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Tell me about your hip replacement and riding...

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  • Tell me about your hip replacement and riding...

    I'm scheduled to have total hip replacement surgery for my right hip in two weeks. I had to give up riding a couple of months ago due to the hip, and it really has had me down in the dumps. Now, I find my self actually looking forward to the surgery in hopes that I'll return to riding - pain free.

    I've spoken to a number of people who have had hip replacement, but realize now, that none of them were riders! My surgeon tells me he wants me to wait until 10-12 weeks before riding...mostly so that scar tissue can heal enough to discourage dislocation. When I had a preliminary PT exam, I was lamenting about how much muscle tone I'd lost to the therapist...he just laughed and said not to worry, he'd have me back riding by Spring and keep doing the exercises I'd been doing.

    But now that the time is actually getting closer to reality, I'd like to hear more experiences and specifics. Most of what I've heard has been generic , "You'll do fine!", "You'll be amazed at how much better you feel." etc, etc. What I'd like to hear are specifics. I realize everyone is different, and recovers/heals/progresses differently. But some details would be appreciated. I've done a COTH search, but again, what I found was pretty generic.

    I'd like to hear from real equestrians....people who have actually gotten back up on the horse...back into training, trail riding...showing...

    How long did you use a walker before transitioning to a crutch or cane?
    How long until you could ride?
    I'm assuming you had to build back up your riding time gradually, a little more each time - like rehabbing a horse with an injury?
    Was mounting or dismounting a problem? Did you have to make special adjustments or accomodations?
    Was there anything that you had problems with? Had to avoid? Still cannot do? Annoyed the heck of you?
    How did actually sitting in the saddle and riding feel? Did you notice a difference? Did it hurt? Or was it uncomfortable? Any one gait of the horse a problem over another? How about posting trot? Sitting trot?
    Did the physical therapist give you specific exercises to help you towards riding vs everyday life?

    Any specific exercises you recommend? I'm already doing some types of leg lifts and core strengthening...but perhaps one you like in particular that helped?

    Did you start back riding on your regular horse...or go with a "steady eddie", that you felt was perhaps more reliable? While he's usually good as gold...especially in the arena, my Appy can occasionally get ..."opinionated". I know I have to avoid falling off, especially at first. So I know with this guy to be careful where I ride and what buttons not to push.

    Any other hints? Suggestions? Words of encouragement? I've had a couple of surgeries (shoulders) before and always healed and rebounded quickly. This however...this is much more serious and invasive and I'm beginning to worry some...

    Please feel free to post or PM me. I'm getting a little anxious about this.

    Thanks in advance!!
    A poorly fitted saddle hampers both horse and rider.

  • #2
    Hip replacement

    I'm 55 years of age. I had a "Birmingham resurfacing" on the left hip. It has several advantages over a "total replacement" but the surgery is more invasive. I was riding three months after the surgery. The main hold to riding was rebuilding the muscles to avoid a dislocation and allow the bone to grow into the implant. Ask about the post surgery (PS) hip restrictions. Follow them religiously. Future success of the joint is dependant on your healing. I "could" have been horsed 6 weeks PS but the risk of damage in a fall was huge. The Dr will be able to tell from the Xray when the bone has grown in. The joint will always be weaker than the joint you were born with. I now have more freedom of movement PS so mounting is easier. Dismounting is more of a problem. I avoid dropping to the ground to prevent impact to the hip. I used a walker for two weeks. Then a week with a ski pole for a cane. The ski pole was better for walking on pasture grass. Walking was the prescribed rehab. I felt so much better, I actually increased the recovery time due to straining the newly healed muscles. Keep your activity slow and easy.
    Before the surgery, the pain was keeping me to trail rides of less than 2 hours. I'm back to the all day rides. No hip pain, just saddle sore.

    Be aware your leg length may change. Most people cope without issue but don't freak if you change your stirup position.
    Equus makus brokus but happy


    • Original Poster

      Thanks Hosspuller, that's exactly the type of information I'm looking for!

      The last trail ride I went on was only about 90 minutes, and I was in so much pain I could barely stand it. It took me almost 15 minutes just to be able to dismount. That was the last time I rode. Which was a real bummer, seeing as how our October/early Nov consisted of absolutley gorgeous weather for trail riding! Normally I would have been on the trails two or three times a week.

      Even though I'm only 51, mine will be a total replacement. My ortho simply believes it will be the best kind for me (and yes, it will be the cementless kind. Since I have a history of growing too much bone, he felt like that was the way to go). I don't ski, but I'd never thought about a ski pole for support. I do have one of my father's old canes, which had a point in the bottom of it. I remember he used it some when walking in the woods and on trails. Thanks for the post. You have given another idea to investigate!

