger zone but it was a good reminder that stretch is best!

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Remember no one gets 100%

Olivia and Carl BOTH said this!  No one gets 100% at dressage – you can seek to be perfect but you never will be.  It is a levelling thing to remember that even the greats aren’t perfect.

Even the most precious horses are turned out together

I have always been very much in the ‘let horses be horses’ camp as at my yard, the horses live out 24/7 in groups and I have seen how that benefits their behaviour.  Carl saying that Charlotte’s Vogue gets turned out in the field with Valegro just proves the value of turn out and companionship.

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Variety is the spice of life

The other thing Carl said is that the horses at his yard only school two days at a time and mix it up with hacking and pole work.  It is very easy to get stuck in a rut especially when you’re limited like I am at the moment but it reminded me of my vow to try to hack out, ride over poles, do an all walk session and a normal schooling session each week at the moment.

Aside from the horsemanship and mindset tips I also really enjoyed seeing the Musical Drive of the Heavy Horses, the Double Harness Scurry, the Mounted Games (although sadly a few ponies went lame during them), the Ridden Heavy Horse Championship, the GB Vaulters, Alizee Froment’s bridleless dressage and the Household Cavalry Musical Ride. It was a thoroughly good day out!

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Dressage Riders Online

I came across Dressage Riders Online through the equestrian blogging and social media scene. I have thought about doing online dressage in the past but since I have had transport and have been trying to get out and about to improve my confidence, I have never done it until now. Obviously things are quite different at the moment (three months post hip replacement). I’m only managing short rides (15-20 minutes maximum), haven’t yet cantered and can’t really open my left hip enough to be straight in the saddle. When I started riding again I made it my aim to enter the August intro class – as intro’s last about four minutes and involve mostly trotting this was actually going to be quite a challenge!

The weeks went by and I hadn’t done anything about it but finally last Saturday I arranged for my personal videographer (or boyfriend as he is more commonly titled) to come to the yard with me. I had relearnt intro B the day before (having done it several times years ago) and walked through it. Slightly irritatingly, I did it all the wrong way as since I last used the dressage letters, they had been swapped over! My brain thought C was A and so on. Luckily I realised my error so on the Saturday, after a five minute warm up mostly in walk, I managed to ride through the test the right way round AND my boyfriend managed to video it.

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Watching the video back afterwards, I could have clearly done with more warming up time but on the flip side I could also see myself getting more uncomfortable as the test progressed. I couldn’t have done any more, it was a one shot (not) wonder!

Entering was easy, you select what you are going to enter and pay for it then upload your video or put forward a link to it on YouTube. Entries close on the 26th of the month so I was just in time!

So how did I do? I actually really don’t mind what percentage we got I am just proud to have ticked off a little goal in the long journey of getting my new hip into riding however results should be up tonight so I will let you know!

Update: I got 65.87%! Joint 7th so just out of the rosettes.

The question is, what should be my goal for October?

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‘Go And Live Your Life’ – Three Month Check Up

‘Go and live your life’ were the words uttered by one of my surgeon’s team on Monday when I went for my follow up appointment.  I had been sent straight to X-ray when I arrived and once that was done I went to Trauma and Orthopaedics for my appointment. I was slightly sad that I didn’t get to see my surgeon but I guess his work is done! Anyway, the doctor said that my X-ray looked PERFECT, that people like me are the reason they do hip replacements on young people and that now I can go and live my life (as long as my life includes lots of physio) – it couldn’t have been much better than that!

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I asked her to measure my legs to see if I am even now or whether I am still shorter on the left. She said my ‘true’ measurement is equal but my ‘apparent’ shows I am still shorter on the left which could be due to wonkiness in my spine, pelvis or just due to my muscles. Either way it sounds like it is better than it was before!

I now won’t be seen until June 2019 but finally I can feel confident that things are ok on the inside in terms of my bone/ceramic! Time to get on with my life!

Restriction Free!

Quite incredibly, it is now twelve weeks since my hip replacement which means I am now restriction free! Although I’ve been looking fairly normal (if a bit lame sometimes) recently, I have still been banned from bending beyond 90 degrees, twisting or crossing my legs.. until Tuesday just gone. So how does it feel?

– Being able to shave my own legs in the shower was a liberating moment!

– Putting on trousers, socks and shoes is so much easier than it was.

– Normal toilet seats are so low! I never thought I’d miss the seat raisers but they were so much more comfortable being tall and wide!

– Crossing my legs felt really weird to start with. Apparently it isn’t good for you anyway so I might continue to try to give it a miss.

– Touching my toes for the first time was magic – I wasn’t sure my muscles would let me do it and they did tighten but I managed!

