5 Things I’m Proud Of (2018)

I’ve decided to join Rhea Freeman’s ‘5 Things I’m Proud Of’ challenge and will be adding one more thing each day until the 31st December!

1 – The Confidence To Make A Change

This started in 2017 when I made the big decision to leave my permanent contract teaching job and follow my dream to a live in job at boarding school stables, but this year (2018) I have made some more major changes.

Firstly, I decided to leave that job in order to return to the Cotswolds for my operation (with no future job lined up!)  Three months into my recovery and feeling much better, I then made the decision to take a HLTA job (rather than try for a full time teaching one) alongside my self employed tutoring.

Both of these big changes have paid off for me so far but I am hoping I don’t have such big decisions to make in 2019!

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2 – Getting Out And About

It has certainly been a year of confidence growth!  With a trailer and the commitment of my travelling head lad (boyfriend..) 2018 was meant to be a year for getting out and about with Pea.  The hip replacement put a fairly big brake on this but we still managed to go out for lessons to two different places (in three different arenas).  Riding in different arenas has been great for my confidence, we have now experienced an arena with no fence and been in an indoor arena for the first time ever!

Each time we go out the stress gets less as we establish our routines and roles. I am still nervous about travelling Pea (even though she travels fine) but the more we do it, the more settled I feel. I’m proud of us all for breaking out of our comfort zone.

The intention was to get out to competitions this year too but that wasn’t meant to be.. hopefully we will have more success in 2019!

3 – My Recovery Journey

If you have ever visited my blog before you will know that in June I had a hip replacement.  Quite aside from being proud that I actually did it in the first place (though I made that decision at the end of 2017), I’m proud of how I’ve made it out the other side. 

I’m proud of myself for following the rules of my rehab, for doing my physio exercises, for getting back on my pony and ‘living my life’. 

I’m proud that I am now able to walk tall and (fairly) straight. 

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4 – Pea

As you can see in Pea’s Year it has been a big year for Pea. After settling in to life in Malvern she went through the upheaval of moving back to Bourton with no stress or complaints.

After running away from my crutches before my operation, once my hip was done she couldn’t have been more gentle and tolerant of me or the fact that she was being ridden by various tourists!

She responded to each stage of progress with interest and was almost unsure the day I led her out of the stable to get on! She has been pretty much impeccably behaved since, testing me only when I have been ready!

I’m proud of the willingness she has shown when my instructor has ridden her and I’m proud that we are finishing 2018 in a better position than we were at the beginning!

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5 – My Blog

If you had asked me at the beginning of 2018 what I would be proud of by the end, the changes, the trailer travel, the operation and Pea would have all been very much on my list, I could never have predicted the fifth thing I’m proud of.

I started my blog with very little expectation or intention but I feel like I have achieved something with it!

  • I am proud to have received messages and comments from people who have appreciated me sharing my story (some of whom live in a completely different country!)
  • I’m proud to have been shortlisted and given an award in the Equestrian Blogger of the Year competition.
  • I’m also proud to be writing again for a purpose other than work!

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A Bump In The Road

I’m pretty sure I jinxed myself when I said  how little pain I was in on Sunday in Another ‘Normal’ – Five Month Update. If you read it you will know that we had a day out at the zoo and I was feeling triumphant about how well my leg held up. When I got up off the sofa that evening after watching Dynasties (is there any better way to spend your Sunday?) my knee was sore. Off I went to bed with my hot water bottle.

I woke up in the morning in pain. My knee (the left one) was worse but I bumbled through the day and didn’t let it stop me from riding in the evening.

I rode again yesterday morning and was ok until I was tutoring in the evening. For the first time since my hip replacement I experienced what I can only describe as the feeling of implant on implant – it was almost creaking. I couldn’t work out what movement had caused it because I couldn’t do it on demand!

This morning I woke up in pain again but this time it was my hip. I can’t fully straighten up and I have been hobbling around today.

I am 99.99% sure nothing drastic has happened. I am HOPING I’ve just overdone it and the muscles have tightened right up. I’m seeing my physio tomorrow so hopefully she will confirm my suspicions. I wonder if I’ve just been pushing myself too hard.

