Help me decide which horse to ride. *update post 14*
I have two rideable horses. I'm 12 weeks pregnant and was planning to keep riding through October, to finish out the show season in my local circuit. However, I've been much more tired and physically weak this pregnancy--I get sore and achy really easily, and quickly lose motivation to ride my big, hot, strong horse. So I was thinking of switching to my husband's trail horse so I can stay in the saddle as long as possible and stay comfortable. Here are the two choices:
Option 1: My TBX gelding, 16.1, we've been training, taking lessons, and showing all summer. He does well at shows, but can be very forward, tense, and (physically) difficult to ride. He has yet to dump me, but I feel like the potential is there. I have a lot of hours and training $ invested in him this summer, and was hoping to finish out the season with him. We do have enough rides to qualify for year-end awards even if I were to completely stop showing right now, but I wanted to see this through. However, most days the thought of struggling through a ride on him is more than I can handle. I get exhausted easily and I just run out of steam by the end of my work day. I think of riding him and go "Ohhhhh I do not have the energy for that!" Also, he needs to be worked several days a week in order to stay calm and rideable.
Option 2: My husband's 15-hand Appy mare. She's wayyyy out of shape--fat and has been ridden like 5 times all summer. She's also very green. She was basically started last year when I bought her, and my trainer rode her 2x/week for a couple of months, and that's it. She's a super trail horse, very safe and even beginner-friendly, just due to her calm nature. She's not a "dressage horse"--she's really built as a Western horse, downhill, short-strided, and chunky. On the other hand, she has a trot that's as smooth as butter--seriously easier to sit than to post--and she's also quite light in the bridle, so she won't be as physically taxing to ride as my horse. Those are the two big reasons I'm thinking of switching to her--she's SAFE and it won't exhaust me to ride her.
But I can't help but feel like I'm giving up on my horse after all I've put into him this summer. Plus the mare is SO out of shape, it's not like I can just jump on and take an hour dressage lesson--she'll need a bit of legging up first. It's only another 6 weeks or so until the end of show season...maybe I should just try to power through with my guy.
I know exactly how you're feeling! I just went through a pregnancy and just finished up the couple of shows I had already entered and then that was it. I stayed on the ground after about month 3.
My mare's not naughty, but I just wasn't willing to take the risks involved with her being a little bit of a hot horse. Even though it felt like everything I had been working on would fall apart while I was not riding her, I decided it was the way to go. I did ground work, loved on her, groomed her, had some other people ride her here and there, but basically she got a nice vacation for awhile. It ended up that I had Placenta Previa anyway and the doctor ended up ordering that I continue to stay off of my horse, but I had already decided not to risk anything.
Now, with my baby here, it was WELL WORTH IT!!! My mare and I are better than ever and moving right along with her training, beyond where we were before the break. It didn't hurt to have a little while for her to chill mentally and actually, I got a long enough break myself that when I got back in the saddle I used it as a way to really erase some of the bad habits I had that were tough to get rid of while riding 5 days a week. With a break, I could start a bit fresher and just not let them creep in again.
Honestly, while you would regret anything happening during your pregnancy and would likely never forgive yourself, you're never going to look back and think that those few months out of the saddle were the end of the world. Every time you look at your healthy baby, you'll be thankful you didn't take the risks.
That's just my two cents, from having been there myself. CONGRATULATIONS, by the way!!!
My two cents would be to ride the Appy - hands down. Don't jeopardize your baby, it's always better safe than sorry Plus, I recognize how exhausting a pregnancy can be - you really don't need the added mental, emotional, and physical stress when you're already so tired. Be kind to yourself and your baby and take some time to just enjoy the Appy and do what you can with her.
If you can afford it, put a rider on your TBx, otherwise just spend time with him and do a lot of groundwork (if it's safe)! There are TONS of groundwork exercises you can do to further develop his mind and to keep him at a decent level of fitness. Spiraling circles, teaching him to navigate figure-8 patterns from the ground (your guiding him, keeping your feet still), navigating him around a line of cones (you walking a straight line alongside), working with him at increasing lengths and speeds, working him on-line (longeing) over poles, hills, jumps, working at liberty in the round pen, etc etc etc. Spending undemanding, or less demanding, time with your TBx will greatly benefit your partnership with him, imo. Most of us are too busy to take that time that would greatly benefit us (me included, I personally get way too work-oriented with my horses!), but you have the opportunity to do so, so take it
....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.
