Today marks FIVE days of being completely crutch free. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain it so I am very proud of myself for keeping it up and the slightly scary thing is that my step count has not gone down! I’ve walked around the farm at my old place of work and been to visit a friend’s new livery yard as well as walking to work and at my yard so I’ve tackled a range of terrain too!
It hasn’t been easy. I have to concentrate on every single step and I feel like I am walking quite stiffly. I have been getting tired as the days have gone on but I haven’t got to the hobbling stage so it isn’t too bad. I had a bit of a scare today – I did a funny step on the pavement walking home from work and it felt like my hip tried to pop out.. It didn’t pop out so the muscles must be good but I’m a bit worried now – I think a call to the physio is in order to check that everything sounds ok. I’m not sure whether I am trying to do too much.
The other revelation this week is that common opinion suggests I am taller since my operation! I saw friends from my old job (who I haven’t seen since my operation) and everyone thought I was taller. I’m not sure whether that is as a result of my slightly lengthened left leg or whether it is because I am walking straighter and not sticking my bum out so much! Either way the longer leg and the straighter walking are good things – I can’t wait to try out my leg and altered seat on Pea in a few weeks time. Here’s a hint of my old leg wonkiness in pictorial form!
I am seeing the physio on the 28th and I am going to ask her what she thinks of me riding again. If she says yes I’ll do it – I feel ready at the moment but I just don’t want to risk undoing all the hard work and I am still on hip precaution restrictions. If she says to wait until 12 weeks then so be it, I’m hoping to have many more years of riding left! For now I’m spending more and more time looking back through pictures of me riding. I made this collage for the two year anniversary of owning Pea – I hope that by January I’ll have plenty to add to document my third year of pony ownership!
In one week it will have been two months since my operation which sounds like an awful long time! I have started to realise how much I have wished away the last two months and am almost surprised to find myself on the uphill to November birthdays and Christmas (my brain still works in school terms). Things are certainly on the up and I’m getting closer and closer to ‘normal’.
- I’m working a lot more – now a day off is a treat every few days rather than a near everyday occurrence! Although it would be nice not to have to work, working more is definitely making life feel more normal.
- I am doing more walking (at least 5,000 steps a day). I’ve moved on from using my crutch and then picking it up to do some unattended walking to leaving my crutch in the car or at home and going about my daily business ‘hands free’. The other day I walked to see Pea, noticed some ragwort nearby so ended up doing two trips to the field in order to dig it out. Digging was an interesting one – new leg on the fork or on the floor? I did a bit of both!
- I’m wearing proper clothes! The heat wave is over and the good old English rain has arrived which has prompted me to ditch the summer dresses I have been wearing since my operation. First, I went to leggings (I couldn’t quite face seams near my scar) but I have since rocked jeans, socks, trainers and wellies though I have had to have a bit of help with putting them on!
Yesterday I decided to put my ‘nearly normalness’ to the test. It wasn’t a normal day. It was a wonderful, special day – the wedding of a very good friend of mine. I didn’t want to be that person who made a big scene by rocking up to church with a crutch and my own cushion and I certainly didn’t want to be one of those people who sits at a table all night without dancing. I am proud to say that I did all of the wedding stuff without using the crutch I had stashed in the corner and I danced the night away (albeit carefully) until nearly midnight. Don’t ask me how I managed to dance without breaking my hip precautions.. the important thing is I didn’t dislocate my hip! It was a really lovely day and I was so glad to be a part of it.
Nearly normal is good. Normal will be even better. I’m so looking forward to being able to paint my toenails, shave my legs, tie my laces and most importantly, ride my pony!
Sadly the riding I’m doing isn’t exactly the kind I have been so missing but it is something. In Week Six – (Partial) Freedom I mentioned that my physio suggested I try cycling. I couldn’t quite face wobbling around on a bike and inevitably ending up on the floor. Luckily a wonderful friend has lent me a turbo trainer so my recently neglected bicycle is now installed in the living room. With each rotation of the left pedal my new hip gives a little click feeling but it seems to be ok. I’m going to slowly build up my cycling time to get these muscles working!
I am also very much back driving. The first time I drove on the roads I just went down the road to the yard (a five minute or so drive). I felt quite panicky, there were motorbikes chasing me down the hill and then on the way home I had to do what felt like a million hill starts in slow moving traffic. Aside from the slightly dodgy first drive, things are back to normal driving wise. With the extra freedom that comes with independent travel also comes a bit of anxiety; I am quite nervous of walking in busy places worrying that someone might knock me over and I generally feel a bit vulnerable being alone. I’m sure this too will pass and I will get back to being strong and independent!
