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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June Dressage – “Needs more work!”

This week, Evenlode Riding Club held the first show of their summer dressage series in my yard’s front field.  I have been taking part in these since the first summer I was riding Pea (with the exception of last year when I had to attend on crutches!) so although I’ve done a few competitions this year, this was the show I was really looking forward to.

Lead up

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that the few days before the show had me in a bit of a panic!  It had been raining solidly for days and I was really worried about little barefoot Pea slipping over!

The morning of the show was no different and I got Pea in at 6 to wash her legs before work.  She was actually shivering, bless her!

She stayed in during the day in an attempt to stay clean but I did have a few messages through the day telling me she was feeling a bit “bright!”  Another bad omen!

Prelim 7

After work, a quick groom and a speedy warm up, a thankfully quite calm Pea and I trotted in for our Prelim 7.  I have to say that the only thing I thought about as I went round was “what do I have to do next?” and “which way am I going?” My brain couldn’t cope with the arena being the other way round from our arena on the yard (as in A was north east rather than south west!)  Does anyone else have perspective issues?

Anyway the first canter kept breaking (because it was meant to be a right canter but was actually a left canter) and the second one didn’t so I was feeling quite chuffed (until I realised that was a right canter when it was meant to be a left canter!)  At the time I was really pleased that I had got through the test without falling over or forgetting it (though I did nearly forget to salute!)

Prelim 12

I had to quickly get my head in the game for the slightly more complicated Prelim 12 which seemed to go pretty well until the right canter which broke, turned into a left canter and ultimately ended up as a trot.  By that point we were both a bit tired and we just about kept her going to the end.

 

Aftermath

I didn’t place. I wasn’t bothered about not getting a rosette but I was pretty bothered when I realised about that whole canter on the wrong leg in my Prelim 7 which, until that point, I had thought was better!

I got 58.41% in my Prelim 7 and 60.74% in my Prelim 12.  Naturally I had a “lovely pony” comment (how could anyone not like Pea!?) but the comment that stuck in my brain was “needs more work” about my canter in the Prelim 7.  Yes.  Obviously it needs more work.  Maybe I took it personally because I’ve been “working on it” for years.  I know I need to “work on it”.  I had a hip replacement so I could “work on it”.  Being there and doing it was “working on it”!

After reading my sheets I then had a look through the pictures Alex took.  All I could focus on was my left leg; knee very bent, heel up, foot stuck in stirrup.  This was my second wobble of the evening.  Something else I need to “work on”!

Then I kicked myself.  A year ago I couldn’t move my left leg, I should be able to forgive it for moving in the wrong way for a bit longer!  I am happy I didn’t wimp out and I’m glad that my parents were able to see a less spooky dressage test after the one they saw in April.  I am pleased I managed to remember two tests and ride some “satisfactory” and even “fairly good” movements.  Certainly a start to the series I can “work on”!

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.

Along For The Ride – Confident Cantering!

I was so busy yesterday morning and had such a lot to get through before I allowed myself to go to the yard that I didn’t ride until about 4 o’clock.  The yard was just quietening down after Saturday lessons and everyone was going home except me!

I made the fatal error of forgetting that it had recently rained and went up to get Pea in my riding boots.  If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen the mud around the hay feeder on my stories.  It was not good.

I was feeling tired and a bit flat and initially said I was only going to go out for a short bumble into the village but as soon as we got out of the yard and down the track I felt instantly better – the magic of horsepower!

I texted my YO to say I’d changed my mind and was going further but as we plodded along I had a new idea.  I hadn’t cantered out since my hip replacement (which is now eight months ago!) and I thought it was about time I did.  I intended on cantering out before Christmas but at that time I didn’t feel confident to go on my own and I didn’t get around to organising other people to go with.  I’m really trying to get Pea (and myself) fitter and stronger and I know that cantering out is going to help that and have a positive effect on our work in the school.  Yesterday, with my hacking confidence at an all time high I thought I would bite the bullet.