      You said your leg length changed? I've been warned about this. I already have a significant limp, but I'm curious as to whether you have one?
      A poorly fitted saddle hampers both horse and rider.


      • #4
        I'm sorry I cannot answer your questions because I have not had to endure hip replacement or a similar procedure. My riding instructor who is 50 had both of her hips replaced several years ago. I believe her first hip was done about 12-15 years ago and her second was around 9-10 years ago. I've known her for 5 years and she rides, trains, and has far fewer issues with her hips. She has told me many times it's the best thing she has done and wishes the rest of her arthritis issues could be so "easily" resolved. In fact we were at a horse show last weekend and I asked her to get on and ride my horse (something I rarely do simply because I've trained him from the ground up but now that we're schooling FEI I need a more educated seat/hand on him from time to time).......there were 2 trainers who stopped what they were doing to watch her ride. Both are entertaining the idea of hip replacement surgery. I think they were both impressed - both with her riding skills and the fact that she appeared to ride effortlessly AND dismount and continue to coach without issues. I've asked her to post before when others have had questions like yours but unfortunately she doesn't wish to post on the BBs. I can only add that she has told me verbatim on multiple occasions that she would do it again in a heartbeat.
        Ranch of Last Resort


        • #5

          I too had a resurfacing rather than total hip replacement. Personally I think you should seek that out--my insurer Aetna mow considers it the preferred treatment. I was inthe trial and they paid for it. I don't understand the invasive comment--it is the sdame essentially as THR, although perhaps the postyer ewas referring to possile minimally invasive THR procedures. Maybe the inscision length differs but I find sawing off the femoral neck and jamming a rode down the femur a la THR quite a bit more extreme than capping the ball and socket in a resurf. Find another doctor if yours doesn't do it. I went to Sinai in Baltimore, Dr. Mont. I had surgery in July and was riding in October with no pain or any issues. That was 2005, and it is still pain free and stable.
          Touchstone Acres Lipizzans, Standing N. Samira VI (Gray), N. XXIX-18(Black), more in 2014


          • #6
            My mom had a hip replacement a month ago - total replacement. Now she is not a rider, but one month after the surgery she can walk without the cane (unless we are going somewhere and then she'll bring it to use it). I think she used the walker for like a week. In about a week, week and a half she is allowed to go back to the gym which she hasn't done in months due to the hip.
            It's fantastic - she has no pain in the hip anymore and walks better now, even with the cane, than she did before the surgery.
            Life is waiting for you, it's all messed up but we'll survive


            • #7
              Look up Won for Fun on this board and PM her. She had hip replacement surgery about 7 weeks ago. I may have to have it done, and am following this carefully. She had some very helpful information.
              There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


              • #8
                Add me to the list!

                Originally posted by Bank of Dad View Post
                Look up Won for Fun on this board and PM her. She had hip replacement surgery about 7 weeks ago. I may have to have it done, and am following this carefully. She had some very helpful information.
                I too am getting close to needing a new hip. I'm pretty close to bone on bone.
                Did the cortisone shot once and it helped immensely. Felt worse though when it
                wore off after 4 months so I haven't done it again. Getting by on Ibuprofen and all the joint supplements I can find. So I'm functioning but know its just a matter of time. I'll watch your progress too Mtngirl. Keep us all posted on how you do. And good luck to you!!!

                Hell hath no fury like the chestnut thoroughbred mare


                • #9

                  I had a "hip limp" we can recognize a person with hip trouble 20 paces away. I have had to retrain myself NOT to walk with a limp. I changed my walking gait because of the hip pain.

                  As to the "invasive" comment. All hip surgery is replacing the joint. Sawing off the top of the femur in a TR allows the Dr. space to work. In a resurfacing the Dr. has to cut more muscle & tissue because the femur head is in the way. The resurfacing is limited to "younger" folks because of this.

                  There are several informative videos on youtube.com. But they aren't for the squeamish.

                  PS... it wasn't hip restrictions.. the correct term was hip precautions
                  Equus makus brokus but happy


                  • Original Poster

                    Touchstone: I asked my ortho about the resurfacing procedure...he is trained in the procedure etc. But he told me he didn't think it was the right procedure for me. He didn't go into a lot of details...just said he's had some issues with fractures???? I'd thought it would probably be the better way to go too, but he said no for me. I'm not sure if it's my age, weight or other factors, but he vetoed that one quickly. Unfotunately, I'm limited by insurance as to who does the surgery and where.

