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Riding while pregnant?

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  • Riding while pregnant?

    Hi all,

    I am fairly new to COTH and am looking for some insight from any parents who have been through something similar, and how you handled it.

    My husband and I are trying for children via fertility methods after 2 years of infertility and a loss at 5 months, our only pregnancy two years ago. In the time in between I have found a barn, started volunteering, and started taking weekly lessons again, mostly jumping -- either SJ or XC and not above Novice level for now. I've also formed some relationships at the barn and will school others' horses, usually greenies, for experience and because it gives me someone to practice on during the week between lessons. So far it's been fun, fruitful, and I'm becoming the rider I was before my 5-year break (poor and post college).

    My SO is not a horse person, in that, he knows nothing about them. He supports whatever I decide to do, which I appreciate tremendously, but he is fairly unfamiliar with the sport. And due to this, I feel like I am in a bit of a rut when it comes to advice.

    I am almost 28, I've been riding my entire life and was schooling Prelim before I had to sell my horse for college money (rode greenies for the next 4 years). Riding in the past year has given me some sort peace after losing our baby and going through the struggles of infertility. That being said, our MD seems very certain we will be conceiving soon, and I am wondering if this means I will have to give up riding. On the one hand, it feels like I should be willing to do anything for our next pregnancy. On the other hand, I already did that, and the results were devastating because when we lost our child I had very little to fall back on that made me genuinely happy. Riding was the first thing in over a year that made me feel alive again, and like I had purpose, and I realize how corny that may sound.

    So I am wondering, are there other mothers out there who rode and took lessons through their pregnancy? Or at least through the first half of it? Or fathers who watched their wives go through this? My goal is to make an informed decision, and this seemed like the right place, and group, to query. Please be kind, and looking forward to your thoughts.

  • #2
    Your doctor will most likely advise you not to ride. But that being said, it is 100% up to you and your husband and how comfortable you are with the risk associated with falling.
    "I can't help but wonder,what would Jimmy Buffett do?"


    • #3
      I've known MANY women who rode through their 1st trimester....a lot who rode through their 2nd and a few who rode right up until they delivered.....AND I've known many who stopped riding all together....I do think this is personal to YOU as there isn't a right or wrong. Basically you need to do what is most comfortable to you.....knowing that life is full or risks and you are balancing your mental health with your physical.

      I personally would keep riding until you know you are pregnant, then I would cut back to just riding a really trust worthy horse or stop riding. It is not a long period of time. That is just me....but the issue is what is best for you and that may be something different. Regardless of your decision about riding, I would still help out at the barn. Grooming, watching lessons. Just still being a part of your barn family will likely give you some support.

      ETA: And my condolences on your loss. That is truly tough. Sending lots of positive thoughts and prayers for you and your husband.
      Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Aug. 7, 2017, 01:22 PM.
      ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


      • #4
        It is a very personal decision. I thought I would continue to ride lightly through my pregnancy, my horse was very sane and I'd heard all the stories from people who rode and competed up until the day they delivered. For me, once my body started to change, I didn't feel safe or secure up there. I rode a few times and decided I wasn't comfortable continuing, and I don't regret making that decision. And honestly, considering how challenging it was just to roll my beach ball body out of bed those last few months, there's no way I could have ridden if I tried. Those with smaller bumps may have an easier time.

        I agree with Jersey Fresh that your doctor is the best person to advise you on safe activities. Perhaps you and your husband could meet with your doc to discuss it and figure out the best decision.


        • #5
          I am 15 weeks along and am still riding. My doctors aren't thrilled about it and have made it clear that they're advising against it but respect that it's my choice. I promised my husband I would not jump or get on any horses I don't feel as 100% about as you can any horse. I'm mostly doing dressage now anyway with the weekly hack, but I stopped riding horses for other people that were difficult or I didn't feel as safe on. I've been riding my current horse for long enough that I really trust him to not be an idiot over something or to start doing anything dangerous. My husband knows my horse and trusts me and is supportive of my decision.

          Once I'm large enough that it's affecting my balance I'll reassess, and at that time have someone lined up to ride him a couple of times a week while I lunge/do in-hand work so he stays as fit as possible while I'm grounded. I have no desire to be some super hero who rides until the day I deliver...and doing the upper level dressage work takes so much balance and timing that once I start to lose that I know I'll get too frustrated with myself to effectively ride anyway. I have a couple more shows planned for the fall that I suspect I'll be able to go to (I'd REALLY like to finish my silver medal) so those right now are in the works, but I'll take it day by day until closing date for each of them.

          Feel free to PM me if you're more comfortable. One of my instructors rode while pregnant with both of hers and she's been a great resource for asking questions and making me not feel guilty when I was so exhausted weeks 9-13 that I could barely muster the energy to ride but a handful of times a week.


          • #6
            I agree that it's a very personal decision and there's no "right" answer - it comes down to your risk tolerance and gut feelings. I disagree that your doctor is the best person to advise you on that...or at least your doctor may not necessarily be the best person as many doctors are 100% risk adverse and think you should cut all contact with horses from the minute you're pregnant onward, and I don't think that's necessary. I felt lucky to have a doctor who humored my riding, but several of my friends did not.