At my yard, we are very lucky that next to our fields we have an uphill grass strip to canter up with no gate to go through to get to it!  Although it is super convenient, there are four potential issues that you have to look past to confidently canter up there.

  • You have to turn away from the yard to go up there which doesn’t always make for a happy pony if they think they are going back to the yard.
  • You have to ride up next to all the other horses who tend to join in the ‘race’!
  • There is an electric fence on one side of the strip and a ditch on the other!
  • There is a gate at the top, which may or may not be closed, that goes straight onto a road!

Can you see how easy it is to wimp out of going for a canter?  Anyway, I didn’t wimp out and it was lush to feel the wind whipping past us again (and don’t worry, she definitely stopped at the top to admire the view!)

So there we go, I now hack out alone AND am starting to canter out alone.  I’m definitely not the confidence crippled rider I used to be!

Six Months In The Saddle

At the end of February it will have been six months since I started riding again with my new hip so I thought it was about time I looked back on what Pea and I have achieved in that time.  There are lots of links to past posts in case you have missed any!

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September (Month 1)

In all honesty, in September the key achievement was getting on and staying there for more than ten minutes!  I found it really hard to sit in the saddle in the first place although it gradually got better as each ride went on and each time I rode.  By the end of the month I managed to trot my way round an Intro dressage test for Dressage Riders Online.

October (Month 2)

I found riding quite mentally challenging in October because I felt guilty about how little I was doing.  I was still only riding for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.  However, at the end of October, I cantered for the first time since my operation.  It was very uncomfortable!

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November (Month 3)

At the beginning of November we took Pea to Lyneham for my first lesson in about six months.  My instructor rode Pea for a while and then I did and I went away feeling on top of the world.  I had a few weeks of feeling really good about my riding (although I was still finding cantering really challenging).  However, at the end of the month I had a bump in the road where I was in pain again.

December (Month 4)

After feeling so positive about my riding for most of November, December was a bit of a flop!  I had a really good lesson at the start but then I was away house sitting and had two bouts of feeling really grotty so I didn’t do much ‘proper’ riding.  I did do a Christmas yard hack into Bourton on the Water to sing a Christmas song in the river and take my boyfriend for a ride on Christmas day.

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January (Month 5)

January was a much better month for riding.  I took on the Bronze Top Barn Challenge which meant I rode (or did groundwork with Pea) for at least three hours each week.  I also entered and completed my first competition with my new hip (which was also our first competition away from home and in an indoor arena) and had another amazing lesson with my instructor.  Everything was a bit disconnected and wonky at the competition but Pea started working so nicely in my lesson and I finally felt like she was starting to accept the contact and become supple.  This continued when I was schooling at home too and I was strong and comfortable enough to be riding for longer.  I’ve certainly found that a longer warm up has been beneficial and the difference in my leg since my hip replacement has meant that I’m still comfortable enough to keep going afterwards!

February (Month 6)

February was meant to bring my second competition of the year and my step back up to prelim (which I was competing at before my hip replacement) but first we had snow and then the equine flu saga exploded so I haven’t been out competing and I haven’t been out for any lessons.  It has been really frustrating because I feel like things were just starting to fall together and now they are on hold HOWEVER Pea has been schooling really nicely at home.  She is a lot more off my leg and seems to be working more correctly.  The big achievement this month has been our hacking.  I haven’t always been confident about hacking but this month I have been going out for 60/70 minute hacks ON MY OWN (with Pea!)  A massive achievement for me.

Next Steps

I’m hoping to get back out again in March providing my yard owner is happy for that to happen.  I want to be confidently riding prelims with passable canter movements by the time the summer comes so lots of practice, some lessons and trying out some more competition venues is on the ‘to do’ list.

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!

Another ‘Normal’ – Five Month Update

Another month has passed since my hip replacement! I was thinking  of calling this ‘The Old Normal’ as parts of life seem to be back to how they were a long time ago however there is one fairly crucial difference, so much less pain.