                    Actually, in my area, I had problems finding someone willing to do THR on someone under 60! I'm only 51, and had three other surgeons simply tell me I'd have to wait until I couldn't walk at all or until I was 60 before they'd even consider it. FINALLY, I found my current ortho, who took one look at my x-rays and promptly replied "Let me know when you want to have it done." When I went for my pre-op physical and told my family doctor I'd had to give up riding, he said "Then you waited way too long!" The FP has seen me through a lot of things and knows how important my horses and riding are to me.

                    Hosspuller: Thanks for the "youtube" suggestion. I hadn't thought about searching for info there. I'm not very squeamish (I've assisted in surgeries before), so that might be very educational.

                    Thanks everybody! Keep the suggestions coming. I don't have a choice, I have to go back to work 24 days after the surgery, so the words or success and encouragement are definitely helping. In one way it's good that I've been transferred back to Dispatch..unfortunately it's one of those "sit for 12 hours...you'll be lucky to get a couple of bathroom breaks" type jobs. I've already told the group I worked with they'll have to come in and relieve me so I can get up and move around more than usual. Guess this time I'll follow the doctor's orders to the letter and not sneak early to ride...in this case, I think there's just too much at risk.
                    A poorly fitted saddle hampers both horse and rider.


                    • #11
                      My husband has had both hips replaced. It has been a godsend for both him and me

                      He doesn't ride any more--we had to retire his trusty steed around the same time as he had his 2nd hip done, and, as frankly riding isn't his first love, he decided he didn't feel up to starting out with a new horse.

                      However, he was skiing 14 weeks after his 2nd hip.

                      The huge difference between #1 and #2 was that he had an epidural for #2 rather than a full general. His recovery was hugely better for #2. (They gave him a big dose of happy juice as well so he wasn't really aware of what was going on--wouldn't let him watch I know it was better for me--I didn't walk into the recovery room and pass out at the sight of this bloated yellow man as I did after the first one... I'm not good at human medicine...) So talk to the anaesthesiologist about that.

                      Actually, he wrote an article about the whole thing for his ortho to use, which I would be happy to send you if you would like it. Send me a pm if you would like it and I'll extract it from him.

                      Good luck! I think this surgery is one of the true miracles of modern medicine.


                      • #12
                        Another add me to the list.... sorta

                        Not a THR yet, but in my, hopefully distant future. I have moderate to severe hip dysplasia or DDH that causes me problems in everyday life, not just riding. My first step will be a PAO (if you're curious, it's a really lovely procedure that recontructs the pelvis/hip and stands for peri acetabular osteotomy if you want to look it up... very invasive, but saves your natural joint until THR is inevitable... it's a *young* people thing. I'm 37.)

                        My horsey g/f had a THR on her left hip when she was 51. Her 5 year hip-versary was last fall and she's very pleased w/ it so far. She was on the walker for awhile and then the cane and wasn't much longer she was on her own. She went back to work after 6 weeks since it was winter and she didn't want to risk falling. Office job, but a commute. She's just a trail rider so she didn't ride again until the following fall, about a year after. Being her left leg, she does have trouble mounting taller horses and will ask for a leg up or find something to stand on since her ROM isn't what it was w/ her natural hip (can be common.) She recently got a new horse that is shorter and she's not short herself (5'10"), but she doesn't have trouble mounting this little mare and likes being closer to the ground.

                        All in all she's very happy. She could hardly do anything before the surgery and used a cane to help get around.

                        Good luck!!!
                        A Merrick N Dream Farm
                        Proud Member of "Someone Special to me serves in the Military" Clique


                        • #13
                          Have you explored the difference between "minimally invasive hip replacement" and traditional hip replacement surgery? My chiro had the minimally invasive procedure in July, and was back to work in two weeks, riding his bike in four weeks, no physical therapy. He had the joint replaced with one small incision, the x-ray hangs in his office and he shows off the scar. My doc doesn't do it, says there's not enough long term research, and could be a problem if the top of the bone breaks during surgery.

                          I had one cortisone shot that has helped, maybe another next spring if needed. I can't imagine what I would do with my really green horse if I couldn't ride for several months and then had to worry about falling after. I just can't do this for a year at least, hopefully the pain won't get so bad.
                          There is no snooze button on a cat that wants breakfast.


                          • #14
                            How did I miss this??

                            Oh, I see--looked at the dates. I was out riding all weekend!

