Things I Didn’t Know Then But I Know Now (One Year)

There are a lot of things that I have realised since my op that either no one told me or I didn’t realise before.  Obviously not all of them would be relevant to everyone’s THR recovery but they were certainly relevant to me!  Obviously I’m not a medical professional either but this was my experience!  I started writing this post just after my hip replacement and there has been plenty to add to it since.

The Hospital Stage

  • A general anaesthetic can make you puke.  Lots.  I should have known this but when it happened I was completely mentally unprepared.  Since I’ve spent the last 10+ years successfully avoiding being sick, it wasn’t great.
  • I had to have an oxygen tube to start with. This surprised me!
  • The whole puking thing also meant I didn’t want to eat because I knew it wouldn’t stay down long.

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  • I got painted in red antiseptic which made me wake up and think I had something wrong with me.
  • I was really swollen near the incision.
  • Regardless of what I was told before my op, I still had to wait two weeks to shower.
  • The car journey home felt like the worst rollercoaster I’d ever been on!

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The Early Stages

  • Anti-embolism socks made my heels sore.  I used cotton pads on my heels which helped (although it is not medically recommended).  Someone moisturising my feet helped even more!
  • I completely lost my appetite.
  • Whatever I was told before my operation, regardless of having a raised toilet seat, I could find NO way to go to the toilet without breaking my 90 degree bend restriction.  Sorry.
  • I got SO tired.  Doing basically nothing.  But I couldn’t necessarily sleep at night because it was just so uncomfortable lying flat on my back.

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  • As well as being tired, my brain was generally very fuzzy (probably the painkillers).
  • When I went out in the sun I had a fair few faint moments (woops!)
  • My scar pulled the skin around it tight, making a bit of a crater in my flesh!  This happened a little bit with my original scar from my childhood operations but it has been far more significant with my hip replacement scar.

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  • I had to repeatedly explain why I had had a hip replacement!

The “Crutch Free” Stage

  • Post op. walking was not walking.  It was a funny cross between shuffling and marching.

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  • When I was still on bending restrictions but with the crutches and socks gone, everyone else thought that I was fully recovered.
  • Or rather, most people thought I was fully recovered APART from the people who saw me carrying around a pillow so that I could sit down without breaking the aforementioned restrictions.

The Later Stages

  • Little things reminded me that I had a false hip but everyone else had forgotten it even happened.
  • I started to want to do things that I never planned to do!  The perfect example being my decision to run again.
  • I keep discovering things which are a hundred times less painful than they were before I had my new hip – no stirrups riding anyone?

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Exercise – For The Mind, Body And Hip!

One of my goals for the year was to ‘get strong’; to continue to rehab my hip replaced hip and and to increase my fitness after 6 months of really reduced activity.  Since I made this goal in January, I upped my riding, particularly while I was doing the Top Barn Challenge 2019, but more recently I’ve been looking at my step count and lamenting the rubbish mid week days.  Now it has all changed!

I feel like I am now at the point with my new hip where I need to step up using it and push myself more.  There is that but also we all know ‘exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy’.

Riding

Obviously riding is my favourite exercise.  I’m still fairly consistently riding four times a week (which is as much as I can fit in around work at the moment) but I am trying to be more conscious of what work we do.  If I don’t feel strong enough or in the right mindset to school, I don’t.  Otherwise I know we will go in and flop around for a bit, achieving very little and getting me frustrated!  When I AM in the right frame of mind, we are schooling for much longer each time.  We are trotting more hills, TRYING to canter more and just generally enjoying what we are doing.

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Walking

The biggest change I’ve made is I’m consciously pushing myself to do more steps rather than just doing what I do.  Rather than going to the yard on the way home from work, I’ve been driving home and walking to the yard (which is under a mile away).  A simple change and certainly more time consuming BUT also an easy way to up my step count.  The days I carry two tubs of pig food with me are even better.. weights anyone!?  I listen to podcasts (Olivia Towers’s ones are my favourite) and I chill out.  I make sure I extend my leg properly and hold my pelvis properly and I feel much better for doing it.

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Cycling

My bike had spent many months stationary after I was allowed to ride a horse again but I’ve decided to get it out and try to, at least weekly, go out for a cycle.  The main problem with this is I’m not very confident in traffic as such, my bike rides have been at 5.30 in the morning!  Not much traffic then!  I love the feeling of the wind whistling past me though I need to build up to doing more hill work.  Again, it makes me feel good, starts my day well and allows me to see my pony an extra time if I go past the yard!

