Last month I wrote all about my journey trying to recover from a TPF fracture incurred while schooling a young horse. I had taken 5 months to get to the point of walking with one stick and riding a mechanical horse. Having been on the mechanical horse for a few weeks I felt that I was ready to get on a real one! It was daunting getting back on, and it certainly made me understand more how riders who are weak and can’t control their bodies feel. I felt like I had lost the stability of my lower leg and all my core strength that then affected my balance. I also had a lot of pain in my knee when rising. I tried taping my knee – that helped a bit, and also rode with a good knee support. I could also feel the edge of a plate on the inside of my leg – I still can! It was a bit of an eye opener for me as to how much work I was going to have to do and how I had taken my ﬁtness and strength for granted. This was at the beginning of December 2015, so I did three weeks of just riding a couple of quiet ones, hacking out daily until I thought of fetching any of the competition horses back in.
When I felt I was getting a bit stronger, I started to bring back the competition horses. I was sensible though and made sure that they were lunged and someone else got on them ﬁrst. Everything was deﬁnitely being ridden with a neck strap at this point. My second black day came when I learnt that one of my favourite event horses, who I’d done a lot of work on, had been sent to another rider. This hit me really hard. Having done this job for so long I should have expected it, but you still invest a lot of time and emotion into the horses that you train. During this time I was only hacking and started light schooling. Not leaving the ﬂoor yet. My new consultant had booked me in for the removal of one of the plates that was holding the bone graft up at the base of my knee, early March, so I had this to work towards, and then felt that I would be able to start jumping after this. We did a few dressage competitions just to get out – there was some experimentation at home as to how I was going to be able to get on and off when out as at home I had built myself a ‘special needs’ mounting and dismounting block with steps on and off. My dismounting procedure at shows basically involved grooms holding onto the horse and me chucking myself into the lorry living! I was very lucky as most of my owners had stuck by me and waited for me to recover. At least now I felt that I had a plan, was making progress and competing again was a realistic goal.
We decided that the season would start a little later than normal to allow recovery time after the next operation. This actually worked in my favour in a way, as the horses had a lot more preparation time and lots of long slow work. It also meant that I missed all the cold, wet windy March events. I might do the late start again next year as its much more civilised! The day of the next operation came round – the day after my birthday, so had lots of close friends round the night before to distract me! I was a bit worried about having to have another general anaesthetic as I don’t recover very well from them. I was also dreading being grounded again and having the scar on the front of my leg opened again as it had healed well. I didn’t need to worry though as this operation was a walk in the park compared to the others. I recovered really well as the nurses at Woodthorpe were very quick to medicate problems. An overnight stay and I was back home again, back on the dreaded crutches, but not for too long. After 12 days the staples came out and then after two weeks I got back on to ride again. The leg was still painful, and I felt much better taped up and with a knee support. I did have a better range of movement though with that plate out so continued with weekly physio and massage to keep me on the road. I still had a signiﬁcant limp, so often walked with a stick if walking longer distances. One was purchased in team colours to accessorise! I built up my riding, riding a few more horses a day, by now I was up to about 6, and started to do some jumping. Initially only simple stuff such as grids and on the more established horses, as I still didn’t feel that the leg was strong enough or secure enough to do anything too technical. I also wanted to feel that I could go up the gallops and hold a balanced seat and deal with spooks before I went cross country. We went on a few training outings – show jumping to Vale View and a hunter trial at Osberton to test how everything was going. Course walking was my biggest challenge and organisers were great giving me lifts round my ﬁrst three events either on Quad bikes or in cars! So ﬁnally I felt ready to have a go at an event and see if my leg could cope with three things in one day. Of course in true Tina fashion I rode four horses! This was the Pony Club event at Norton Disney. Everything went great on the day, I was tired but not in any more pain than usual so deemed a success. It felt fantastic to be out being ‘me’ again! I certainly had missed that element of my life.
Having had a successful trial run, I was brave and entered the ﬁrst BE event of the season for me at Keysoe. All the horses ran a level down just to get going. We also had one more unafﬁliated run to iron out any problems at Epworth, then we were back in the game! Keysoe went really well, a lovely sunny weekend and great to see everyone. So I now felt it was time to put on the brave pants and get on with it! I never felt that I had lost my nerve, which I was pleased about, but I was more aware of my limitations and tried hard not to put myself at risk as I knew my leg was still building strength. I was doing really well, and then while doing a Tuesday training show at Vale view, I managed to come off twice in about 10 mins! Two different horses, both of whom I have ridden for years and never come off before! Both of them are fairly sharp and they just span and managed to spit me out the side door. When I came off the ﬁrst time there was a bit of testing of the leg to see if everything worked! In a strange way it did me good and it made me less worried to fall, that I wasn’t made of china! Two goes at it was just overkill thought! Rockingham was my ﬁrst ‘proper’ event. It felt great to be out in that atmosphere again, and the horse all jumped so well it gave me loads of conﬁdence. We even won a frilly! I then decided to try and kick on and get the main horses upgraded to intermediate, as this was the plan last season before I skived off. With this in mind, and as showjumping has always been my weak phase, I re-registered BS and went and made myself jump some 115cm tracks. It’s funny how rusty you get (it’s been 8 years since I last went Intermediate) and how you doubt yourself. The fences look big when all you’ve done is up to producing young horses and Novices for years! I felt this went well so an Intermediate was entered. Upton was chosen, and I felt it would be a great end to the story if the horses upgraded and I managed to get back to where I wanted to be before the accident. I achieved most of it! One horse went fantastically and gave me so much conﬁdence, the other found it all far too exciting and went through the bridle cross country!! Nearly a fairy tale ending, but horses are great levellers. I am still having weekly physio, still have bad days when I limp, especially when sitting still for a while and I seize up. I still can’t trot horses up (or am too distracting as so lame!). BUT I am riding again and doing what I love so all is good! I have another operation scheduled at the end of the season for another bit of metal to come out, but I’m not dreading it this time. A great thing to come out of it as well is all the three-year-olds that we bought in Ireland are fantastic. They have done BYEH – one of them coming 4th and are heading to their ﬁrst event at the end of the month. Silver linings and all that………..