Let go of riding the TBX & change over to ground working him - get a good trainer's help if you don't have much experience with this - it will do the TBX a world of good & will really improve his under saddle ridability when you get back to riding him.
If you haven't done any trail riding with him, start by walking him out (after you have him going nicely on the ground).
Ride the mare too if you like, but with a limited amount of energy (hopefully this will change when you get past 16 weeks), I'd be inclined to build on the TBX if you want to continue with him next year (or sell him now & get a new horse in the new year ).
Congrats on your pregnancy! I can relate...I am 30 weeks pregnant I stopped riding at 16 weeks. At first all that went through my mind was "omg how could I stop?' "I will lose my mind if I stop" My horse will lose all condition and become a total whack job!" etc... Well as the weeks went by the more reality set in. My internal dialog changed to "I have a tiny human growing inside my body and it is my responsibility to protect it". It was hard at first but time starts to fly by and as soon as you feel that baby move (if you have not already) your priorities change.
I have a 20 horse facility and teach and train full time so I do get my horse fix on a daily basis. I long line my horse and that is actually fun for me and him Other than that he is on break. I believe that horses will not forget what they have learned (though it will take some time to get your guy back in the groove-but it will take some time for you too after baby).
Horses and showing and year end points are all fine and good but a baby is an amazing gift. For me it was not worth the risk. Good luck!
I wouldn't go so far as to say quit riding....I evented with #1 at 5 months, started a 2 YO with #2 and showed at 5 months with #3 and rode up till a few days before delivery with all of them...but it's not a time to take on a physical challenge.
However I did lose #1.5 getting ready for MIL's visit at Thanksgiving.
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I'm with mildot. I rode till I was 5 months pregnant on my super/uber calm level-headed Friesian gelding. I was lucky. 2 months after return to riding my horse slipped at the canter in the arena and we both fell-him on top of me. Accidents happen at the mounting block, leading from a paddock or on a quiet hack in the country. The time passes quickly and when the baba arrives you'll be back in the saddle guilt-free. I have a friend who lost her baby post falling off her horse. Not worth the risk IMHO.
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Thanks for all the unanimous opinions. My husband also thinks his mare is the better choice right now. So I rode her in my lesson today, and while (surprise!) she's not perfect, she will certainly be MUCH easier to ride. It will also be good for her green little self to be doing some work.
Walk and trot were great...she pops herself right onto the bit when you pick up the contact, which is a really nice change. I just need to work on keeping my own hands steady and soft. We did try a little canter, and that did not work out well. As I mentioned she's really green, and her canter transitions are not well established yet, plus she's sometimes resistant to the forward aids, so the result was a bunch of small bucks. I stopped and said "I'm not doing this." So my trainer hopped on and got some good canter transitions both directions and we stopped for the day. So we will be sticking to walk and trot for the fall at least, and trainer will be riding her once a week as well and working on the canter with her.
One bonus is that there are enough shows left in the season that if we get to all of them, I can qualify HER as well as my other horse. LOL! Trainer actually thinks we'll score better than with my guy, because he lacks relaxation she has it in spades.
A little update to this... OMGiH I loff my mare! I rode her again in my lesson this week and she was *awesome.* I was worried she would be cranky and hard to get forward (as she was last year, pre-training), but she is no longer like that at all. She seems to actually like working. She's quiet but forward, surprisingly sensitive, soft and light in the bridle, responds to seat and weight aids, super easy to get round. Her only bad habit is a tendency to balk/shut down or kick out at the leg/whip when she decides she's "done" or when she gets confused, but I think we will be able to work through that easily.
My trainer and I had actually discussed selling my gelding and buying me something more fun to ride (he IS fun, just harrrrrd), but today after riding her, my trainer said, "You know, you don't need a new horse. You have her! She's awesome!" So my little Western trail pony is now my dressage horse. I'm super excited.