I am fused T2-T12 for scoliosis, and have a friend fused T2-L2-ish.
We both ride 2x/week, and before, I could not be walking on a horse for more than 15 minutes before it hurt enough to press tears. Now I am perfectly fine and don't even think about it. I have not fallen off a horse yet *knock on wood*, but have fallen off a fast sled that was going over a jump (and broke my ankle) but my back did not feel it at all!.
I had fusion at L5-S1 7 years ago. Unfortunately, I developed spondylosysthesis afterwards, and still have significant back pain every day. Here's the tale of my return to riding:
I talked to my surgeon before getting back on a horse, and he told me that once the fusion was solid, there was no reason not to ride if I wanted to. He said that I might suffer other back injuries if I fell, but the fusion would not be an issue.
I didn't own a horse at the time of surgery, and first tried going back to riding on a friend's horse. The first time back in the saddle, I just bopped around the arena for about 30 minutes. That didn't cause problems, so we did a nice long walk-trot trail ride. That didn't cause problems either, so I went horse shopping.
I tried a few horses and even fell off of one (the mare jumped sideways from a calm stop, the saddle slipped all the way over on her side, and I bailed). I ended up with the perfect horse for my purposes, a steady and fun Morgan that I hoped to ride about 3 times a week.
Riding actually didn't increase my back pain, and that included up to 12-mile WTC rides on challenging terrain. The problem was that I live in town and my horse was boarded about a 45-minute drive away, alongside the trails I love to ride. The car trip back an forth was what caused the problem- sitting increases my pain. After a couple of years, I realized that I was making up excuses not to go ride because of that. Moving the horse closer wasn't really an option because I love trail riding rather than arena work, so I found the horse a perfect home with another trail rider.
The only problem I had actually riding was with mounting- I'm fairly short and was in my late 50s at the time, and had lost the flexibilty to mount a normal-sized horse without a mounting block or a convenient rock.
My best to you on your recovery, and here's wishing you a happy return to riding!
Titanium T cage here. Over a foot of metal in my back due to breaking it at 120 mph getting bucked off a sportbike.
Split T-9 into four pieces, parts off of L-10.
Pain management for the rest of my life. Livid, angry pain without.
I still ride. I got dumped in February. My right arm went numb, and I pee'd my pants. I knew I had reinjured my spine.
I do a lot of posting trot. For sitting, I try to utilize my core muscles to ride the up section of the trot, or a 'post' very very lightly. The civilian wont notice me posting, and my instructor I had didn't notice, but it alleviated the pain of sitting trot, and this horse had a monster of a trot. Ugh!!!
Pain is a constant part of my life now, but there are ways to help. Medicate before the ride, what ever you take.
Do the invisible post during sitting trot. Canter work will get better with time. Heals down to prevent a 'low side' off the horse should they shy or buck. I can't ever sit a buck for the life of me. I've taken my mare off of saddle work and am desensitising her massively and then am reestablishing respect that will follow into the saddle.
Originally Posted by dizzywriter
My saddle fits perfectly well. It might be a little tight around the waist, but I take care of that with those spandex things.
Perfect, thanks for the responses guys. I ride endurance so it's pretty much all posting trot and some canter.
Lamb Chop, that's the exact thing that I need to go under for: Spondy at L5/S1. L5 is teetering at 82% off of S1. Been like that for a while, but now the sciatica is kicking up (due to *low* speed motorcycle wreck) and can't be controlled any other way (epidurals, radio frequency ablation, steroids, etc, etc). Sitting is what exacerbates mine too.
Threw in the low speed for you Jane Honda. They put me doing 28 mph during my wreck which caused the sciatica--but I *was* riding a Honda
Grace- that spondy sounds extreme, and I hope the surgery has you good as new (or close to it).
It's interesting what Jane Honda said about the "invisible" posting trot, as I seem to have adapted that as well after the surgery. A couple people riding behind me remarked that my mare must have a really smooth trot, because it looked like I was sitting it so comfortably. To me, it seemed like a normal posting trot.
And I should have added that I haven't given up my ideal of riding. I sold off tack that I hadn't used for a while, but still have enough to outfit a horse. My treasure is a treeless saddle (a Freeform Classic) that is awesome. It feels like riding bareback, but with great security. I think that helped my back too- the seat and riding felt so natural.
I had many horsey friend with back pain who said that riding helped a lot.
The full answer for me would be... Different... But better.
I had T2 to L1 fused several years back. Not for degeneration or disc problems though... I had scoliosis that was a single BIG c shaped curve so was terribly out of balance., had a lot of muscle spasms, messed up one knee as a result of being so off kilter...
Getting back riding well after surgery was pretty hard. And I struggle with things that I used to do easily now... (pretty upper body posture, for one... Ugh!... and sitting trot is not my friend either. And I don't adapt quite so quickly to sudden changes (veers, leaps, etc...)).
But considering I wouldn't be competing at all if I hadn't had the surgery done.... No regrets here. My surgeon did a fantastic job.
I was back in the saddle (carefully) after only 2 months off- much to my surgeon's chagrin (he wanted me to not ride for a full year) I've taken a couple spills since having the surgery with no ill effects. But... I avoid becoming an arena dart when I can.... Having known a couple of people who had to have revision surgeries.....