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Generally I am feeling far more relaxed. It is taking a while for the precaution habits to break but I no longer have to think so much about what I am doing or worry that if I pull hay out of Pea’s mouth (like I did the other day) I might be bent more than 90 degrees and my hip might pop out!

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Tomorrow I am going to see my surgeon, fingers crossed it is all going as well as I think it is!

Back In The Saddle Dilemmas!

As I said in Week Ten/Day One I’m back in the saddle. After my initial upset at how much I’m having to start from scratch and how painful and uncomfortable my first ride was, things have improved gradually. On my second ride I trotted, on my third ride I managed ten minutes, on my fourth I hacked out and on my fifth.. well the achievement was that I’d ridden the day before and I was able to ride again!  Slowly but surely my leg is starting to hug Pea’s side rather than stick out awkwardly and my body is starting to remember what to do (whether it is doing it or not is another matter!)

It has been quite a challenge to reprogramme the part of my brain that thought once I was riding again I’d be able to just crack on. At the moment I have short stirrups and eye-sore heels (as you can see below), my bum is nowhere near as deep in the saddle as it needs to be, my riding sessions are very short and the idea of riding five times a week is a pipe dream! Pushing the negatives aside, as I said – it is all getting better every time I ride even if the pictures aren’t showing that!

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The question is – what should I be doing? My physio has advised me to walk as much as I can and I am meant to be strengthening my muscles, in particular my core. She also gave me permission to ride which is meant to be helping me to stop collapsing through my left side (as I am doing below!) The problem is, every ride involves lots of walking in order to get Pea and turn her out after which hurts and tires me out and the riding does the same. I don’t know if it is possible to quantify the right amount of walking and riding for where I am in my recovery right now. The old adage of listening to my body isn’t working – if I listened to my body I wouldn’t be doing much at all which completely goes against the idea of building my strength. I don’t know where to draw the line!

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My next physio appointment which was meant to be next week has been pushed back to the beginning of October (due to staff training) but I am seeing my surgeon a week tomorrow.  In the meantime I will just have to try to achieve a middle ground between what I want to do and doing nothing!  Putting my worries to the back of my mind – I’m just happy to be back on board!

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Burghley Horse Trials 2018

Yesterday I had my first trip to Burghley Horse Trials (at nearly 11 weeks post hip replacement) and had a fantastic day.  I will never event but I have a whole heap of respect for the sport and love watching it.

The Journey

My non-horsey boyfriend was completely up for going to Burghley (having enjoyed Badminton 2017) until he realised it was going to be at least a 2 hour drive.  We left at 7.30 and arrived at 10.30 after having to cope with the Moreton Show traffic, a coffee and diesel stop and his own little detour to avoid some of the Burghley queue (which worked quite well!)  Our trip home was much quicker!

The Shops

We decided to walk around all the shops first as the horses hadn’t actually started when we arrived and I thought I’d get the lions share of walking out of the way.  It is my birthday in November so I looked at more possible present ideas for me rather than Pea (as she pretty much has everything she could possibly need and more!)  I found some of the shops (particularly Fairfax & Favor and Dubarry) just too busy for someone who is worried about being knocked or jostled but I managed to snap a few of my favourite things and shops.

  • I love the little pouches you can personalise from Will Bees Bespoke and since they originate from Salcombe (ten minutes from where I grew up) I feel even more of an affinity with them!
  • I saw this Mark Todd Deluxe Padded Coat on the internet recently and I love it.  I’ve never had a padded coat before and I’m not sure when I would wear it but I know that I like it!
  • I am a big Joules fan – I don’t need a new handbag but I do really like this tan purse though sadly now can’t find it online!
  • This Powder Blue Woof Wear Numnah is on my wish list for Pea – I love the look of my Le Mieux numnah but it isn’t very soft and I’m wondering if the Woof Wear one will be more so.
  • I really like this Official Burghley 2018 T-Shirt but I think if I were to get one I’d have to get it a few sizes too big as I don’t like t-shirts tight!
  • You can’t not love the gorgeous equine jewellery at Hiho Silver.
  • I had to visit Sophie Allport‘s lovely stand – my Stag Bag which was a present last Christmas is so nice and useful.
  • We visited the Brocklehursts shop which I described as ‘the shop that keeps on giving’ – having seen these Barbour coats with furry hoods I now want a furry hood for my Barbour but they don’t seem to exist on their own!
  • My boyfriend’s favourite part of horse shows is the lorries and trailers – the Equi-Treks are a particular favourite.

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Being only just back at work part time and in a job that isn’t giving me much pocket money, I did more window shopping than actual shopping.  I did pick up a shirt from Rydale which I almost bought at Badminton and will be suitable for work.

