At the end of the session to which I brought this new injury, my physio and I looked at my foot and just shook our heads.

This was going to be one for the books.

I was limping. I had on my magnets, and I had on the compression bandage. I was popping arnica tablets like a refugee from a Jacqueline Susann novel. I thought about my … well, it wasn’t just my leg anymore, was it? It was my Achilles, which was an old injury and a total nightmare, it was my heel that I couldn’t put any weight on, and it felt like the arch of my foot was curled up. In fact, my left foot looked to be about an inch shorter than my right.

How long was it going to take me to get back from this???

Er, two weeks. In a manner of speaking.

One week after the crash, I trudged out to Festina, having asked to change the lesson to groundwork. I did a lunging lesson, and limped back down that long, long road, in, may I add, the hottest heat we’ve had on this island since the summer of ’95.

I reckoned that I could manage, if I could just mount from the right. I figured that, you know, it would be pretty good for the Achilles if I was riding, because, see, the stretch would be tremendous! Beyond anything that I could do just from regular stretching, because you can only stretch so far, and then it really hurts like a bitch, right? So, if I got up on the offside, then I could at least start the process of coming back, even if I couldn’t keep up in the lesson, or anything.

The only thing standing in my way of getting up on the offside was actually getting up on the offside.

Everything was cool. I took Delilah, to whom I explained everything. Nobody at the yard had a problem with the notion. I set the mounting block down on the right side, stepped up —

And just stood there, right foot in the stirrup. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I didn’t know what to do with my legs. I didn’t know what to do with my brain. My entire body just stood there going ‘Whaaaaa’?’

It was like being a beginner again. I remember standing there, next to Argo, telling myself [silently] ‘Okay, okay, okay, up, up, up, over, okay, really, up, up!’ and somehow I’d get up there, but it took ages for it to become just a thing I did, rather than a thing I had to think about.

I grabbed mane. I handed Nici my stick. I grabbed mane and rein, and the rein was just one thing too many, so I dropped that, and grabbed the saddle, and then grabbed more saddle, and then said feck it and threw my arm over the saddle and hauled myself up there.

Now, I haven’t really explained how this injury felt. I couldn’t walk with any pace. I couldn’t wear any shoes but my Fit Flops. I had tried to wear my hiking boots and they killed my heel, so I had to take a taxi home that day, too. I went over a friend’s house and that taxi tried to drop me off across the road [four lanes and LUAS tracks] and I made him do the U turn to set me down on the other side. I woke every morning and my first conscious action was to check in with the leg. I massaged it, I iced it, I rubbed it over with icy/hot muscle stuff. I tended it to the way a hen tends a chick. I could only manage to get out and about in short bursts, and I couldn’t keep up with anyone I walked with. I didn’t drink, because I couldn’t afford to be any more impaired than I already was. In short, it really fucking hurt, and all I could do was wait it out.

The hell I would. I knew from experience that the Achilles was going to hang around and hang around like a three-day-binge hangover, and I knew that the only way I was going to work through it was by working it out.

I felt even more strongly, this time, the sheer joy of being back in the saddle. I would have been happy to just walk up and down the lane all night. Because, you know what? The foot was really sore. I tried to rise in the trot, and there was no way in the frickin’ universe that the lower part of my left leg was going to be happy working off the ball of my foot. So I shoved my boot all the way through the stirrup until my heel caught on it, and lifted. Okay, not good form, but there I went, up and down, stretchy pully, and made it through five whole minutes.

They were the best five minutes of the previous horrible, frustrating and painful fortnight.

I took a break, joined the ride again, took another break, and ultimately managed maybe twenty minutes of the hour. But again, it was the best twenty minutes I’d had in weeks. The Achilles was singing out like a soprano caught in a vise, but dammit, I though, as I limped to Claire’s car, I was going to ride this one out, literally.

And it would just be a matter of time before I was jumping again…

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