At the end of the 2018-2019 season, Texas A&M equestrian made a run to the SEC Championship finals and the NCEA Team Championship finals.
However, during one of the most exciting times for the team, one of its members was going through a season of excruciating pain, which led to a major surgery over the offseason.
At 13 years old, now-senior Rhian Murphy broke her hip and underwent two surgeries, but her problems didn’t stop there. Murphy’s Law was in full effect.
“It was just a matter of time until I had to get a hip replacement,” Murphy said. “October of my sophomore year is when the pain got really bad. My hip just wore down really fast to the point where there was really no joint left.”
She began her sophomore campaign competing in fences and flat riding, but as her hip pain worsened, she pivoted to only riding the flat, notching six wins for A&M.
Murphy, a self-proclaimed leader by example, endured six months of pain, six months of her hip being “just bone on bone,” for her team.
Upon the season’s end, Murphy underwent a full hip replacement and began the process of rehabilitation, hopeful to compete again in the fall.
“I had to rehab the muscles and I had limited mobility for a while, but it was so much better because I wasn’t in pain anymore,” Murphy said. “I was off crutches in a month and back on a horse in 10 weeks.”
Murphy said she had doubts about having the surgery, but the desire to compete for her team and to alleviate her pain made her decision far easier.
“I always really wanted to be able to keep competing and keep contributing to my team,” Murphy said. “So for me, it was never really the option to, ‘Let’s just stop doing this,’ it was, ‘Let’s do everything we can so I can keep doing this.’”
Murphy’s determination to compete no matter what may have been a contributing factor to her hip’s original break almost 10 years ago. Murphy, with a laugh, said the cause of the original break is not a good story.
“I had a little hip pain for about a month but I kept doing everything on it, and then I tripped getting out of a parked car,” Murphy said. “It was a hairline fracture but I kept pounding it like riding and doing all that, so it finally just gave way. I had an appointment to get it looked at that was scheduled for the next day, but I couldn’t make it that far.”
The end result allows Murphy to look back on the incident with humor. Murphy said everything felt easy when she came back because she no longer had pain weighing her down.
“My first day back on a horse my physical therapist said, ‘Okay, take it easy. Only 20 minutes. I don’t want you doing too much,’ and that was longer than I’d been able to sit on a horse in two years,” Murphy said. “It was really exciting and empowering to go back to being able to do all these normal daily activities pain-free.”
Upon returning to the team as a junior, Murphy was voted team leader and returned to competing in fences, tallying four wins. Her determination to overcome the adversity she faced makes her an inspiration to the team, senior and Murphy’s roommate Mali Selman said.
“I think everyone on the team looks up to her. I look up to her,” Selman said. “She’s just a really good example of, what I think, and I think the coaches would say this too, everyone on the team wants to be. If we had 25 Rhians we’d be a really well functioning, well-competing team.”
Murphy’s sophomore season of struggle and grit granted her the Lohman Inspiration Award at A&M Athletics’ annual Building Champions Awards that May. With her optimistic nature, Selman said Murphy is someone who unironically enjoys inspirational phrases.
“She drives around with a sticker on her car that [the equestrian team] put on there as a joke and it says, ‘She believes she could so she did’ and it’s glittery,” Selman said. “We joke about it all the time because she’s definitely someone that’s into the inspirational quotes and all that.”
This fall, Murphy will return to competition, continuing her position as team leader.
“I feel super honored,” Murphy said. “All of these girls on this team are all so great. They’re girls that I look up to everyday. I hold them in such high regard that, to have them think of me as a leader, is just a really great feeling.”