So, this post has a bit of a twist to it and has been created by ourselves and equestrian blogger Becky Oliver, from Becks back in the Saddle, for a collaboration post. A few weeks back Becky contacted me, asking if our Facebook group members, could be approached to gather their personal experiences of riding, during pregnancy and following childbirth and if we could create a joint post.
Becky got a good response to the post and has included these in her blog (link here), as she is currently writing about her own experiences of being pregnant, whilst riding. In my post, I will be including my personal experiences and tips for riding with children, as I have 3 children myself and I have never ridden whilst being pregnant.
Horse riding in pregnancy and beyond.
*Any information is this article is not a replacement for medical advice and this must always be sought from a professional*
Firstly, I think it is important to acknowledge that the choice to ride during pregnancy is a personal one and the risk of injury from riding should be considered. If continuing to ride, then this may not be the time to ride your newly backed youngster but your older and more sensible steed!
No doubt most people would ask themselves the question ‘Can i still Ride?’ This should always be assessed on the individual and can also be different for each pregnancy. Riding though is good for both physical and emotional well-being and maybe of benefit during pregnancy. If we look at the different stages of pregnancy and how riding may affect the changing body:
- 1st trimester – Exercise in pregnancy is recognised as beneficial and light exercise is not usually seen to be a problem. During this stage, the fetus is protected within the pelvis and many women continue as normal during this stage, until they find out that they are actually pregnant.
- 2nd trimester – This is when women go through many changes and you may notice that your normal stability and balance starts to reduce. It is normal for your joints and muscles to relax and by 12-14 weeks it is normal to loose your core strength. During this time it may become harder to get on and off and your growing bump may hit the saddle.
- 3rd trimester – By now most women have either stopped or stop at this point, due to the risk of falling and the potential risk of miscarriage from such a fall. Again, this is personal choice and I’m sure we all know someone who has rode up until they gave birth!
If you do decide to not ride during your pregnancy or you stop during, there are other non-ridden options for you and your horse. Just spending time with your horse can have huge benefits to your mental well-being and this does not have to stop but you may have to change what you do! Check out our groundwork post on ideas for spending time with our equine friends without riding.
Myself, I have never ridden during pregnancy, I started riding properly after my second child at around 6 months post-partum and had riding lessons with my eldest daughter for several years. I then had a break from riding, during which time I had my 3rd child. I brought my current horse when my 3rd child was 5. So for me, I have always been used to having my children and horse to juggle along with all other adulting chores.
Post-delivery be prepared for changes to both your body and brain, give yourself plenty of time to recover and celebrate your achievement of growing a tiny human and welcome them into the world. Remember to take things slowly, especially when trying to loose weight, remember it takes 9 months to add it, so give yourself adequate time to loose it again and remember if breastfeeding it is not advisable not to diet but it can help you to burn calories.
It is normal to feel exhausted at times and it is important to rest when needed, if your tired/grumpy when seeing your horse they will know! Ideally, do not exercise until after your 6 week postnatal check and remember you may require longer, depending on the type of delivery you have had and it is important you seek medical advice on resuming exercise.
When you do begin, start slowly as you coordination and flexibility may be affected, depending on how long off you have had from riding. Do know that it is normal to feel weaker, your joints and muscles will remain soft, due to the relaxin produced during pregnancy. You can help yourself improve by building your core and strength up, pelvic floor exercises will help with this and avoid bladder weakness.
Riding with children
Here are my top tips on riding and trying to juggle horses and children:
- Do gain support from family and friends to be able to ride baby/child free, this will enable you to relax and not get distracted, so you can focus on your horse. If that isn’t always possible, then try to find ways to entertain children at the yard/barn. Small babies may sleep in a pram next the arena whilst you exercise your horse, older children could be given a task of cleaning equipment.
- Try not to feel guilty, it is important for you to get some exercise and ‘me time’, which will help with your emotional well-being. You will be a better mum for having some time off and recharging yourself.
- It is normal to feel anxiety creeping in, as having a baby brings with it a whole new list of priorities. This can cause us to feel fearful of getting hurt and how this would impact on caring for them.
- Don’t compare yourself to others and take your time, everyone manages differently and it is best to find out what works for you. You don’t need a personal trainer to succeed.
- What is important is that you listen to your body, it will soon let you know if you are doing too much and you must respect that.
- Expect things to change, as if we expect it then it will be easier to deal with. We all know that finding time to ride is a struggle whatever discipline you ride, from competing to hacking. Get creative in how you can find some extra time. For some, that might be riding early in a morning before anyone else is up! Being organised will help and maintaining routines. If you want to know more then ask us about our #Reclaimyourtime worksheets, or join the Facebook group to complete the learning units. You could also take a look at our previous post on Time management for equestrian mamas.
- Don’t be hard on yourself if you let your horse have time off, you are not letting them down and they won’t mind either way. I know mine is happy, so long as he has food!
- Finally, as we are all aware horses can be expensive and so can children, it maybe helpful to look into other ways to keep your horse. Full livery can be expensive but will give you the time to prioritise other task knowing that your horse is cared for. If you have space it maybe more beneficial to have your horse at home or if not renting a field could be a cheaper option or getting a loaner to help out with not only the costs but the riding of your horse.
I hope you have enjoyed this part of the post and do hop over to Becky’s website, to read more tips and advice on riding and pregnancy, plus find out about some of our members experiences. You can read more about Becks back in the saddle by following her Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest pages.