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Yoga

I’ve been quite on off with my yoga recently but there is no denying it has amazing benefits for your mental and physical state.  I always feel the effect on my muscles after only one yoga session so I definitely need to get going with it again.  I’m hoping to take my mat out to the garden now that the weather is getting better like a proper insta girl!

Running!

Now I have said a million times, I won’t be running with my new hip.  It isn’t exactly recommended, I don’t want to prematurely wear my hip and I’ve never really been a keen runner.  But sometimes things happen and what happened to me was that the Tuesday lunch running club at school needed an extra adult to cope with the sheer quantity of children wanting to do it.  My school has a very small staff and it didn’t look like anyone else was going to do it.  You know what I’m like when someone asks me to do something!?  On the proviso that some of the children would be so slow I would be able to keep up in a speedy walk, I agreed to do it.  Today was my first one.  I ran.  Admittedly there were plenty of walking breaks (I couldn’t leave the straggling last children behind) and maybe it was more of a jog but it was certainly the most in the way of running that I have done in a long time.  I actually enjoyed it.  It is such a cliche but I felt FREE!  Lets not forget that this time last year I was on crutches (before my operation) for any proper walking.  Don’t ask me how I feel – right now I feel ok but I’ll update you tomorrow!

So where do I go from here?  The plan is to continue riding four times a week (building up both of our fitness), try to get out on my bike and do yoga at least once a week respectively, to carry on with running/jogging/walking/motivating children club (IF I feel ok tomorrow) and to make sure EVERY day I do enough steps.

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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Happy Half Birthday Hip!

The 19th December was my new hip’s official six month birthday!

It has had a busy time

  • 2 nights in hospital
  • 2 weeks with a dressing on
  • 2 weeks of no showers
  • 3 weeks off work
  • 6 weeks of anti embolism socks
  • 6 weeks off driving
  • 2 months of crutch support
  • 10 weeks off riding
  • 3.5 months OF riding
  • 7 physio sessions

If you feel like revisiting the journey so far.. My Hip Story

But where am I now?

Life In General

I’m fully settled into my new job, though desperately pleased it is the Christmas holidays.  I have been ill twice in the last couple of weeks and I think it is my body telling me that it needs a rest – the three weeks off I had after my operation don’t exactly count as a rest and you have to wind back about a year before that to get to the last time I had any proper time off.

Riding

Because I have been under the weather and I’ve been away house sitting, I have given Pea a bit of time off however riding has got so much better.  Feeling both thighs ache after a ‘proper’ ride is amazing – although my left leg still doesn’t work like my right (and both are negatively affected by the way my pelvis is tilted and twisted in the saddle) they are at least both doing something!

I have managed to canter a little bit more this month.  Although I think my trot work is now as good, if not better than it was before my operation, my canter work is behind.  I find it uncomfortable, I’m struggling to sit and keep Pea going.  In fairness, she’s not exactly done much cantering in the last 6 months so she needs strengthening too.  We will get there!  We could do with cantering out so that I can get my bum out of the saddle and she can just go.  I’m making it an aim for the Christmas holidays.  As you can see.. we are seriously lacking skills.

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Hip Matters

I actually stopped paying much attention to my scar for a while but recently I’ve been back on the yoga and conscious of how my muscles are shaping up.  As a consequence of this, my eyes have been opened to the fact that I essentially have a big chunk missing from my left bum cheek!  I knew that scars pull the skin in tight but I guess due to the squishy nature of the area, my extended scar dent is something else!  You can actually see it when I’m wearing trousers!  It’s fine, I’m not going to get all funny about it but I have been wondering if it will change or always be that way.  It is very hard to show in pictures but I’ve tried – brace your eyes, here’s some bare flesh!

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There isn’t much to report in terms of my range of movement and strength as things are moving very slowly forwards/outwards/upwards!  I am still frustrated that when I cross my legs, my left knee sticks in the air.. it does make yoga interesting.  I think I just need to keep going.  I keep reading about people having more flexibility straight after their operations than they did before, it has been quite the opposite for me.  In fact, I had a para dressage assessment last year and was given a classification due to my restricted movement – does that mean I would still qualify if I was reassessed?

Now that I am being more ambitious with what I am doing, I do have times when my hip twinges, probably because I have moved it in a way it shouldn’t be moved.  I can’t quite classify what ways those are but I’m sure over time I will be able to see more of a pattern.

Aside from the flesh dents, rigidity and flashes of alarm I’m still very pleased with my hip – I am more comfortable walking, sitting and sleeping than I ever was.  I am so much less stiff than I was before.

Here’s to the next 6 months!

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!

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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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!

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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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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