So I would like to start this blog with a disclaimer. My midwife, as well as my Pilates instructor really recommended NOT riding whilst pregnant. The reason for this is due to the risk of falling and causing problems for you unborn child. I would say just being around horses can sometimes be risky. So with the following advice please remain cautious and be sensible!
1. Don’t take unnecessary risks
This should be a given. During pregnancy is not really the time to be breaking in your slightly crazy 3 year old, or getting on a new horse for the first time. I would also say avoid riding on busy roads, you could have the most trustworthy horse, but as we all know other road users are not always so considerate.
2. Do what feels right for you
I rode up to 32 weeks. I know people who were riding right up until the day they gave birth, I also know people who stopped riding as soon as they found out about their pregnancy. At the end of the day you have got to do what feels right for you, and don’t feel pressured to continue just because your mates did. I stopped mostly due to feeling too tired to manage all my chores, work and riding.
3. Keep fit
You will hear this all the time during your pregnancy, try to keep active. Now as horsey people of course we are active all the time anyway, however as you start to get bigger, and your abdominals start to get weaker, it is important to keep strong through your core in order to continue to be able to do everything that you do at the stables. I started pregnancy Pilates, which I found very helpful for reminding me about the core muscles and the importance of the pelvic floor.
4. Get a decent bra
This is something close to my heart anyway, having larger than average boobs a good bra to ride in is essential. However as they start to grow throughout the pregnancy you soon become even more aware of them! Thankfully you no longer have to pay a fortune for a good bra, and actually I have found this £16 shock absorber from Tesco to be very effective in keeping the girls in line!
5. Make the use of taping or support belt.
In the earlier days, when I was still riding I was getting a stretching sensation up across my pelvic ligament. My sports massage therapist Sarah Helmore (https://www.facebook.com/sportstherapyloughborough/) helped me out by taping my tummy to help support it when riding. I found this really beneficial, easily managing walk, trot and canter with no discomfort.
Some people find using a support belt helpful. I think for riding I would favour the taping purely as it wouldn’t block the natural pelvic/ lower back movement that you should achieve when riding.
6. Get a high step
This made my life so much easier. You will find that as you start to get bigger your belly just gets in the way when mounting and dismounting. So I would thoroughly recommend getting a good height step that minimises the amount you have to lift your leg in order to mount. This will also help to avoid shearing of your pubic symphysis, which in turn should help prevent pubic symphysis dysfunction. If you do start to get pain around your pelvis, I would suggest avoiding ridding and getting help from your local women’s health physiotherapist, who will be able to recommend suitable exercises to strengthen the area and give advice on what to avoid.
7. Think about your weight
Something that has been in the news a lot this year has been over weight riders. Remember it is a very natural thing for you to put on weight when pregnant, particularly in the later stages. If you usually ride a small horse or pony, bear this in mind.
8. You don’t have to ride in order to keep your horse fit.
There is now an abundance of information and exercises that you can try with your horse from the ground. If you get to the point where you are no longer able to ride, try some simple ground exercises instead. It could be as simple as taking your horse for a walk in-hand, or you could use the time to perfect your lunging and long reining skills. Not only will this help to keep your horse fit, but it will also help to improve his flat work and help keep a strong bond between you and your horse.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
This can be from friends, family or professional paid help, if you are struggling don’t put on a brave face, and you won’t be doing yourself or your horse any favours!