I’m not looking for sympathy or scaremongering, I’m just sharing another bump in the journey. It just shows that when you think you are all good, your body can remind you that you’re not there yet!

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Update 

My wonderful physio said she thinks I’ve just aggravated my hip with the stop – start nature of Sunday’s zoo walking.  She stretched me a bit, gave me some new exercises and today I feel on the way back to being good again!

Sadly she also told me she is leaving so I’ve got one more appointment in January and that will be it!

Back To School

It has been another big week for me!  I started my new job (back in a school) on Monday and today Pea and I went for our first lesson since my hip replacement.

I’ve had a few really sluggish and frustrating schooling sessions recently and I decided I am better enough to gain something from a lesson.  I feel like I’ve got use of my leg back but I’ve completely forgotten how to ride! I spoke to my instructor and we agreed that she would ride Pea for half the time and I would ride the rest.

It didn’t start particularly well – we haven’t taken the trailer out since before my operation, we have a different car and just generally hadn’t quite prepared that side of things!  Once we’d located a key for the hitch lock, botch job attached the correct number plate to the trailer and pumped up the tires, I made my boyfriend drive along the yard track and back to convince me I was happy to put Pea in.  We have a bad track record of trailer outings being a bit stressful and this one was no exception.

HOWEVER, once we were there (only five minutes late) it was all worth it!  My instructor rode for a while which is so good for Pea because she doesn’t often (ever?) have anyone riding her who can actually ride!  She’s had fairly limited proper schooling in her ridden career and definitely showed that.  I then got on and had a lesson.  We are working on getting Pea more forward, accepting the contact and becoming more supple.

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I am SO aware that my instructor riding Pea set her up to go better for me than she does when I get on cold but it still wasn’t easy, I still had to find those buttons.  I feel like I rode better today than I did in my last lesson (before my operation) so I’m feeling very positive about where we are going riding-wise and I left with the biggest smile on my face!

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As you can see, being a fluffy, unrugged wild pony isn’t very conducive with being a dressage diva.. Pea was SWEATY.  If anyone has any bright suggestions as to how to deal with it I’d love to hear them – it is too cold for proper washing, is clipping my only option now?

13 Reasons Why (4 Month Update)

Some times I still look back at the negatives around having my hip replacement.   Most notably the fact that I gave up my job (and home at the time).  Four months on I feel like I have been rebuilding my life pretty well – here are 13 reasons (of varying levels of seriousness) why I am glad I had my hip replacement.

(1) Goodbye pain

The whole point of having my op was to reduce the crippling pain I was in.. TICK!  I am still sore when riding and if anything jars my hip unnaturally I have sharp pain BUT it is nothing like that pain I had before.

(2) Hello 1.5cm

A bonus aim for my operation was to reduce the leg length discrepancy I had.  I’m definitely taller and once my muscles get to where they need to be it looks like my legs will be even – who knows, I might even be able to have even stirrups!  I’ve got as far as being only one hole shorter on my left side than my right.

(3) Valuing my health

I honestly believe you don’t realise what you’ve got until you experience something like this.  Each day after my operation I got better, yes the pain, precautions and side effects were challenging but it had really made me appreciate the fact that I am generally very well.  The drug induced zombie mode I was in at the beginning was horrible – now I’m tired because I’ve earnt my tiredness!

(4) New job experiences

One of the most gutting things about having to have my operation was that I had to leave my horsey school job – the silver lining was that working in the shop, the saddlery and as a private tutor has given me a new outlook  on work and what is important in a job.  I’ve now got a new job in a school which I start on Monday and will be continuing to tutor which I LOVE.

(5) The magic of self employment

Before my operation I had always been in stable, contracted jobs.  Since my operation I’ve been very much in charge of my destiny when it comes to work.  Like I said, LOVE working as a self employed tutor – I can really teach in the best way for the individual child which is what every teacher wants isn’t it?

(6) Tack and leatherwork

I’m not exactly ready to start making tack or anything but working in the saddlery has given me a much greater understanding of tack quality and how best to care for it – I’m sure Pea’s saddle and bridle will thank me for that.  It does however mean that I am PETRIFIED that something will break while I’m riding – totally illogical.