                            I had a total hip three and a half years ago at age 54. My ortho had no issues with my riding afterward, as long as I didn't fall off in fact, he said that riding puts the hip joint in a position that minimizes the risk of dislocation, which is one of the big issues, so he didn't mind as long as I was careful. I was back on my quiet gelding 30 days after surgery and have been riding ever since (and actually fell once, but it was a gentle fall). I used an upended Rubbermaid tub as a mounting block, and was mounting from the right side (left hip); but my horse was used to that, as I'd had to mount this way for a good long time before deciding to have the surgery.

                            I, too, encountered some Drs who worried about riding, but the one I used, fortunately, did not. He also said that the technology was improving so rapidly that even if I did need a revision at some point (since I was on the young side), chances are good that it would be less than another total replacement. In any event, my perspective was that if I was in a wheelchair at 70, that beat the heck out of not being able to walk (nevermind ride) at 54. I had also encountered some Drs who said "I was a long way from needing a THR"; the guy who finally did it said it was pretty trashed already.

                            After surgery, I was on a walker for about a week, then transitioned to a cane, and was off the cane about the time I first got on my horse. When I was still on the walker, my 17h draft cross got an abscess, so I was poultice-wrapping him, standing on my one good leg (can't bend the surgery leg beyond 90 degrees, so I had it up in the air behind me). Didn't tell the Dr about that one, but my farm sitter wasn't up to doing it, so ...

                            I don't know about you, but I wasn't riding at full capacity for most of the year before my surgery. It wasn't so much rehabbing my hip as rehabbing my riding in general, but that was, as you suggested, very much like rehabbing a horse back from an injury--do what you could, be careful and consistently progressive. I did ride in a horsemanship clinic (3+ hrs in the saddle for four days in a row) about seven weeks post-op. Did sitting in a saddle feel different? Well, yes--it didn't hurt like heck any more! It did feel stiff at first; it does take time for that scar tissue to stretch, but again--how much of that was due to the dammage that living with a trashed hip had done, and how much was surgical? There's so much repair that your body has to do to get used to having a functioning joint; the surgery part is only part of it. Today, my replaced hip leg lays on the side of a horse much better than my real hip side (which is getting cranky...)

                            I did ask for a second round of PT after I was released from precautions (after three months) to help me get full range of motion back. This was actually more work than the PT immediately post-op, but it was worth it.

                            Most of my riding is serious arena work and trail rides. I no longer jump horses, but that has more to do with my adult-onset fear issues than with my hip. But I would not say that having the replaced hip limits me in any way--certainly not compared to having the bone-on-bone joint!

                            If you're reasonably active and in decent shape going into it, you should feel much better after a while with the new hip. I does go through tough spots--I remember a point where the re-developing muscles and remodeling scar tissue seemed almost as painful as the hip before, but those things are temporary and it WILL get better if you keep working it. Certainly the range of motion is much better afterward (though not entirely normal). I tend to be a stiff person, and my job is somewhat sedentary, and I do feel it if I don't get to move around, but some Aleve and motion fixes that--it isn't the gnawing, grating pain of the trashed joint.

                            Anyhow, if you have other specific questions, ask away, I'm glad to answer.

                            (BTW, I was back to work as soon as I was cleared to drive, at three weeks. I did do short days at first because there is post-surgery fatigue, but it wasn't long before I was back to full days, plus taking care of the horses at home.)
                            "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                            Spay and neuter. Please.


                            • Original Poster

                              Thanks monsterpony! Those are exactly the type of things I was wanting to hear about!
                              A poorly fitted saddle hampers both horse and rider.


                              • #16
                                I had both hips replaced at the same time the first week of October 2004. They had gotten so bad that I could not ride horses that were too wide, and had a hard time getting off anything. I was in constant pain. I went to three different surgeons before I found one that said I could ride and still play ice hockey. The first one told me he trained with Dr Rothman in Philly, no riding or hockey. The second one told me he trained with Dr Rothman in Philly, riding but no hockey. For the third one, I went to Dr Rothman himself-- he said yes to riding and hockey, and also was willing and happy to do both hips at the same time. He gave me my life back.

                                My surgery was on a Monday AM, spent an extra day in the hospital bc I was going directly home, no PT-- Dr Rothman told me to get walking, so with the help of one of those wheeled walkers I did.

                                I was back riding the first weekend in December and have not looked back- having my hips done was the best thing I ever did.

                                Bev Strauss
                                MidAtlantic Horse Rescue
                                Be a part of the solution~ Adopt a thoroughbred!