Life In General

I have always been a busy person and although my operation forced me to have some down time, now that I’m back in a full time school job I feel like I’m right back to that ‘full on’ routine again. I am a mug to be working three jobs (my tutoring and a weekend day at the shop add on to my school job). I guess I’m still trying to make up for lost income in the summer but I’m going to cut down on the shop work after Christmas and win some free time back!

Riding

Getting back into lessons has had a massive impact on my riding. I actually feel like I’m back to where I was ability-wise before my operation although I am struggling to feel good about canter as I used to find it so painful. I’m having a lesson next Sunday so hopefully gradually I can change that. These days I’m up to half hour sessions in the school and generally it is my muscles aching afterwards, not my hip. Horray!

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Hip Matters

I don’t want anyone reading this to think that once you’ve got a new hip and you’ve done a couple of months of strengthening that all is good and you can leave it there. I’m still doing physio exercises daily (which now involve a foam roller and an exercise ball) and there is still a long way to go to improve my range of movement. My scar area is also still sore sometimes.

The key reason why this is ‘another normal’ rather than the old normal is that I can do so much more walking without limping or being in pain. We went to Whipsnade Zoo today for a joint birthday outing (if you have never been, it is a BIG zoo) and I had no issue walking around. I often refer to Pea in the winter as a muddy hippo but I’m pretty glad she’s not as wide as one!

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There was a bit of extra poignancy as the last time I went to Whipsnade (also for my birthday) was before I was diagnosed with Perthes and the hip problems started.

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What Comes After Twenty Six?

Today, internet friends, is my 27th Birthday!  Which has had me thinking about the massive year that had just passed.  This blog is for life documentation so if you want to revisit the last year with me, come on in.

I have often said that when I turned 26 I had a bit of a ‘mid twenties crisis’.  I was suddenly really conscious of the future and how much I wanted to achieve but didn’t really feel like I was.

26 has been a rollercoaster, it started with the revelation in December that I was going to have a hip replacement within the next year.  This was followed by the happy occasion of moving in with my boyfriend along with a wonderful few Christmas celebrations with each of our families (and the animal ones).

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Passing my towing test (after one failed attempt..) and my Level 2 UKCC in Equestrian Coaching made me feel like I was getting better at my job and starting to become worthy of it but in February I made the difficult decision that I would have to leave it in order to have a guilt free, successful hip replacement recovery back where I had lived before.

At the end of March, we (humans and pets) made the big move back to the Cotswolds.

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In April I finally managed to reconnect with my family – I went to visit my brother and his little family and my parents.  I started tutoring, I started my new job at the shop, I started blogging AND of course I got my operation date through.  I also created this video – which was essentially an expression of the wonder of being back at my yard.

If you’re a long time reader of mine you know the story from here, Pea and I got out to lessons and I felt like I was just getting somewhere towards my goals, I even managed a fun ride when it all stopped in June for my hip replacement.

June and July were spent like this..

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And this..

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Cut to the end of August (if you want to relive the gory details of my recovery it is all linked in My Hip Story) and the big event was my return to the saddle.

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In September I entered my first online dressage competition and by October I felt ‘better’. I got myself a new job, in a school again and experienced the absolute wonder of getting a blogging award (My Blogging Journey).  There was also loss in our household as we said a sad goodbye to Percy the guinea pig though we then welcomed Patrick to keep Peter company.

In what little of November we have had, Pea and I have got back out for a lesson and she feels better than she has ever felt before (in my completely unprofessional opinion!)  Your Horse Live finished off my year of horsey education trips which included Badminton, Burghley, Blenheim, British Dressage Championships and HOYS.

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This may seem like more of a ‘new year’ style post but all my thoughts around my birthday revolve around how massive this year has been and although on paper it looks like a bit of a mess, I’ve learnt, I’ve achieved and, if I’m honest, I actually feel so much more confident about the future now.  Bring on 27!

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My amazing cake was made by MUCK Cakes by Hannah

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