Pleasure And Pain

So the other day I said I was amping it up with the riding before I have to have a while out of the saddle post op. Today I took park in a BHS pleasure ride. I haven’t been on a fun ride since December 2016 because of what the hours in the saddle does to me.  The pleasure ride isn’t about careering around the countryside and jumping though, it was meant to essentially be a long, chilled country hack – sounded perfect!

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My family have always used the simile of slices of cake to work out distances on journeys. If today’s ride was split into slices, the first quarter of the cake was just normal riding pain and beautiful scenery. During the second quarter my left leg and foot were pretty much numb. We were just thinking that we must be in the last stages when one of the officials uttered the words

‘You’ve done the short part, now you’ve got the long part to do!’

Bearing it in mind my riding party consisted of a tiny child being led on foot and two ladies with a previous broken knee and sciatica issues respectively, this wasn’t great news!

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I genuinely felt sick from the pain during the second half and wasn’t entirely sure if I could move, let alone get my bum out of the saddle! When I got off I almost cried – not sure if it was because my leg had started trembling uncontrollably or because I was so full of pride for our achievement!  I feel like perhaps I didn’t need to do what is probably a week of riding squeezed into one day but I am so glad I did.  Who knows when our next fun ride will be or what I will be like then!

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At the end of the day though, I will take pain over what another rider on today’s ride experienced.  On our way round we had to pass the lifeless body of a horse who had died on its way round (presumably of a heart attack).  I cannot even comprehend the immense mental pain that rider will have gone through today.  It was so unbelievably sad.  Dodgy hip or no dodgy hip, I was able to go and see my pony in the field this evening – I feel very lucky I can do that.  it was a sobering reminder that life is short and you should count your blessings everyday.

 

Riding – How It All Started

There is no denying I was a very lucky little girl.  My parents took me to riding lessons when I was about five.  I remember going riding with my big brother and sister and a little pony called Nan.  We even had a pony to stay at our farm when I was about six.  When we moved to Devon my mum found a new riding school.  I used to ride a grey pony called Tom – he was one of those ponies who was best off on the end of a rope but I loved it.  I vividly remember the excitement of jodhpurs, my very own riding hat and desperately wanting a pair of riding boots!

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As I said in my previous post, all that horsey loveliness came to an end when I was diagnosed with Perthes.  I never lost the love for ponies.  Recently I went through all the kept paper and schoolwork from my childhood and I clearly used to draw ponies a lot!  I read horsey books, I played with toy horses, I played with a rocking horse and hobby horses and, rather embarrassingly, had a long term game with my sister involving invisible imaginary horses!  Between seven and twenty one I probably rode three times – much begged for birthday treats generally!

The desire had never left me but life went on.  When I finished university I got a real, proper, full time job and was suddenly earning actual money.  This also coincided with a number of a dates with a boy.  The story goes that on one date we were driving through the country and talking about his friends who had horses, I expressed my love for horses and desire to ride and his reply was

‘If you love horses and riding so much why don’t you just do it’.

That guy was insignificant but the words were not.  I booked a riding lesson!

The first place that I went to I wasn’t fully sold on, I went there twice and knew that riding was still for me but not necessarily there.  I then went to a new place where I started having weekly lessons.  Monday evenings were the highlight of my week, made even more special by the fact that my lesson was the last of the night so I was able to untack my horse and feed it.  I will never forget my first canter and the immense sense of achievement I felt at each small improvement.

After a few months I wanted more, I found a third riding stables (Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre) which offered hacking as well as lessons.  After two hacks there I discovered the concept of ‘leasing’ – essentially a paid commitment resulting you being able to ride a certain horse whenever you want to and to treat it as your own – I jumped straight in.

To cut a long story short, I had an unfortunate fall out on a hack off the first horse I leased.  My confidence was crippled.  I had the opportunity to swap horses and I did but that still didn’t work – I just couldn’t leave the yard on horseback.  Eventually the yard owner asked the ultimate question

‘Do you actually want to do it?  If you actually want to do it I can help’.

And she did.  I was given the option to ride the old queen of the yard Whiskey.  It worked!

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The next stage was slowly but surely swapping from Whiskey to Pea.  By Easter 2014 I was leasing a pony I was comfortable with but who still ultimately gave me enough challenges!  We did the riding centre summer show, we entered  the dressage competitions held at the yard, we went on fun rides and it was all wonderful.

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My Hip Journey So Far

When I was about 6 I started having pain in my left leg.  I don’t remember it but my mum does!  I was an active child, I used to do ballet, swimming and riding.  Originally the doctor didn’t know what it was but when we moved to Devon just before my seventh birthday, I struck lucky with my new doctor.  Another local child had the same pains and had been diagnosed with Perthes Disease.  Cut to many hospital appointments, surgery (a left hip osteotomy which essentially meant breaking, moving and pinning my hip bone and then removing the metal a year or so later) and ultimately being banned from all the good things in life.  No more ballet, no more riding, no PE.

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It wasn’t all bad, the pain was in existence but manageable and I still got involved in my overachieving family’s compulsory walks and cycling holidays.  Swimming was my one fully allowed activity.  It was an opportunity for exercise and for a bit of social engagement!  Swimming morphed into waterpolo when I moved to Gloucestershire in my university years and the pain increased but after all the years of a ‘dodgy hip’ it was just part of life.

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I started riding (more on that later) when I joined the working world.  I loved it, it was the best thing in my life (and still is) but it probably wasn’t the best thing for pain.  It was during these years that I got back into the hospital system.  I went from my GP to physio, to my GP, to my local hospital, to more physio and finally to a specialist in Bristol.  I had a steroid injection into my hip which did nothing and the discussion turned to a hip replacement.  It wasn’t the right time yet.

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In September last year I started a new job.  It was full time horsey but at a school, the perfect job for me.  I loved it but by December I was crying to my surgeon that my hip just couldn’t cope anymore and my name got put on the dreaded waiting list.

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To cut the trauma of the last few months short; I quit my awesome job, moved back to where I lived before, took up crutches for any proper walking (on the recommendation of my physio) and started a number of small jobs to pay my bills and bide my time until my op.  Now for the next part of the journey!

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