What to Expect When You’re…Horse Riding While Pregnant
The list of concerns that occupy a pregnant woman’s mind are seemingly endless. “Will my baby be healthy?” “What about those two glasses of wine I had when I didn’t know I was pregnant?” “Will I be a good mom?” “Will I ever fit into my old jeans again?” (Or “Will I even want to after riding in these super comfy maternity jeans?”)
For moms-to-be who are also devoted horse riders, there’s an additional category of questions that can be summed up in one overarching concern: “Can I safely ride my horse while pregnant?” The answer? It depends.
Can you ride a horse while pregnant?
There are varying opinions as to whether or not it’s safe for a pregnant woman to ride a horse. This is because every woman’s health, skills, and riding opportunities are different.
Before we examine those various points of view, however, every pregnant woman first and foremost must discuss this topic with her physician.
Note: I’m not a doctor, and you shouldn’t take this blog as medical direction.
There are factors that go into making every pregnancy unique, and your doctor is the most important person to consult with to ensure that your pregnancy goes off without a hitch (so to speak).
If your doctor gives you the thumbs-up to proceed with physical activity, deciding whether or not horseback riding is an activity you continue practicing can depend on several factors. Let’s get into it.
This Ain’t (Time for) Your First Rodeo
Want to try horseback riding for the first time while you’re pregnant? Time to press pause.
Horseback riding is an inherently risky activity that requires a lot of skill. If you don’t know a crop from a rein then you have no business trying to ride a horse for the first time while pregnant.
Benefits of Horse Riding While Pregnant
If, however, you’re an accomplished horsewoman already and riding is a regular, if not daily, part of your life, then riding shouldn’t be an issue — at least for a while. In addition to your physical well-being during pregnancy, your emotional well-being also plays a role.
Happy moms-to-be are less stressed, and stress can have an impact on your physical state and therefore an impact on your baby as well.
If riding is a part of your identity, or even your job, then safe riding (again, if ok’d by your physician) shouldn’t present any issues. There are, however, several (wait for it) complications.
Horseback Riding While Pregnant & the 1st Trimester
Your Helmet is Your Friend
The reason The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend against riding horses during pregnancy is primarily due to the risk of falling.
During your first trimester, your baby is protected inside your bony pelvic girdle, which provides a level of protection in the event of a fall.
If you fall and you’re NOT wearing a helmet, you’ll still be putting your baby at risk.
For example, any fall resulting in an injury that requires you to go under general anesthesia could have serious outcomes.
Hot flashes? No problem. Check out our 9 Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather Relief.
If you choose to ride while pregnant, ride responsibly.
It’s one of many important decisions you’ll make over the course of your life to protect your child.
Horseback Riding While Pregnant & the 2nd Trimester
Your Body is Changing
As your baby grows and your body changes, several things happen that can affect your stability in the saddle. While it’s not exactly like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” it might feel a bit that way.
By the end of your second trimester, your baby likely weighs around two pounds. That’s just a bit more than a regulation NFL football (and probably looks about the same).
Between baby and your own weight gain, things are distributing differently in your body, and your balance can be affected.
Plus, your baby bump nudging the saddle pommel or horn may start to make riding a bit uncomfy by the time you hit six months.
The hormone relaxin (seriously, I didn’t make that up) begins to release in higher doses to help your pelvic and hip joints and muscles begin to loosen up to help make pushing out a much larger football a bit “easier” in a few months’ time.
Relaxing doesn’t just geotarget your pelvic area, however; it works on all the joints and muscles in your body.
Balance is again affected by these more wobbly body parts, which can make riding more challenging and uncomfortable than you’re used to.
Check out our Best Cowboy Boots for Infants (boys and girls).
Another factor to consider is outdoor elements like snow, mud, and rough terrain. As your balance changes during this trimester, the rutted path to the pasture you used to navigate with ease may become much more challenging.
Snow and mud add extra risk for falls around the barn, so depending on the time of year and weather in your area, you may need to adjust your plans.
Note: If you’re heading to the barn when its snowy and icy, be extra extra careful. My entire family now owns pairs of STABILicers traction cleats that attach to the bottoms of our boots during the winter. When the barn parking lot turns into a skating rink, these are a saving grace.
For these and other reasons, like difficulty getting on and off a horse, increased back pain, and a more exposed/less protected baby, many pregnant women choose to stop riding at some point during their second trimester.
That doesn’t mean that horsing around has to stop altogether. (And, no, we don’t mean that kind of horsing around. That’s a completely different blog post!)
