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.

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!

Totally Hands Free And Tall!

Today marks FIVE days of being completely crutch free.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to maintain it so I am very proud of myself for keeping it up and the slightly scary thing is that my step count has not gone down!  I’ve walked around the farm at my old place of work and been to visit a friend’s new livery yard as well as walking to work and at my yard so I’ve tackled a range of terrain too!

It hasn’t been easy.  I have to concentrate on every single step and I feel like I am walking quite stiffly.  I have been getting tired as the days have gone on but I haven’t got to the hobbling stage so it isn’t too bad.  I had a bit of a scare today – I did a funny step on the pavement walking home from work and it felt like my hip tried to pop out..  It didn’t pop out so the muscles must be good but I’m a bit worried now – I think a call to the physio is in order to check that everything sounds ok.  I’m not sure whether I am trying to do too much.

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The other revelation this week is that common opinion suggests I am taller since my operation!  I saw friends from my old job (who I haven’t seen since my operation) and everyone thought I was taller.  I’m not sure whether that is as a result of my slightly lengthened left leg or whether it is because I am walking straighter and not sticking my bum out so much!  Either way the longer leg and the straighter walking are good things – I can’t wait to try out my leg and altered seat on Pea in a few weeks time.  Here’s a hint of my old leg wonkiness in pictorial form!

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I am seeing the physio on the 28th and I am going to ask her what she thinks of me riding again.  If she says yes I’ll do it – I feel ready at the moment but I just don’t want to risk undoing all the hard work and I am still on hip precaution restrictions.  If she says to wait until 12 weeks then so be it, I’m hoping to have many more years of riding left!  For now I’m spending more and more time looking back through pictures of me riding.  I made this collage for the two year anniversary of owning Pea – I hope that by January I’ll have plenty to add to document my third year of pony ownership!

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Nearly Normal

In one week it will have been two months since my operation which sounds like an awful long time!  I have started to realise how much I have wished away the last two months and am almost surprised to find myself on the uphill to November birthdays and Christmas (my brain still works in school terms).  Things are certainly on the up and I’m getting closer and closer to ‘normal’.

  • I’m working a lot more – now a day off is a treat every few days rather than a near everyday occurrence!  Although it would be nice not to have to work, working more is definitely making life feel more normal.
  • I am doing more walking (at least 5,000 steps a day).  I’ve moved on from using my crutch and then picking it up to do some unattended walking to leaving my crutch in the car or at home and going about my daily business ‘hands free’.  The other day I walked to see Pea, noticed some ragwort nearby so ended up doing two trips to the field in order to dig it out.  Digging was an interesting one – new leg on the fork or on the floor?  I did a bit of both!
  • I’m wearing proper clothes!  The heat wave is over and the good old English rain has arrived which has prompted me to ditch the summer dresses I have been wearing since my operation.  First, I went to leggings (I couldn’t quite face seams near my scar) but I have since rocked jeans, socks, trainers and wellies though I have had to have a bit of help with putting them on!

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Yesterday I decided to put my ‘nearly normalness’ to the test.  It wasn’t a normal day.  It was a wonderful, special day – the wedding of a very good friend of mine.  I didn’t want to be that person who made a big scene by rocking up to church with a crutch and my own cushion and I certainly didn’t want to be one of those people who sits at a table all night without dancing.  I am proud to say that I did all of the wedding stuff without using the crutch I had stashed in the corner and I danced the night away (albeit carefully) until nearly midnight.  Don’t ask me how I managed to dance without breaking my hip precautions.. the important thing is I didn’t dislocate my hip!  It was a really lovely day and I was so glad to be a part of it.

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Nearly normal is good.  Normal will be even better.  I’m so looking forward to being able to paint my toenails, shave my legs, tie my laces and most importantly, ride my pony!

Ride And Drive!