One note of caution, brought up by Blair's comment about riding 2 months after fusion-
PLEASE let the fusion become solid before risking it with activities such as riding. I know the temptations are so strong, especially when you're feeling good, but this time off is a major investment for your future. I worked in the disability insurance industry for many years, and the results aren't nearly as good if your surgeon has to go back in and try to fix a messed-up fusion site. Not to mention how dumb you'll feel trying to explain the new injury to your surgeon.
I am needing significant back surgery (through my back and through the abdomen) which will include 2 levels of fusion.
For those of you that rode prior to your fusion, after the appropriate recovery period, are you able to ride the same?
I'd love to hear *lots* of positives (please, pretty please??) as there is no way around my surgery.
Hi, I am also about to have fusion...I have triple major curve and spondolisthesis in lumbar spine and will have 3-4 level fusion probably at UC San Francisco. I have been told so far:
(1) No trotting without posting PERIOD, and (2) No broad back horses, (3) No jumping, of course, (4) use bum pillow and back support while riding, (5) Keep it short and sweet, (6) Smooth gated horses, if possible...Holsteiner?, Missouri Foxtrotter...??? (7) Ride on soft track, if possible, (8) Have special custom NIKEs made for your horse, (9) Hang on to your sense of humor and (10) Do not ever ride again. :-)
I had T2 to L1 fused several years back. Not for degeneration or disc problems though... I had scoliosis that was a single BIG c shaped curve so .
Another T2 to L1 fusion here, for S-shaped scoliosis. I was 16 at the time, now 35.
RAyers is correct- my spine is now a solid piece of bone, and the instrumentation just makes my xrays look funky (and I swear I set off airport security more than the average person, even though they swear up and down that surgical hardware does not affect the equipment)
I had been in horses as a tween, out of them for age ~14-20 (when my surgery occurred), and back in to them ever since late college. Since I got back in to them in my early 20's, I have evented to prelim, and currently actively foxhunt (aka, I actively participate in higher-risk equine sports and have taken my share of rough-and-tumble falls, and have had plenty of other injuries, but never my back)
Honestly, I don't even remember how I was before I had the surgery, but I can tell you the major issue I struggle with in my riding is straightness. When I feel straight, the horse and I are actually crooked, and vice versa. It took a lot of time with a good dressage instructor for me to really internalize what "true straight" felt like, even though I feel like a crooked Gumby when I'm actually straight.
It is also harder for me to track correctly to the left and I have to consciously direct my body (seatbones, shoulder, torso) versus tracking to the right where it is very natural for me. I'm sure this is due to MY specific curvature, and you may have the exact opposite situation.
I do sit the trot (not as well as I probably should! ) and it's not a problem for me. YMMV depending on the nature of your fusion and how it heals.
I ride without stirrups a lot at all gaits to try to keep my core strength even in both directions. I also try to do a lot of Pilates ("try" being the operative word. I'm also a lifetime crazy-runner-type, and I'd seriously rather go run 10 miles (which I do at least once weekly, also not a problem with my back) than do 10 minutes of Pilates. I'm weird, but I own it! )
I had my surgery just over a week ago (June 6th). At this point, everything is fresh enough that I'm wondering when I'll be able to walk without pain and yet I do feel some improvement already. In addition to the back brace that I'll need for the next 6-8 weeks, my surgeon also ordered a bone growth stimulator which I need to wear 4 hours a day for the next year or so. I'm also a runner and my goal is to return to both sports -adult hunter and running.
All of my doctors have been encouraging, provided I take the time to heal and do PT. My surgeon gave me a target of one year to resume those activities. I'm not sure if that's because I'm in 50's and she's being extremely cautious but today - 10 days after surgery - I'm inclined to do it her way because I don't want to ever go through this again. Of course, ask me how I feel in 3 or 4 months when the worst of the pain and therapy is behind me and my patience is wearing a little thin.
It's really helpful to read the experiences of those who have already been through fusions and particularly to hear that a fall in the future doesn't mean disaster.
I asked a while ago and am encouraged to read some of the responses in this topic. I have scoliosis + spondolisthesis in the lumbar spine.
Current plan is first full week in September, spacers/etc from the front to straighten/correct L2-S1 followed by second surgery from the back to fuse T10 to the pelvis.
I haven't been on my mare in quite some time and haven't even broached riding with my orthopedic. Right now I'd be happy to stand in the kitchen long enough to make dinner (or cupcakes ).
Thinking after the surgery to take up driving with my girl rather than riding. She isn't fancy but has a mind to die for and thought driving might be easier than what I'll have after the fusions take place.
However, I am actually more comfortable riding than I am driving. The motion of a 2 wheeled cart invariably irritates my lower back nearly as badly as if I sat the trot on the friesian mare I rode for a long time. Not sure if it would be better with a different cart/4 wheeled vehicle/etc.... but the three carts I have used (a 2 wheeled jog cart, an easy entry cart, and then I rode along with a trainer in her marathon type cart once) all caused soreness. Also, I tend to get very stiff in my neck and shoulders when I drive.
Interesting as mine is almost "backwards"... T10 to pelvis
But thank you for the feedback on driving. I think (at least for me) this will baby steps to learn what I can and can't do with a "new" (at least to me) back. At least my Dr keeps reminding me that I don't have much lumbar mobility now so not a big change but still different than what I have now.