Horseback Riding While Pregnant & the 3rd Trimester
Time to Slow Down
By the time you reach the third trimester, most pregnant moms opt to stop riding, and most obstetricians would recommend the same.
At this point, due to the issues just discussed, there is an increased risk of falling, and with a more exposed and growing baby, more risk of injury to him or her (or them!) as well.
This doesn’t mean you have to totally turn your back on the life and animals you love.
Pregnant horse trainers, for example, find this a perfect opportunity to get a different vantage point from the sidelines, making off-saddle observations and working differently with other trainers.
Often, they find this makes them better teachers and trainers because they have gained a new perspective.
For others, including trainers and riders, keeping in touch with your horse or horses through grooming is still rewarding and calming. (Read: Can keep that pesky pregnancy blood pressure in check.)
Sharing that one-on-one time with your animal and your unborn child is also highly satisfying, perhaps even beginning to instill the same equine passion in your kiddo through an innate pre-birth sensory experience.
We’re still learning what influences children in the womb.
Non-riding options for pregnant women:
- Trick training. Take advantage of the time you used to spend in the saddle to teach your horse new tricks. Who doesn’t love a horse that gives hugs, smiles for the camera, or lies down on command?
- Liberty training. Enhance your relationship and develop a deeper bond with your horse by spending time engaging in liberty training. This tack-free activity keeps you incredibly present mentally and physically active.
- Long reining. Whether you need to train a young horse or keep your regular mount tuned up, taking the time to engage in long-rein training can help you better understand your horse from the safety of the ground and enhance your riding when you are able to get back in the saddle.
- Yoga. Wait, that doesn’t involve horses! True, but the benefits of yoga will benefit you once you get back in the saddle. Check out our 5 Favorite Equestrian Yoga Poses.
Hot flashes? No problem. Check out our 9 Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather Relief.
Horseback Riding Pregnancy Tips
Still trying to decide if riding while pregnant is for you? Here’s a little more food for thought, but remember that your doctor should weigh in too.
Manage Miscarriage Risk
While I couldn’t find any research that links increased risk for miscarriage with horseback riding while pregnant, if you have a history of miscarriage experts advise that you avoid risky physical activity of all types, including horseback riding.
Pick your horse carefully
If you choose to ride, stay away from horses that spook easily or are “hot” to ride, as they pose an increased risk of accident and injury. If you don’t know the horse well, it’s best not to ride it while pregnant.
Craving a calmer horse? Check out our 3 Calmest Horse Breeds.
Exercise is a good thing
Again, unless you are advised against exercising while pregnant by your physician, moderate exercise of 30 minutes a day is a good thing for pregnant women. Walking, yoga and swimming are all good for you and your baby, keeping you in good shape for childbirth and recovery.
If you have been regularly doing things like running or riding horses, as long as you’re cleared by your physician to continue, keep it up until your body and common sense tell you it’s time to take a break.
Horseback Riding After a Baby
Back in the Saddle Again
Whether or not you decided to ride while you were pregnant, after you’ve had your baby (congrats!), you’ll want to get back to doing what you love, whether it’s a hobby, your business, or your job.
Here are a few tips to help you get back in the saddle (and those riding jeans).
Don’t Do Too Much Too Soon
While every new mom is anxious to lose that baby weight, keep in mind that what took time to put on will take time to take back off.
Most people aren’t like celebrities who have personal trainers, nutritionists, and nannies to help us get into shape fast. Most new moms are simply happy when they get the chance to take a shower!
Also, remember that being a new mom is exhausting, so give yourself the gift of grace in knowing that while right now you’re exhausted, with time you’ll feel more like yourself.
- Don’t start dieting, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Moms who are breastfeeding need to keep up their caloric intake and eat a healthy, nutritious diet. Breastfeeding also burns calories, so that’s an additional reason not to scrimp. If you’re not breastfeeding, you can begin to cut some calories if you wish, but within reason. You need to eat a balanced, healthy diet as well in order to keep up your energy and care for your infant.
- Relaxin is still messin’ with you. The hormone that relaxed your joints and muscles is still present in higher-than-normal levels for a period of time after giving birth, so avoid activities like running or jumping that put major stress on your joints.
- Start with moderate exercise. Unless directed otherwise by your physician, moderate exercise such as walking, core- and strength-building activities are great ways to start. One suggestion is to think about what you did for exercise in your third trimester, and then gradually begin to work your way backward until you are doing what you did pre-pregnancy. Exercise is also good for moms who may suffer from postpartum depression.
