Back to riding after back injury

Four Seasons

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Hi everyone!

4 months ago I broke my back (T8, T9 and T10 compression fractures) and had to be chained to a bed for 4 weeks and stuck to limited walking afterwards. Half-way through December I got the all-clear to ride in the new year. So, it's new year and I've started riding again. Lost all of my stamina, muscle control and coordination... after riding I'm knackered, which is only obvious after 4 months of nothing.

My question is, has anyone else who has broken their back or had a serious injury had any trouble with canter or sitting trot? How long did it take you before you were completely back to normal? I can canter, although it feels slightly strange. I've tried sitting trot, but that just bang on hurts. I want to compete again, but I'm required to do sitting trot... I just can't at the moment and don't know how long it will take till I can. I've e-mailed the Dutch federation if I can cheat for 1-2 months... so waiting for a reply there... :D
 

Midlifecrisis

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Me....I did that...and it takes time to properly recover to absorb the sitting trot - 4 months is nothing really. I think you should take your time - it will get better but rehab slowly - just like you would do if you were rehabbing a horse. Hang on in there.
 

blodwyn1

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I fractured t5 ,6,7 and 8 in 2015. It took me a long time to recover and initially I only walked when I got back to riding. I was lucky that the RDA gave me physio on a mechanical horse which helped me judge when I was ready to try anything on a real horse. I also needed an epidural injection but I did have previous back problems. Four months is very quick to recover but you are probably a lot younger than me!
 

Shay

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Me too. L2 and 3. Transverse fractures of the vertebral body that had to be pinned. I was told I would not ride again before finding a wonderful physio who could get me back in the saddle. It took 2 years to ride at all (Took nearly a year to walk!) Its been almost 10 years now - but I doubt I could sit to the trot even now. I have to ride in a massive brace and to be frank it does just hurt too much. I've switched to driving...
 

JDH01

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Physio and then an absolutely rigorous sticking and building on the excercises. After nhs rehab (not for back but for leg, head and chest injuries) then private equine focussed physio including equicisor
 

Annette4

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Not what you will want to hear but I sold up a few years post accident as I just couldn’t do the riding to the standard I could before or the day to day care without lots of pain which effected my day to day life :(
 

henmother

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Sorry you've broke your back , I understand how painful and frustrating it can be . Burst fracture of L3 here, sci too unfortunately . T12 incomplete paraplegic now. I had to serve a sentence of , a year out of the saddle . Managed with persistent nagging to get that down to 9 months . Think they realised how serious I was when I bought an I-joy ride for the hospital gym .
The first time back on was very very strange . Back was very restricted , which I attributed to the metal work holding my spine up . I had to take it very slowly as I'd lost a lot of muscle , my legs were like toothpicks after 3 months in hospital . I invested in a pro lite back support . I put it on as tight as I could and that offers some support . Not sure if that'd help with your injury site being higher up your spine . I could only walk for the first few weeks . It's about getting your back used to the movement again , you've been out of action , not just not riding , but not doing anything .
You've probably lost a lot of your core strength which can compromise your back . Can you swim , or do some Pilates ? I was only back in the saddle a couple of months when one of my titanium rods snapped so had to go through a riding ban all over again . Do you have anyone locally you can go to for an equine Pilates lesson? I used to go to a lovely lady for lessons on the mechanical horse . Sue Gould - Wright , it was really helpful in that I could ride without worrying about the horse. She could look and see where I was going wrong and stretch out my legs and put me in the right position . That helped all round , with strength building , muscle memory and as she knew my medical history , she could take into consideration my condition and tailor a lesson to suit my condition. She has a book , which I bought a copy of, she chose the exercises that would benefit me the most and they've really helped with strength and suppleness .
Try a physio , although mine ( outside of the spinal injury unit ) was rubbish . Make sure whoever you see fully understands the injuries and recovery . Passive stretches are brilliant , I have them every day , if you have someone that could do that for you ? Do you take any painkillers ? What about some deep heat or the heat patches , I find the heat patches help during a flare up , even though I take the maximum amount of painkillers I can take .
I use a sheepskin seat saver, find that helps, can't ride without one .
It's about things you can do to get you through this bit, your head is saying , giddy up , but your body is saying whoah .
My spinal surgeon told me that horse riding is one of the worse things you can do with a back injury , the spine absorbs so much impact , with each step your horse takes.He'd have a fit if he knew I was jumping .
Each injury is different though, and I think my surgeon was a bit cross that he had to replace rods, and add a cage as bone wasn't grafting , after just 11 months .
What I'd say is don't rush , try not to get peed off with yourself because you aren't at the stage in recovery where you want to be. You'll get there , I used to tell myself it could be worse , I could be back to square one. You are making progress every day , you've been through a lot , don't underestimate the trauma your body has suffered . Good luck in your recovery four seasons, please don't overdo it. Feel free to message anytime you are feeling like the only broken back in the village .
 

Leo Walker

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Burst fracture at L1 in my case. I made a proper job of it. It looks very impressive on xrays! I did manage to get back riding after 6 months and an incredibly hard rehab but it didn't last long and then I deteriorated. I've ridden less than 20 times in the last 5yrs, not at all in the last 18months and have now given up completely. It wasn't worth the pain and suffering afterwards for me. Theres no reason why you shouldn't make a complete recovery but you need to give yourself time and not push to hard with regards to riding. Like Henmother says its one of those things that can cause more problems.

I do manage to look after my pony but I do have a lot of support from my OH and friends, as well as a very understanding YO who goes out of her way to help me. As other people have said even if I hadn't found it so painful I'd have given up anyway as I just didn't have any ability and it drove me mad knowing what I should be doing, but not being able to do it.