I’m so desperate to ride Pea again. The other day I climbed over a gate and thought that if I could straddle a gate, I could probably get on a pony. I have set myself the restriction that until I can do everything myself (bring her in, turn her out and muck out her stable) I shouldn’t be riding. On Tuesday I made a leap towards this; I got to the yard and Pea had been on a ride so she was in her stable. I left my crutch by the stable, took her to the wash area, hosed her off and then took her out to her field. Walking crutchless when you’ve got a pony to help at any sticky points is all fine until they spot a tasty bit of grass.. The other problem was that when I had turned her out, I had to walk back to the yard with nothing to help me. I was fine but not particularly straight and smooth. I also had to stop lots of times to rest! Not sure what I would have been like if I had ridden as well but I guess I will find out when the time is right!
Lets just take a look at this picture for a minute.
That’s right, no socks and no crutch – you would almost be forgiven for thinking that this is a pre hip replacement picture.. except for the fact that I have the most fantastically brown knees and the whitest shins! And I’m wearing a dress at the yard still.
Let’s not get too excited. I am 100% sock free but I am not 100% crutch free. I was so panicked in Week Five – Owning My Own Recovery, thinking I would not be able to walk by the six week mark but things have steadily improved since then. I went from standing on my left leg, to doing tiny steps across the room to being able to walk across the yard or the field. Yesterday it was six weeks since my operation and my physio okayed me to walk unaided when I feel I am walking properly (or as properly as I can) but advised me to use my crutch when I am feeling stiff or tired. I know all too well the damage caused by walking incorrectly so I am quite accepting of this. I don’t want to hobble and limp around and do myself more harm than good.
My physio is pleased with how I am doing, particularly my ‘normal person’ stair climbing. She has given me a few extra exercises to do to continue to build my left leg strength and suggested I try cycling since due to the other medical situation of this week (see here) I am not allowed to swim at the moment. There is quite a big part of me that thinks I’m more likely to fall off a bike than Pea but I’m adamant not to ride her until I can get her in from the field and do all the pre and post ride pony care stuff myself. I’ll let you know how cycling goes when I give it a try!
Being six weeks post op also means I’m allowed to sleep on my side (although I am playing it safe with a pillow between my knees). I cannot describe the difference it makes to have bare legs and be able to curl my legs up on my side in bed. The weeks of dreading going to bed are OVER!
In other news, I drove for the first time today. I’m fine. My leg is fine. I may have given my boyfriend whiplash from practising my emergency stops! I didn’t go on the road today, just the track to and next to the yard, but I’m confident that I am road ready now!
The toughest six weeks are out of the way, I can now carefully negotiate what I am calling part two of my recovery. Pea seemed to genuinely notice that I wasn’t wearing my socks, I’m hoping I’ve got plenty more surprises in store for her in the next few weeks!
I have always been a big believer that there is so much more to horses than riding. For most riders there will be a time where they can’t ride for some reason whether it is surgery, an accident, horse injury, weather or something else. Obviously over the last few weeks I have been in this position so here are a few suggestions for things to do to keep horsey when you can’t ride (which are geared towards the non walking for obvious reasons!)
- Give your tack a birthday! Even if you are religious about cleaning your tack after every ride, tack can always benefit from a thorough clean and condition. Better to get anything mended when you don’t need it!
- Sort out your grooming kit. Clean those brushes, chuck out anything broken, replace anything you are missing. I have had my Eqclusive HAAS brushes for a year and love them but this is the first time they have had a proper clean!
- Groom that horse! I can’t get her in from the field but being able to shuffle around is good enough to give Pea a good groom, particularly if I’ve got my mum to help me. It is amazing what you can achieve with good brushes and a bit of Canter Mane & Tail – her tail has never been so silky!
- Organise the lotions and potions. I tend to use my car as a moving horse care cupboard but every now and again I do a seasonal sort out – if it is July you do need fly repellent and suncream, you don’t need pig oil and mud cream. Put the winter stuff away.. or at least for a little while longer.
- Make some lotions and potions! Mum and I made some hoof dressing out of lard, oil and tree tree the other day. Next on the list is some milk, fairy liquid and glycerin based tack cleaner.
- Sort out your photos. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a bit of an ‘insta kid’. I take ALOT of photos and sometimes they don’t get very far. Delete the bad ones, print the good ones, put them up on the walls. Remind yourself of what you love doing and what you want to achieve.
- Display your rosettes. It may be because I came to riding so late but I love a rosette – even the completing the fun ride ones! Put them up somewhere and remind yourself of what you have to be proud of or just to add a bit of colour to a wall.
- Go and watch someone else. I’ve been to local riding club dressage and the Hartpury Festival of Dressage. If you can’t ride you can still pick up some tips from others.
- Make plans. Work out your schedule for when you can ride again whether that is planning how you are going to build up your fitness, booking lessons or looking up your next competition.
I’m sure before long I will have a whole new set of activities to add to this as I am getting so much closer to walking. In fact today I walked from the field shelter to the gate in Pea’s little paddock without my crutch. I might be ‘can’t ride’ for a few weeks more but I’m nearly at ‘can walk’!