Injured horsewoman praises surgeons as she gets to ride again after ‘incredible’ treatment

Joy Thorpe with dog Bruce and Marley the horse Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Joy Thorpe with dog Bruce and Marley the horse Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

A keen rider who faced “terrible” pain after her damaged hip gave way is back in the saddle again – thanks to specialist surgery.

Joy Thorpe is happy to be back with horse Marley Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Joy Thorpe is happy to be back with horse Marley Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Archant

Joy Thorpe, 67, of Halesworth, feared she would have to give up horse riding after 57 years.

But after surgery to fit a special replacement hip, the passionate horsewoman is back riding – pain free.

Mrs Thorpe has competed in show jumping, dressage and showing horses nationally – despite having scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

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“In my early 20s an X-ray revealed a scoliosis. I was warned that, if I kept riding, I risked not being able to walk in the future. We agreed a compromise – I would keep riding but give up show jumping. I trained horses over the years and I ride out on the road. The combination meant that, over time, I took some heavy falls,” she explained.

“One young horse fell on me, breaking several of my ribs and my knee. In spite of surgery I was left with a non-union fracture, which added further problems to my back and hip. It took years to heal and for a while I rode wearing a full leg support, but I was not about to give up riding.”

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Years later Mrs Thorpe’s family noticed she had started to walk with an unusual gait.

“The pain was terrible,” she recalled. “I could not walk or straighten my stride. I could not sleep and I could not ride. I learned to ride side saddle, but even that was uncomfortable.”

An MRI scan revealed significant degeneration in her hip. The cartilage had worn away to leave bone grinding on bone along with bone spurs, which are caused when the body tries to add more bone tissue to fix damage.

The damage was so severe that Mrs Thorpe’s case was to be treated as an urgent referral – but with waiting times on the NHS of up to 40 weeks, she decided to exercise her patient charter right to choose where you receive treatment.

She went to the North East London NHS Treatment Centre in Ilford, where her surgeon, Nurual Ahad, found she had severe arthritis and a stiff curved spine.

“Surgery required careful attention to soft tissue management, bone trimming around the hip and joint replacement with a larger size than normal,” said Mr Ahad.

“The joint I used had a large head construct, which is normally used for revisions or patients who have a higher risk of dislocation, such as post-stroke patients or people living with Parkinson’s disease.

“Attention to these small details and making allowances for the abnormal position of her pelvis has allowed her to return to riding soon after surgery.”

Mrs Thorpe said her treatment was “incredible” and her surgeon understood sports and listened to her needs as a horsewoman.

“It has been remarkable. I am back riding and pain free. My hip has got the flexibility to allow me to ride my horses, even the one with the broadest back, who I hope to be riding again very soon. I am so grateful to Mr Ahad and the team. Without my new hip and my ability to ride, life would not be the same.

“I will need the other hip replacing and I would want to go back to the treatment centre, so eventually I can be a full bionic rider,” she joked.