I carriage drive now, and only wish I'd started sooner! Its been nothing short of a miracle for me. I can move without pain. In my case my wonderful pony really is my legs. Its also something I can do with all the lovely people who help me, so they get a reward for their hard slog. I've got a marathon vehicle with a special seat which is really padded and shaped so it holds me in place with almost no effort from me. If we have been training very hard or been out on a long, rough going fittening drive I sometimes get a tiny amount of extra pain, but nothing that bothers me, whereas riding at a walk for 30mins use to floor me for days . I started off driving thinking I might do the odd plod round the village and a few months and a few setbacks down the line we are hoping to go to our first indoor driving trial next month and I'm plotting a second pony. I've well and truly got the bug!
 
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Four Seasons

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Oh wow, sounds like I have been very lucky to be back up and on the horse compared to everyone.

@ Leo Walker
Having support is the main thing for me too. I try do to a lot of stuff alone, but don't have the strength to do it or it hurts too much. Mucking-out is one thing I find very frustrating, I'm very ocd about my horses stables, but just can't do them. My mum has been amazing in all of this and so has my boyfriend (who has 0 experience with horses).
I have a friend who drives a carriage, he's asked me a few times to hop on and drive around with him a couple of times... but I'm scared that the vibrations of the carraige will hurt my back, as carriages can be pretty bouncy. The extra padded seat must make a big difference for you though. I'm happy you've found something else that involves horses :D

@henmother
Oh my... you've had a nasty fall! I've heard about the pro lite support, been thinking of getting one of those. My lower back hurts quite a bit too, my doctor says it's cause I have only a tiny bit of muscle left there, so should go away after a while, but I think getting something like that might be worth it.. for the long run.
I can swim, so yeah might give that a go actually. Might actually relieve my back pain, so I can exercise without putting too much pressure on my back. I'm just feel lucky that I'm not in a wheelchair... could of been so much worse.

@ Annette4
Oh dear, sorry to hear that :(

@ JDH01
I'm going to take henmother's advice and go swimming, I don't have a physio yet, definitely worth looking for one, as I can't do it all by myself.

@ Shay
Ouch... a year to walk?! I would go crazy! At least you're also able to do carriage driving.

@ blodwyn1
I'm 23, although my back feels like it's 80 at the moment! I do need to pace myself more, but after months of nothing and then getting the green light, I got too enthousiastic about stuff. I'm noticing now in day to day stuff that I overdid it a bit, but back 2 steps again.

@ Midlifecrisis
I'm lunging more now than riding, I started way too quickly. I ride now and then to strengthen my core, but can't do it 2 days in a row, my muscles are completely locked up after 30 minutes of riding. But yeah, really need to pace myself more.
 

Leo Walker

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Definitely get yourself to a physio ASAP. If muscles are locking it will be so helpful. They can give you exercises to do as well which will help even more. I used a back on track brace. The heat seemed to help keep the muscles soft.

And oddly I get almost no pain when driving. Its standing/walking/lifting that do me in. But sitting and laying are relatively fine. Saying that I'm in the drivers seat, the back does get a bit bouncy/jerky, especially in a marathon vehicle.
 

blodwyn1

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If you had compression fractures like mine you have probably lost a bit of height as your vertebra become wedge shaped afterwards. I lost half an inch which when you are only 5 ft high is a bit of a blow! This means all your tendons and ligaments in your back have to readjust. The pain at the fracture site went quite quickly but the deferred pain in the lower back is the real problem! I can only walk short distances but am ok in a sitting position so can ride. I did get back to competing at prelim level but don't have the stamina to do novice tests. However I am 61 and diabetic so healing is slow, my last aff test I only scored 5 for my riding so I think I have retired from competition now! You are young and with proper rehabilitation should recover fully but please take your time! I also lost all confidence in my spooky pony so have had to get over that too. I always wear an air jacket when I ride, even in dressage, but as I was injured while wearing one which correctly deployed I know back injuries can still happen. My consultant did say that my neck would also have gone if I hadn't been wearing it!
 

Four Seasons

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If you had compression fractures like mine you have probably lost a bit of height as your vertebra become wedge shaped afterwards. I lost half an inch which when you are only 5 ft high is a bit of a blow! This means all your tendons and ligaments in your back have to readjust. The pain at the fracture site went quite quickly but the deferred pain in the lower back is the real problem! I can only walk short distances but am ok in a sitting position so can ride. I did get back to competing at prelim level but don't have the stamina to do novice tests. However I am 61 and diabetic so healing is slow, my last aff test I only scored 5 for my riding so I think I have retired from competition now! You are young and with proper rehabilitation should recover fully but please take your time! I also lost all confidence in my spooky pony so have had to get over that too. I always wear an air jacket when I ride, even in dressage, but as I was injured while wearing one which correctly deployed I know back injuries can still happen. My consultant did say that my neck would also have gone if I hadn't been wearing it!
Exactly this! Where my back was broken, it doesn't hurt so much anymore, but my lower back is killing me after a while. I can walk up to an hour and a half without pain and after that, my back tires very quickly, as if it can't hold itself up anymore. I do think I've lost a bit of height, but not sure..

I'm not a fan of the air jacket, as that is the main reason why this all happened. The horse I was riding is traumatised by it. My mum has an air jacket and once forgot to unclip it, so when I went to dismount the horse, she took off in a rodeo as she thought the jacket had gone off (someone in the arena smacked it's horse with the whip just a I was dismounting). My mum hasn't forgotten it anymore, but the last time the clip got caught and the jacket went off again. The poor horse is absolutely traumatised now, she's going to a professional soon to get this sorted. I used to be ok riding problem horses, but I'll think twice in the future...
I do think those jackets can be life savers, but I'm not a fan.
 
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