(7) Quality time with special people

Six weeks with my parents after my operation could have been testing for our relationships but actually it was so nice to spend proper time with them and to share Pea with my mum who lives too far away normally but would love to be more involved with her.  I also got to spend much more non riding time with Pea than I would normally.  I’m now back at the busy life, time squish and riding comes over ‘playing’ with my pony but the months I had without riding meant I had proper chill time with her.

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(8) Knowing my support network

When something like this happens you really get to know who cares – it is the people who bring you chocolate or send you flowers, the ones who send you supportive messages, the ones who push you (even when at the time it doesn’t feel so welcome) and the ones who don’t forget to be considerate of the situation even when time has passed by.

(9) Going places

I have actually been to more horsey events since my operation than I did before!  The combination of a bit more time and the motivation to learn more to apply it in my own riding has taken me to Burghley Horse TrialsBlenheim Horse Trials, the British Dressage Championships and HOYS.

(10) Finding an outlet

Without my operation I doubt I would have ‘got round’ to starting my blog – which has given me a creative outlet and a bit of a focus for internet time!  I’ve already gushed about the wonderfulness of bloggerdom in My Blogging Journey so I won’t bore you again!

(11) Seeing a future

Before I had my operation I was worried about what the future would hold. I was on crutches in the last few months and the idea of that continuing was scary. Yes I rode and walked but it was always getting worse. Now I can see a time when I can be as active as I want to be.. though today I’m very sore and stiff after overdoing it so I’m reminded that I’m not there yet!

(12) Starting a new chapter with Pea

It has been a slow start to the new chapter with Pea and I’m still playing catch up trying to get back to where we were before but I feel like now I’ve got the bones/ceramic I’m going to have for (hopefully) the next 30 years, we can keep moving forwards.  Already I’ve managed to do an intro with Dressage Riders Online (which was a first) and I’m hoping to get out and have a go at an away competition before the new year! I cantered for the first time yesterday which just confirmed that I’ve got a long way to go.

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(13) Super scar

I’ve been telling people for years my scar was a shark bite and now it actually curves round like one!

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Living My Life!

So here we are, nearly a week on from that top doctor advice that now I can ‘go and live my life’..  I thought I’d give a little update on how life is going.

The Downs

  • I’m fully back in the swing of my work schedule now.  I work 9.30-5.30 in one job and then work as a private tutor in the evenings which means..
  • I am SO pushed for riding time.  The evenings are rapidly getting darker and although I’m still only riding for short periods of time, when I ride after work on non tutoring days I feel so rushed!
  • Rushing is not good for my still recovering body.  After feeling so knackered from walking and mucking out ONE stable I have been doing some reading on how much muscle you lose from inactivity.  I am very much still getting my strength back, if I rest between activities I am ok but when I’m rushing I end up in pain or with cramp! It upsets me that this time last year at my old job there were 20 stables to muck out between two of us and this year I can barely do one!

The Ups

  • Although my brain is still stressed about work, money and time, I feel so much more relaxed about my leg.  I’ve been moving and sitting however I want and so far haven’t had any dodge moments since my restrictions have been lifted.
  • I’ve adjusted my mindset when it comes to my riding and it has made me feel much better.  My first ride made me feel like I had gone so far backwards and then as I did more to try to rectify that I was worried I was overdoing it.  I had some great advice that if I thought I was overdoing it.. I probably was and that aching is ok but not pain.  So I’ve stripped back my expectations and I stop when I get to the pain stage.  I’m treating my riding as though I’m starting from scratch again but am pleasantly progressing at a slightly accelerated rate than I did this time five years ago (when I first started riding!) I did something this week which was very exciting but I’m going to have to wait until next weekend to write about it.. watch this space!
  • I’m getting the hang of our new camera and so is my boyfriend.  We both love photography so it is nice to be able to take better quality pictures for my blog and social media.  We have a Canon with a 18-55 lense but are pondering what longer lense or waterproofing equipment we may need in the future (British Dressage Championships in the rain was tricky) – if anyone has any top tips please let me know!
  • I’m generally feeling more positive about the future with my scrummy pony, snazzy camera and bionic hip!

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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!

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