            I rode through both of my pregnancies til the end. I slowly stepped down on number of horses and greenness level of horses and by the end was only riding the ones I felt totally safe on. I can say that I rode pretty close to 7 days a week, and as the pregnancies progressed I found that I was unable to tolerate major changes in activity level. IOW, if I was riding 20 minutes a day, I would have a hard time sustaining that 20 minutes if I took a day or two off (with the biggest issues being round ligament pain and basic stamina). I guess another way to say it is that my stamina was extremely variable based on how hard (or not hard) I was working. So I tried to stay extremely consistent from day to day.

            But there's a risk management element to it also. My husband and I didn't struggle to get pregnant and I had low-risk pregnancies. I wasn't overly concerned about getting injured and my husband wasn't bothered by my continued riding. From the time I got pregnant (both times) and throughout the pregnancies, I only decreased my risks. I didn't start riding any new horses or doing anything differently than I had always done.

            Flying F Sport Horses
            Horses in the NW


            • #7
              Think there is a difference here since OP and her DH have had trouble conceiving and went through the tragedy of losing one at 5 months.

              Gals I know who ride through their pregnancies were exceptional, lifelong riders, a few Pros who couldn't afford to sit it out and none had any fertility issues or lost one fairly far along.

              Its personal decision...but I wouldn't want to risk any possible complications after what OPs been going through to have a child. If something did happen, there would be tremendous guilt over choosing to keep riding.
              When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

              The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


              • #8
                My doctor said that I could continue riding until I felt unbalanced or uncomfortable, and that the baby is pretty well protected in there. He said he would not advise someone new to the sport to take up riding, but was perfectly okay with having an experienced rider continue. I rode until the end of my 7th month, when my hips hurt too bad when I dismounted, and my belly was hitting the pommel.

                However, since you have had trouble before, I'm not sure if you would need to take extra precautions during your pregnancy. Hopefully you have a doctor who will consider your skills and experience, and give an informed decision. If you do quit riding, you don't have to quit your involvement with horses. Can you do ground work or longeing with the horses you're exercising for others? Help beginners groom and tack up for lessons? Since it's your happy place, maybe you can find a way to still be involved without additional risk.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by findeight View Post
                  Think there is a difference here since OP and her DH have had trouble conceiving and went through the tragedy of losing one at 5 months.

                  Gals I know who ride through their pregnancies were exceptional, lifelong riders, a few Pros who couldn't afford to sit it out and none had any fertility issues or lost one fairly far along.

                  Its personal decision...but I wouldn't want to risk any possible complications after what OPs been going through to have a child. If something did happen, there would be tremendous guilt over choosing to keep riding.
                  This imo. I have 5 kids. I lost my natural balance as soon as my stomach started growing which was earlier and earlier with each subsequent pregnancy


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you all for the insightful, thoughtful responses. It's been a bit tricky to navigate my feelings on this, as I made sure to do everything 100% by the book the first time and we still weren't able to carry to term. Though, I should have noted that it was a genetic anomaly, not an unexplained cause of the MC. I am a rather controlling person when it comes to my own life (and only my own life), and there is a certainly a part of me that thinks I should give anything up that isn't MD approved. On the other hand, I already know that when I do get pregnant again, I will be a stressed out disaster waiting for things to go wrong, and I honestly think I'd feel better riding. It's cathartic and reminds me that if things do go wrong, I still have something that will make me happy.

                    However, this is the reason why I wanted some outside perspective on this: I wondered when I posted this if I would get a lot of responses telling me that riding while pregnant is a terrible idea and not worth the risk, and I was mentally preparing myself for some potentially harsh responses. So it's actually really nice to know I'm not the only woman who is contemplating riding during a pregnancy, and it's great to hear others' responses about when they stopped, or why, and what conditions they felt safe riding in. So thank you very much, everyone


                    • #11
                      I rode until I was huge. (Baby was in a non-standard position and I looked as if I was due at only 6 months along.) That said, as I got bigger, I had to be legged on and my own horse was so upset about how my pregnancy was subtly tipping me forward (my weight was saying go, my hands were saying no) that I stopped riding her and started riding a Clydesdale cross (15.2hh). I rode him in the indoor arena. So a quiet enclosed environment with soft footing to land on.

                      I didn't tell the doctor I was riding until 6 months along. He said that I was past the time it was risky and that the only thing that would remove the baby now was birth.

                      My thoughts on the matter are for you to not ride until you know that the baby is past the vulnerable early stages and is so firmly settled that only being birthed will get them out. Also, make sure you get your doctor's okay on this. Also, will you have access to a suitable horse? Will anyone help you by legging you on and generally being there while you ride? Do you have somewhere suitable to ride? Preferably an arena with soft footing to land on should you tumble off.


                      • #12
                        My opinion of what I thought I would do and what I ended up doing were very different. I thought I would ride through it I rode 6 days a week up to it.

                        Then morning sickness hit. The only time I actually puked was after riding. I have no idea why but I would dismount and puke. After three days of that I took it as a sign and didn't ride again til after I gave birth.