The Food

We opted to grab something to eat before we settled down to watch the horses.  I had some chips and my BF had a pork roll.  I feel we certainly didn’t take enough advantage of the ‘Food Walk’ which we saw later and looked amazing however my legs were tired, I was feeling a bit wobbly and so we just went for the closest food vans!  We did top up with an ice cream later.

The Action

We tried out a few different vantage points to sit and watch – Discovery Valley, the main arena, Lambert’s Sofa, the Lion Bridge as well as walking via a few other fences.  Highlights for me were Ben Hobday who I have been a fan of since I first saw him at Your Horse Live in 2015 and Pippa Funnell who was my idol when I was a little girl and only allowed to watch eventing on TV from the back of our rocking horse!  I was looking forward to seeing Ben Way as he is a customer where I work but unfortunately he retired before he got to where I was.  We didn’t walk the full course as I didn’t think I was quite up to that but from what I did see, a lot of it seemed massive and/or very technical – there was a lot of breath holding and squeaking from me as a spectator particularly at Capability’s Cutting where even if the horse managed to negotiate the banks down and up, some of the riders almost got taken out by the low hanging branches!

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The Setting

Like I said, I’ve never been to Burghley before.  I didn’t find it as easy to navigate as Badminton but the whole place is beautiful from the Lion Bridge to the House itself and I would love to go again with a bit more mileage capacity for my new hip!

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Week Ten/Day One

At ten weeks post hip replacement this morning I felt like I had pretty much bossed most normal person activities (walking unaided, driving, cycling, working and sleeping on my side).  Now I have attempted what feels like the last piece of the puzzle (riding Pea) I feel like I am starting a whole new journey from day one.

If we rewind to this morning, I had an appointment with my physio.  Last time she saw me I still had a crutch some of the time and I hadn’t started driving yet so for me to bounce in on my own she was pretty impressed.  She pointed out that although I’m not as wonky as  I was, I’m collapsing my upper body to the left because that is how my body is stabilising.  Obviously this isn’t what I should be doing so I’ve got lots more tough exercises to do to straighten me up and strengthen my core and need to spend a bit more time in front of a mirror to check I’m doing it right!  I asked her what she thought about me riding and she said that if I felt I would be ok, it would probably be good for me to get back to it.

I had a busy morning helping out at the yard and when it was over, I managed to get Pea in, brush her and get ready to ride.  I had built up in my mind that as soon as I was given the go ahead to ride, my body would be ready and that riding would mark the end of my proper recovery time.  That wasn’t really the case.  Getting on was fine but I couldn’t sit properly in the saddle as my hip just wouldn’t open up as wide as it needed to – it felt stretched and it hurt!  I had a walk around the arena and I felt my bum settle down into the saddle more rather than being sat on the back like it was at the beginning.  My leg wasn’t exactly hanging down, I didn’t feel like I could push my heel down, there was a funny crunching feeling when I moved and it hurt.  Dismounting was fine, I practically laid on Pea with my legs together then swung them round together.

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I got off feeling pretty devastated – I didn’t expect to be cantering round the arena but I did expect to be able to sit and walk comfortably.  I had to hark back to my own advice on positivity from the other day and think I’m probably still in the wallowing stage though I am very aware how lucky I am to even be sitting on a pony!

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I need to wind my expectations in and realise that the return to riding is going to be a long journey.  Today was day one, stage one – sitting on my pony.  It might take me weeks to be able to sit properly, or trot, or ride for more than a few minutes.  I’m going to try to be patient – after all, I’m 26, Pea’s 12, all things being well we have many many more years together.

Any words of wisdom to help me with this would be most welcome – there is a trustly booklet from the NHS for hip replacement recovery but I’m yet to find a returning to riding one!

How To Stay Positive

Positivity has been fairly key to getting through the last few months with as little damage to myself, my friends and my family as possible.  It is not easy to be positive when you have got things going on whether they are medical, financial or anything else but I have got a few tips for things that I have tried to do to help me.

Set your wallowing limits

This is an old, well practised strategy of mine.  If something goes wrong or something is tough, let yourself be sad/angry or whatever negative feeling comes but set yourself a time limit – for example, give yourself a day and then move on and start focusing on the positives.  Disclaimer – this didn’t work too well when I was on the drugs, I didn’t really have control over how I felt!

Remember – This too shall pass

I think it is important to be able to look past whatever is challenging your positivity, whether that is looking to the end of a recovery or looking forward to events in the future.  Making plans for the future has helped to keep my mind on track and given me something to aim for.

Count your blessings

I firmly believe that whatever you are going through you can identify things in your life that are good!  This was an easy one for me during this recovery, I have so many people and things to be thankful for.

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Remember someone else is worse off

Obviously this is completely dependent on what your particular challenge is but I’m sure you can always find someone else’s situation that puts yours into perspective.  When I was on crutches, I watched a lot of videos and films of people (real and fictional) who have been paralysed or had amputations which completely stopped me from feeling sorry for myself! Who recognises this film?

