Horseback riding while pregnant is a controversial topic, and choosing the right option for you is a very personal decision. Some doctors deem riding as completely unsafe, while others take a “continue to do what you’re body’s used to” approach. If you do choose to ride I’ve put together a few practical tips, keeping in mind that every pregnancy can be very different (even with the same mom!).
During my first pregnancy I rode up to the third trimester, until balance and fatigue became an issue. I was lucky to have an unflappable gelding to ride, and my trainer took over the ground work of my rather feisty yearling. In my second pregnancy I had some minor complications and chose to not to ride at all. As much as I missed it, my horses appreciated the vacation and the piece of mind was well worth it. Whatever you choose, make the decision for you (and baby), not meeting your horse’s training goals or trainer’s expectations.There’ll always be another show season!
10 Tips for Horseback Riding While Pregnant:
1. Go with your gut instinct. Moms really do know best! If you have any doubts then just take the day/week/month off and see how you feel, both physically and mentally.
2. Wear a helmet. ALWAYS. That probably goes without saying, and other protective gear is smart too. I use a Protective Body Vest and it still fit surprisingly well during the first few months (with a few minor adjustments). A High Visibility Vest is also helpful if you’re riding out near traffic or during hunting season.
3. Stay cool & hydrated – I often had dizzy spells, which can be scary at the best of times, and drinking plenty of water was a huge help. Riding during the cooler parts of the day is also wise if you’re sensitive to heat.
4. Bring a friend. Beyond the obvious safety benefits of having a ground person, it can also be helpful to get a leg up or keep your horse still while mounting. While I’d never advise riding (or even handling) horses alone, if you might be temporarily out of ear shot a Cell Holder that attaches to your arm can be a back up safety measure.
5. Choose horses wisely. Now is not the time to try out your trainer’s new fresh-off-the-track Thoroughbred. Nor is it a good time to ride anything unpredictable, green, hot, spooky or difficult. Big movement can be hard to sit to, and choppy strides will be no picnic either.
6. Stretch & warm up. Do some gentle stretching before you mount, and start with some training exercises at the walk. This gives you time to gauge how you’re feeling before you move on to anything more challenging. Remember to take regular breaks too.
7. Avoid surprises. Loose dogs, loud noises and spooky objects can unnerve even the most steady horses. Reduce the risk by doing a quick check before you ride. If you’re sharing the arena with other riders, make sure they have full control of their horses.
8. Use a comfortable saddle. As your riding routine changes (ie. less jumping, more flat work) you might want to consider a saddle change. I found my dressage saddle became a favorite over my usual close contact the further I was along. These Tush Cushions for your saddle can be a blessing too!
9. Lower your standards. Pun intended! Take the jumps down a hole, practice walk/trot tests, or just enjoy a quiet hack. It’s also a good time to do ground work, lunging and ground driving (with a safe horse). You might surprise yourself with what you’re able to accomplish from the ground.
10. Relax and enjoy. Horses can be great for reducing stress, which is beneficial for both you and the baby. You may not have the time and energy to ride for a while once baby arrives, so take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy it!
Bonus Tip: Wear a comfortable bra. Trust me, you’ll need it! See Choosing the Right Bra for Riding.
Did you choose to ride while pregnant? Share your story!