The Aging Equestrian: Man vs. knee, part 4

Can a bionic knee get Jon Bicho back in the saddle? He shares the story of his first ride since surgery.

Top photo: Riding a friend’s horse and doing some cross country schooling at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken. Photo credit: ABicho Images.

If you missed it the first time around, check out part 1 here, and part 2 here and part 3 here.

From Jon:

Having been stuck at home for three weeks watching things like “Swamp People,” “The Detonators,” “Pawn Stars,” “Rachel Ray” and reruns of badly re-edited movies, I find myself getting cheeky. I cannot wait to start out patient PT. First I need to have the staples removed from my knee and to be cleared to drive by the Dr. S. I am a caged animal that needs to be sprung.

My visiting nurse removes the staples on day 14. On this day she is an angel to me. I do not understand why she goes crazy placing so many steri strips on the incision site. I have included a picture and I will let you be the judge.

Knee with Steri Strips

Four days later I am cleared to drive and begin PT. But first a drive to the barn to see my friends. I am not allowed in the fields with the horses, but we can share carrots and head rubs over the fence. I also get my share of grey cat love from our two roly-poly barn cats.

Dan is my therapist. He has been warned about me by my wife. This is a common thread that I have only recently found out. Dr. H warned Dr. S. about me. Telling me that I cannot do something will mean that I will do it. In the past this attitude has not always led the best outcome. Dan has to control my competitive drive and my desire to push harder than I should. Sometimes I forget that my last knee surgery was when I was 32 and it was not as invasive as this procedure. I will soon find out that pain will keep me in check better than any spoken word.

To function after knee replacement it is important to get ones leg fully extended. This is 0° for extension. Next is flexion. To be functional one must get to a minimum of 120° of flexion. This allows one to alternate legs when going up and downstairs and ride with the irons run up in the jumping position. I thought this will be easy. It is not often I will say I was wrong, but ask Andie, I was really wrong here. This is the point where Madame Pain enters and I will do what she says.

Over the next several weeks Dan tries to keep me away from Madame Pain. Sometimes I just cannot help myself. It is that competitive drive thing I have. Or I just might be stupid.

The next few weeks involve gains and setbacks. I love my ice pack and the electrical stim machine. These are the two items that relieve swelling and reduce pain. Walking like a human being is becoming a reality.

Now I am waiting for Dr. S. to tell me the words I have been waiting to hear. I want to be cleared to ride. He reads the x-rays, examines the new knee. Now he tells me that riding will be good for my rehabilitation. Posting will make me stronger and keeping my heels down will stretch my calves. I like Dr. S. even more now. Since his wife rides he knows how hard it is to keep a rider out of the saddle.

I text Andie and let her know I can ride again. The text I get back says “Wow” and then I am told I am not allowed to ride until she can make sure I am going to be OK. Cheer Cheer has not been ridden since March. I know he will not hurt me. I ride him alone most of the time. I know it is not the best practice. Cheer Cheer is my trusted partner of almost 16 years.

I am excited to ride. Just getting back in the saddle will be good. Mother Nature has her own plan for my return to riding. She sends me a series of monsoon type storms that flood my riding ring with the Brandywine Creek and make the high ground sloppy and dangerous. Day after day it is more of the same. Wake up and it is raining, at noon it is raining and it stops raining when it is too dark to ride.

Six days after being cleared to ride, I awake to a cool morning and no rain. This is it! Off to the barn with Andie in tow. Cheer Cheer sees that I have parked the Ranger down by the ring. He and his full brother Cheerfy slowly wander down the hill. Cheer Cheer knows that it is time to be ridden and get a favorite treat. Cheerfy just wants the treat.

The routine that Cheer Cheer and I have remains the same.  Brush, tack and go. The difference is that Andie is watching over me in case something goes wrong. True to form Cheer Cheer walks away from the mounting block like it is just another day. As I put my leg on Cheer Cheer I am expecting something that does not happen now. There is no popping, shifting and grinding in my knee. There is no pain! This is what I have been waiting for. I ask for a trot, in both directions, no pain. This is what I have been waiting for since I realized I could not ride.

CC and Greg

Today was the perfect day for my return to riding. My time in the saddle was short. Cheer Cheer and I must both get fit to ride again. At 25 he has his old racehorse issues. He is not a young horse anymore. I am not as young of a rider. We both will take our time in coming back.

A friend of mine told me that a get to the good spot in life you have to experience some pain. In a small way I have. The good spot is looking between the ears of a noble, trusted friend and heading out into the fabled Cheshire Hunt Country that is just up the road from the barn.

Tack up a noble friend and go riding!

CC and Greg 2


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