Sadly the riding I’m doing isn’t exactly the kind I have been so missing but it is something.  In Week Six – (Partial) Freedom I mentioned that my physio suggested I try cycling.  I couldn’t quite face wobbling around on a bike and inevitably ending up on the floor.  Luckily a wonderful friend has lent me a turbo trainer so my recently neglected bicycle is now installed in the living room.  With each rotation of the left pedal my new hip gives a little click feeling but it seems to be ok.  I’m going to slowly build up my cycling time to get these muscles working!

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I am also very much back driving.  The first time I drove on the roads I just went down the road to the yard (a five minute or so drive).  I felt quite panicky, there were motorbikes chasing me down the hill and then on the way home I had to do what felt like a million hill starts in slow moving traffic.  Aside from the slightly dodgy first drive, things are back to normal driving wise.  With the extra freedom that comes with independent travel also comes a bit of anxiety; I am quite nervous of walking in busy places worrying that someone might knock me over and I generally feel a bit vulnerable being alone.  I’m sure this too will pass and I will get back to being strong and independent!

I’m so desperate to ride Pea again.  The other day I climbed over a gate and thought that if I could straddle a gate, I could probably get on a pony.  I have set myself the restriction that until I can do everything myself (bring her in, turn her out and muck out her stable) I shouldn’t be riding.  On Tuesday I made a leap towards this; I got to the yard and Pea had been on a ride so she was in her stable.  I left my crutch by the stable, took her to the wash area, hosed her off and then took her out to her field.  Walking crutchless when you’ve got a pony to help at any sticky points is all fine until they spot a tasty bit of grass..  The other problem was that when I had turned her out, I had to walk back to the yard with nothing to help me.  I was fine but not particularly straight and smooth.  I also had to stop lots of times to rest!  Not sure what I would have been like if I had ridden as well but I guess I will find out when the time is right!

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Week Six – (Partial) Freedom

Lets just take a look at this picture for a minute.

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That’s right, no socks and no crutch – you would almost be forgiven for thinking that this is a pre hip replacement picture.. except for the fact that I have the most fantastically brown knees and the whitest shins!  And I’m wearing a dress at the yard still.

Let’s not get too excited.  I am 100% sock free but I am not 100% crutch free.   I was so panicked in Week Five – Owning My Own Recovery, thinking I would not be able to walk by the six week mark but things have steadily improved since then.  I went from standing on my left leg, to doing tiny steps across the room to being able to walk across the yard or the field.  Yesterday it was six weeks since my operation and my physio okayed me to walk unaided when I feel I am walking properly (or as properly as I can) but advised me to use my crutch when I am feeling stiff or tired.  I know all too well the damage caused by walking incorrectly so I am quite accepting of this.  I don’t want to hobble and limp around and do myself more harm than good.

My physio is pleased with how I am doing, particularly my ‘normal person’ stair climbing.  She has given me a few extra exercises to do to continue to build my left leg strength and suggested I try cycling since due to the other medical situation of this week (see here) I am not allowed to swim at the moment.  There is quite a big part of me that thinks I’m more likely to fall off a bike than Pea but I’m adamant not to ride her until I can get her in from the field and do all the pre and post ride pony care stuff myself.  I’ll let you know how cycling goes when I give it a try!

Being six weeks post op also means I’m allowed to sleep on my side (although I am playing it safe with a pillow between my knees).  I cannot describe the difference it makes to have bare legs and be able to curl my legs up on my side in bed.  The weeks of dreading going to bed are OVER!

In other news, I drove for the first time today.  I’m fine.  My leg is fine.  I may have given my boyfriend whiplash from practising my emergency stops!  I didn’t go on the road today, just the track to and next to the yard, but I’m confident that I am road ready now!

The toughest six weeks are out of the way, I can now carefully negotiate what I am calling part two of my recovery.  Pea seemed to genuinely notice that I wasn’t wearing my socks, I’m hoping I’ve got plenty more surprises in store for her in the next few weeks!

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