For grand prix dressage rider pam goodrich, riding without pain was almost unimaginable. Degenerative arthritis had virtually destroyed her hip joint by the time she was 35. "My hip had started to fuse, probably from having injured it when I was a kid. I couldn't ride and I couldn't walk," she remembers.
Cindy Schlener's experience was much the same.
"Because of my arthritis, it would take about 20 minutes just to stretch my hip muscles when starting to ride," Cindy recalls. "I had problems opening my hip angle for the trot and especially the canter. I'd have to get off my horse and re-adjust my hip. I wasn't able to ride consecutive days, and I wasn't able to ride my husband's horse because she was wider than I could handle. Painkillers didn't work after the first few months. I rode through the pain, but I never looked forward to it."
For both Schlener and Goodrich, the solution was hip replacement surgery, now one of the most common orthopedic procedures performed in the United States. Some 220,000 people have an artificial hip joint installed annually, and more than a quarter of a million get a new lease on life by getting one or both knee joints replaced.
Joint replacements are complex, but highly successful surgeries, which can restore mobility and quality of life to patients suffering the effects of degenerative joint disease. But can a prosthetic joint allow you to do what you most dearly love-ride?
For Goodrich, the answer was an unqualified yes.
"Four months after my surgery I was back in the saddle. I had ridden at the Grand Prix level before the surgery, and one year later I was riding Grand Prix again," she shares. "Whatever you did before, you can do again [with an artificial joint]. In fact I was so much better afterwards, because I was riding without pain for the first time in years!"
Sally Sparrell underwent a knee replacement in March, 2002.
"My knee had deteriorated to the point where I was barely able to walk, and riding was put on hold," Sparrell recalls. "When I agreed to the surgery, my real concern was whether I would even be able to walk afterwards, my age  and bone condition being predominant factors. I was pleasantly surprised. I no longer ride much over fences, and have no desire to show anymore, but that really has nothing to do with the knee. I would be completely confident to ride the flat classes, both hunter and western, and since the surgery, I have on occasion ridden my students' horses over schooling fences and trained some green western horses, though my risk-taking days are pretty much over now.
"I have found that my new knee has made it a little difficult to pick up the right stirrup, as I can't turn my toe in as far as before. The surgery changed the leg bone alignment slightly. But other than that, I have few complaints," says Sparrell.