Katie Woodburn - photo Andrea Blair

Before my injury…. – photo by Andrea Blair

A slow, creeping numbness enveloped my body. I felt my heart drop suddenly to the soles of my feet and smash into a million tiny pieces. My trachea tightened, and a ringing dinned in my ears as tears rolled down my cheeks unchecked.

No, I was not having a stroke or a heart attack; I had just come to the realization that I could not ride for another two hundred and forty nine days. Fellow Horse Junkies, I’m sure you agree with me that the heart attack is almost preferable.

So what happened? I should have explained myself first. I had my Anterior Cruciate Ligament replaced in my knee. Naturally, the first thing I asked the surgeon upon deciding whether to operate was “How long surgery to saddle?” He laughed and told me a month to five weeks.

I nodded. It was do-able. In hindsight, I should have done some more research, as orthopedic surgeons are notoriously ignorant of anything pre or post operation. But when push came to shove, I needed a new ligament. Excruciating pain is excruciating pain no matter how you look at it or who you blame.

But I am getting ahead of myself again. The surgery itself went fine, and a foggy, morphine-filled ten days full of rasberry popsicles and Breaking Bad ensued. In true Horse Junkie fashion, I focused much more on getting my knee flexion back than extension, waiting for calf-thigh angle to hit jumping stirrup leather length. Learn from my mistakes!

It was my physio who had to tell me the grim truth. “Nine months,” she said firmly. I feebly tried to protest, but was shut down quickly. “Riding a horse isn’t the problem, it’s falling off,” She affirmed, “can you guarantee me you’re not going to fall off?” I sheepishly shook my head.

Back at home, several reputable websites backed up my therapist’s claim. After the momentary panic attack described above, a strange calm descended upon me. I had gotten myself into this mess by playing the invincible teenager; skiing and frisbee-ing and running and riding youngsters with practically no knee, ignoring swelling, never icing.

Now, at the wise old age of nineteen, I decided it was time to do this properly. Luckily, I don’t presently own a horse, but it’s still atrocious timing. After years of elbow grease my riding career is finally starting to take off. I managed to land sponsors (What?! I know!!) who are willing to help me buy a horse and pay for my shows. I have (had) a working student job lined up at a great dressage barn in Holland for the summer, as well as fantastic coaches here in BC.

So what can a bereft equestrian do? My thoughts wandered immediately to my handsome wooden rocking horse at home – my new four-star eventer, apparently! I could get very good at lungeing. Thankfully I love teaching. I had been intending to take some Equine Studies online courses from Guelph, as well as working towards my next coaching level… Maybe I could (God forbid!) spend some time at the beach this summer? I suppose I could also get fit… Needless to say, I’ll hardly be bored.

So invite you, fellow Horse Junkies, to join in my (mis)adventure. I hope that those who have been off with injuries can relate, and those who haven’t, can giggle.

Katie Woodburn