Q: I am due to have a hip replacement in April. My doctor says I will never ride again. Has anyone else had the operation and carried on riding?
CL, Northumberland

Never riding again need not be your final diagnosis. Many riders have had hip replacement surgery and have gone on to enjoy riding, dressage in particular.

Participating in any sport after a total hip replacement should be discussed with your surgeon, as increased wear of the new joint surface can increase the risk of dislocation or fracture.

However, experts agree that your prognosis will depend on factors such as your previous level of fitness and your physical condition after hip surgery.

Case study: Riding after hip replacement

Riding instructor Wendy Neath from Kent runs a busy livery yard and is a driving force in the Maidstone and District Riding Club. She believes hip surgery does not have to end a riding career.

“I have had both hips resurfaced with what is also known as a ‘Birmingham hip’,” said Wendy, who undertakes regular Pilates sessions to boost her strength and mobility, and also organises “Pilates for riders” clinics in Kent.

“In laymen’s terms, this is a partial replacement done on active patients under 60 years old. My first was in 2002 when I was 45, the second in July 2008, when I was 50,” she continued. “Each of the operations transformed my quality of life, and enabled me to ride again after being close to giving up.”

Just eight months after her first hip operation, Wendy qualified one of her horses, Kinza, as an individual in the senior novice jumping for the British Riding Clubs national championships.

“Since then, I have trained Kinza through to advanced level dressage, and ridden a prix st georges test with him,” she said. “It is now seven months after my second operation, and I have started jumping again. The limiting factor now is the age and stiffness of my horses, not me!”

Wendy has a fascinating letter written by show jumper Pat Smythe in 1971 to Wendy’s mother, who Pat knew from school.

“The letter encourages Mum to go ahead with the hip operation she was considering, as Pat had previously had both hips done and gone hunting the next year,” said Wendy.

Post-op, try to work with medical professionals who understand your wish to return to riding — look for a physio with specific understanding of the requirements of riding.

Video: riding eight weeks after hip replacement

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (23 April, ’09)