- Know you’re not alone: If you’re looking for inspiration and encouragement, check out equestrian vlogger Gemma Canezz. She has several vlogs about her journey though motherhood, including one about how to juggle horses with being a mom.
- Remember: you did something awesome. A human just came out of you. That’s insane, right? Embrace this season of change and give yourself time to adjust.
You may feel anxious, and that’s completely understandable. Read our 32 Tips for Nervous Riders to help manage the butterflies in your stomach.
Knowing When It’s Time to Ride
While we may sound a bit like a broken record here, the answer really is “It depends.” Every pregnancy and birth is different, so every woman’s rate of recovery depends on her fitness level before, during, and after.
Did you have a C-section or complications? Did you ride during your pregnancy or has it been nine months or so since you’ve been on a horse? All of these issues (and others) factor into when you’ll be ready to ride.
Here are some thoughts that may help you know when it’s time, and what to expect.
- Listen to your body. Do you get out of breath going up the stairs? If so, trying to ride right now will likely be difficult. Are you exhausted and have trouble concentrating from lack of sleep? The last thing you want to do is get on a horse when you can’t focus. Pay attention to your body and give yourself time to do some other moderate exercise and get some more rest before you attempt to ride.
- Expect things to be different at first. Even the most seasoned equestrian professionals report that getting back to riding has its challenges. Your legs aren’t as strong as they were, and your core may be temporarily shot to hell. You become short of breath easier. Your stamina for sitting in the saddle isn’t what it used to be. You may find that when you trot, gallop or jump that you can’t quite control your bladder like you used to (so keep doing those kegels!).
The important thing to remember is that while it may take some time to get back to riding the way you did pre-pregnancy, with patience, determination, and common sense you’ll get your giddyup back.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtdHUwUZpog]
Equestrian Baby Clothes & Gifts
Whether you’re the pregnant equestrian in question or have a horse crazy friend or family member who’s expecting, I can’t help but toss out a few extra fun ideas:
Get a special celebration item:
Adorable infant cowboy boots are just one idea, and they’ll come in handy for all your photo shoots!
Throw a horse-themed baby shower:
From rocking horse-shaped cookies to invitations to decorations and more, it’s easy to find ideas at places like Etsy, Pinterest, and more.
You can also encourage guests to stick with the theme for gifts! (This horsey swaddling blanket is adorable. Just sayin’.)
Design an equestrian nursery:
Whether you’re having a boy or a girl (or it’s still a surprise!), you can create an adorable horse-themed nursery that brings your first love (horse, sorry dads) and second love (baby) together.
Soooo many cute horse gifts for baby:
The list just keeps getting cuter as it goes on.
Books about horses:
In addition to classic books like Black Beauty, National Velvet and My Friend Flicka, there are many other wonderful horse books for children. Put together a basket that they’ll enjoy for years to come.
My personal favorite from childhood is Fritz and the Beautiful Horses, a book with amazing illustrations and an even better lesson. It’s the story about a straggly pony who lives outside a town where only fancy, beautiful horses are loved… until he saves the day! All the townsfolk come to realize that beauty is on the inside, and Fritz becomes cherished by everyone. (I almost tear up now just thinking about it.)
My second favorite was Bonnie’s Big Day, a charming tale by James Herriot about a man who decides to enter his draft horse in the county fair “pet show.”
Equestrian spa products:
New moms all need pampering, and equestrians have special needs. Create a basket of pampering with products like these especially for equestrians.
Maternity riding clothes:
Having comfortable clothes that fit over your bump make all the difference. Invest in a nice pair of maternity jeans (the easiest and cheapest option).
For some reason, maternity breeches are nearly non-existent. The only ones I’ve been able to locate are at Etherington Equestrian.
To Bounce Your Baby Bump or Not, That is the Question
You’re making decisions for two now, and that means considering all the pros and cons before deciding whether (or how long) to ride while pregnant. The great news is that there is no wrong decision.
If you decide not to swing into the saddle for a while, there are plenty of other horsey activities you can enjoy until your baby arrives. If you decide to keep riding, you have the advice you need to do so safely and comfortably.
Most importantly… ALWAYS WEAR YOUR HELMET!!!
P.S. Enjoy this article? Trot on over to:
- 4 Best Infant Cowboy Boots for Fashion-Forward Toddlers
- Tot to Trot: 5 Best Riding Helmets for Toddlers
- My Favorite Fall in 30 Years: Equestrian Hit Air Vest Review
- How Often to Replace Horseback Riding Helmets
- 8 Best Horse Riding Helmets for Hot Weather Relief
Sources and More Reading