                        What I'm trying to say is there is no right or wrong answer but don't agonize too much (I remember long discussions with my husband on the topic.) your body will tell you when the time comes and whatever you decide will be the right choice for you.

                        I started bike bike riding on a big Kermit the Frog bike when I stopped horse riding. I have great memories of my husband running and ridiculously large me cruising along on this crazy bike.

                        I hope you will be cruising along with a huge belly however makes you happy soon!


                        • #13
                          My trainer is currently 7+ months pregnant and is a little powerhouse! You don't know she is pregnant until she turns around. She rides clients horses but these are horses well known to her and are at her barn. She is incredibly fit. That is all I can add to this conversation as I have never had kids.
                          "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope


                          • #14

                            It is a personal decision. My doctor was ok with it, knowing I'd been riding for decades.

                            I rode all through both my pregnancies, but I stopped competing at 3 months if I remember well, because my balance started to be affected over fences.
                            Getting on and off was a bit tricky toward the end but my mare, amazingly, was very cooperative at that time.
                            I was back on my horse a few weeks after delivery.

                            I just could not conceive not riding. It helped me stay sane through both pregnancies and also when the kids were little!
                            Ottbs - The finish line is only the beginning!


                            • #15
                              So it's a very personal decision but I would say, don't stress it!

                              Stress and conception is tough. Here's my experience, I have a happy little 4mo at my side

                              Rode first couple of months but was so exhausted from my pregnancy and my 50-60hr career that riding very naturally fell to the bottom of the list. I thought I'd miss it much more than I did. But pregnancy is exhausting! And as you mentioned your journey hasn't been easy. Do things that make you happy. It will all fall into place.

                              My Dr was fine with it - she is very pro exercise - until somewhere around 24weeks or so when they start to leave their cushy little den.


                              • #16
                                I am very sorry for your loss.

                                I did not ride during my first pregnancy but wished I did (we lived in CA for a year and left my horse behind). I think I would have stayed in better shape and been able to recover a little more quickly than I did. I am currently 7 weeks pg with my second, and I am not sure how long I'll keep riding or even to what extent. I haven't stepped back yet, did some xc schooling a week ago and have a jump lesson tomorrow. But I don't think I'll compete at all and will probably start stepping back a bit simply due to fatigue. I hope to keep lightly riding for at least several more months, but it will depend on how I feel. I will say that I know my horse very well and trust him. I wouldn't get on a horse I didn't trust completely.

                                Good luck to you and jingles for a healthy pregnancy soon!


                                • #17
                                  I don't have kids and have zero plans of ever having them so take this with a grain of salt but remember that statistically speaking, the most dangerous thing you can do around horses is 1) just be around them and 2) walk on a loose rein.


                                  • #18
                                    I'm so very sorry for your loss at five months along.

                                    I too had some infertility issues including a surgery and the use of fertility pills. When I got pregnant at 36, I rode through my first trimester and then took a break. It was midwinter so I wasn't too sad. I was back in the saddle 10 days post partum. (On my quiet draft cross gelding) It was the best feeling ever to sit up there again.

                                    As another poster said above, my doctor recommended no riding and warned of the dangers of even handling/being around horses after the 1st trimester. I still did all of the care-feeding, etc anyway as my horses live at home. The most trouble I got in while pregnant was falling down the steps carrying a laundry basket. Definitely not horse related!


                                    • #19
                                      I have 3 kids and rode until 8 - 9 months with all of them. It is definitely a personal choice. Everyday I was prepared to say this is it, no more riding. I was always assessing my balance and level of control In the saddle. I stopped jumping around 4 months usually and just did dressage work after that. I also stopped riding any training horses around the same time too. The biggest factor is asking yourself - 'how will I feel if the baby gets hurt because of my riding?'
                                      I always feel that the time off from riding right at the end of pregnancy and then after delivery is a huge black hole of nothing but once it's past, I can see that it really wasn't as traumatic for me as I thought it would have been. You can always go back to horses but I think if you were to lose another baby, it may cause you to wonder if not riding would have altered the outcome and that may ruin your enjoyment of riding for the future.
                                      it is a personal choice only you and your husband can really decide what is right for you


                                      • #20
                                        Personal choice, as everyone has said, but if you want more stories: My DH and I went through serious, serious fertility issues and ultimately had two daughters, with one horrible loss between them. During first pregnancy, I rode my own, very steady horse (who I'd owned for 18 years at that point, so knew like the back of my hand) right up until I popped. I also rode during the next pregnancy that did not go to term, and I know that riding was completely unrelated to the problems that ended it. I rode my own horse during the first half of my final pregnancy, then moved overseas at 22 weeks. I stopped riding at that point. I could have gone hacking on rented horses, but I knew if something stupid happened on a horse I didn't know, I would never forgive myself for risking the baby just to go for a trail ride. Understanding that even the steadiest horse could still shy and dump you, I think it comes down to your perceived risk vs benefit from riding, and those scales may tip differently if you've been through a lot just to get pregnant and/or suffered a loss before.
                                        I evented just for the Halibut.