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Exercise

If you can’t make yourself feel more positive by persuading your brain that you should, the scientific way should help.  We’ve all heard it before – when you exercise your body releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy.  One of the most frustrating parts of my recovery was not being able to exercise as much as normal but from the second day I was allowed to do my rehab exercises and each week I have been allowed to do more and more.  It makes me feel stronger and it makes the light at the end of the tunnel shine brighter!

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Tack Tales

Today I am taking up the challenge from Haynet and Equestrian Co to write about my tack because a.  I love talking about anything and everything to do with Pea (if you haven’t read her story please do) and b.  I would really love to win a tack trolley to help my post hip replacement body not have to carry so much!  For me, each piece of Pea’s tack is special.  It represents her new (or now not so new) life as a single human owner.  It represents me and us and the sheer joy of PopPea (our totally cringe couple name).

The Bridle

Long before I bought Pea (while I was leasing her), I bought her a Kincade flash bridle from Countrywide (RIP).  It was no different to the bridle she had already, aside from the fact that it was my first proper purchase for her (numnahs dont count!)  It is now hung on the wall in my spare room/study with our rosettes.

The Browband(s)

I learnt how to make patterned browbands out of ribbon when I first started leasing Pea in April 2014 which was the start of a series of girly browbands for Pea.  I have always run with the theory that if I’m going to have a pretty little mare, I can get away with pink, sparkles, patterns and all things girly.  Once Pea had gone through blue and white ribbons, pink ribbons and all sorts of other bright and beautifuls, I treated her to her first diamonds (ha!)  In November 2015, Rachel (my top hacking buddy) and I celebrated our birthdays with a trip to Your Horse Live.  It was amazing, we loved it and I came away with the most tasteful sparkly browband I could find!

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The Saddle

This was the biggy.  Once I had bought Pea (in 2016), I needed and wanted to get her a saddle of her own.  The saddle Pea has before I bought her used to belong to a different pony.  It fitted fine but it wasn’t altered to fit her and it certainly didn’t fit my bum very well!  I opted for a Thorowgood T8 Cob GP saddle.  I wanted to buy new but my budget was pretty limited having just, for the first time in my life, bought a pony!  We had a few Thorowgoods at the yard and I liked the flexibility of the changeable gullets.  The Thorowgoods we had were T4s and I had seen far too often how long it takes for a suede seat to dry out after a rainy hack so I knew I didn’t want one of those.  The day the saddler came to fit my saddle was the day I truly felt the difference a saddle could make.  At that point I could barely pick up canter but with my new saddle, I was cantering all round the school!  My saddle genuinely went home to bed with me in the early days.  I loved it then and I always will however much some people frown upon it for only being part leather!

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The Girth

At the same time I bought the saddle I bought Pea her own girth.  It is non slip and elasticated on both ends from Dever.  My saddler recommended it to me due to the rather round belly of Pea.  I have never had any saddle slip issues so it must do its job – it is a regular reminder of how well Pea’s diet plan is going!

The Stirrups

In the summer of 2016 I bought my own stirrups – chunky Compositi Reflex stirrups with a wide tread.  These are more a representation of my failings rather than the joy of some of the rest of our tack.  I did and still have found it hard to keep my feet where they should be, particularly my left (formerly known as my ‘bad side’!)  I figured the width and non slippy nature of these stirrups would help me.  I hope that with my new ‘new side’ and improved bionic body (post hip replacement) I will be able to graduate to Compositi Profiles instead – we will have to see!

The Bit

Until I started writing this, the significance of some of my tack was forgotton – Pea’s bit for example.  In August 2017 Pea and I embarked on our adventure to a new home and, after using the same bit from our original yard up until this point, there we started a bit (ha!) of bit experimentation.  I tried a hanging cheek snaffle after an exciting trip out cubbing but went back to a loose ring snaffle with a lozenge like we had before – simple and familiar.  I’d love to go to a bit clinic and see what bit would really suit Pea – has anyone been to one?

The (Other) Bridle

On our return home to our original yard in Gloucestershire a few months ago, I bought Pea a Micklem bridle (with a sparkly browband of course).  I had considered it for a long time and lots of my friends have or had them for their horses.  I am yet to discover whether the ‘kind and sympathetic’ design has any positive effect on Pea as I barely had a chance to ride her in it before I had to stop for my operation but it doesn’t appear to have done any harm!

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The Future

I dream of having a dressage saddle.  Now that I have found the discipline I want to pursue it has become the top of my fantasy shopping list and I am rather enjoying the research for it.  A dressage saddle would represent the next stage in the journey for me and Pea and you never know, we might be lucky enough to have a tack trolley to put it on!

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