This week's Blog has been written by the lovely Sara Godwin (gingerponyland.com). In this Guest Blog Post Sara shares with us her experiences of coping with injury and getting back in the saddle . . .
Returning to riding after a break is never easy. We find ourselves having to take a break every now and then for various reasons: holidays, career pressures, life changes, and horse or rider injury can all put our training on hold for various lengths of time. Injury to horse or rider can be tough to come back from and after a month on crutches recovering from a foot injury I am just starting the slow, frustrating and sometimes painful journey back to rider fitness. First, a word of caution! My foot injury was a freak yard accident: leading a friend’s mare to the field, she spooked and landed square on my foot leaving it badly sprained. I am so lucky that I was wearing proper riding boots at the time, despite it being the hottest day of the year, as they took the brunt of the impact meaning four weeks recovering from soft tissue damage rather than longer with a break or worse (we’ve all seen the Horse & Hound photos of the girl who had the same accident wearing flip flops)!
Thankfully, my road to recovery begins here. Obviously, being an equestrian, I was back in breeches and on the way to the yard within hours of the doctor confirming I could abandon my crutches. This also means that I have lost count of the number of times I have been told not to “overdo it” already this week. They are right of course. However, especially when you have already missed most of the summer’s riding camps and fun rides, it is tough to listen to advice. I still maintain that I didn’t intend to properly get back on the horse on day one. My friend rode my horse during my month off, I didn’t want him to lose fitness and the struggle to keep his weight down in summer is real. So, on day one without crutches I was meant to just be watching her ride. Then I thought maybe I could just sit on for five minutes for the cool down. Then he was misbehaving and next thing I knew I was back in the saddle to put him through his paces. It felt great to be riding again, but after 10 minutes I was exhausted. It is important to bear in mind that your riding fitness will have taken a step back while you have been injured. A runner would not go out and run 10 miles on their first day back after an injury and similarly we can’t expect to pick up where we left off with our riding. That night I was in agony and spent the evening with my foot on ice. Not overdoing it definitely means not jumping in with a schooling session on a misbehaving horse for your first ride back!
Physical setbacks are not the only potential hurdle when returning to riding. Time off with an injury, even if you didn’t injure yourself riding, can mean a crisis of confidence when it comes to getting back in the saddle. Unsurprisingly, the answer is not overdoing it. Do what you feel comfortable with. Maybe consider having someone else ride first, lunging if that is an option, or riding an alternative sensible horse to get your confidence back. I do a lot of groundwork with Starky to improve our bond and my confidence and trust in him. We are lucky to have a round pen available at our livery yard and it does make all the difference. For now, I am genuinely taking it easy. After the first dramatic return to the saddle, I learned my lesson. My friend is still helping with the schooling and I am lunging and going for short, gentle hacks. I am working on my physical fitness out of the saddle ready to get back to schooling and jumping. Hopefully, not overdoing it and taking my rehab slowly will mean I’m back on form before the fun rides end for the year!
A note from Suzanne: Thank you so much Sara for sharing your story with us! Wishing you a speedy recovery xxx
Don't forget to visit Sara's Blog at gingerponyland.com
If you would be interested in writing a Guest Blog Post for us in the future, please do drop us a message.