The urge to ride a horse is inescapable, but there are certain situations where it becomes difficult. Which brings us to the question: is it safe to ride horseback during pregnancy?
On a casual day, a she-rider would get in her horse riding attire; groom and pet the horse out of the stable, and ride until the sun is down. But once she’s expecting, things can go the opposite way: no fun, all rest.
With many factors at work, horseback riding during pregnancy has both benefits and problems attached to it. What determines how it will turn out for you depends—
On what? That we’ll find out in this article.
Is Horseback Riding Safe During Pregnancy?
If you’re a seasoned horse rider, then it’s probably safe to ride a horse in the first trimester of your pregnancy. For most people, horse riding beyond the first trimester is not advised.
As much as you would love to hear us tell you that it’s okay to ride a horse while pregnant, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Let’s say that horse riding while pregnant is both safe and unsafe. It mainly depends on your pregnancy stage or any associated complication/s.
Maybe it’s your first trimester, and it’s more comfortable for you to ride. Perhaps it’s your third, and the delivery is due in a couple of days, and you’re even having problems walking or standing straight.
See, it seems safe in the first trimester yet unsafe in the last. Still, as a rider, you’re at the risk of falling at both the first and third trimesters — and the risk of falling means a high risk of fetal damage.
Yeah, that doesn’t sound pleasant at all.
So, should you or shouldn’t you ride during pregnancy? Let’s look at different scenarios and find out.
Riding for the First Time? Don’t Even Think About It
First, let’s get this straight. According to Elsevier’s research, new equestrians are at a higher risk of falling, and, to make things worse, females, out of all, are at an even higher risk of falling.
While no data suggests that experienced riders aren’t at a risk of falling, newbies are more likely to find themselves on the ground more often than not. Since that’s just how it works, you aren’t going to try horse riding for the first time once you’re pregnant – regardless of the trimester.
Moreover, falling is not the only risk of horseback riding. Grooming or petting a horse you’re not familiar with or even going near one can get you kicked. And by the way, that’s true for both new and experienced equestrians.
However, as an experienced pregnant horsewoman, you can take precautions to ensure your safety.
Cautions for Experienced Horsewomen
From the first trimester to the third, you gradually transition from safe to unsafe. This is due to the physiological changes, of course. Let’s have a closer look at how this transition takes place step-by-step.
First Trimester (Week 1 – 12)
Horseback riding while pregnant for the first trimester is usually safe as the fetus is secured in your bony pelvic girdle. The first trimester is essential for your baby’s primary organs and bone development, and injuries occurred here can be fatal. Still, you can take extra steps to ensure you’re safer.
Don’t Forget Your Protective Gear
Equip yourself with your helmet, stirrups, boots (or shin guards), and protective body vests. This will prevent you from getting hurt and thus keeping you away from prescription drugs that affect pregnancy (i.e., anesthesia).
Take it Easy
That is to say that you must ride safely. Although novice riders are more likely to fall, the experienced ones are no less at risk due to their advanced (difficult to perform) riding techniques.
Stay Sharp Between the Ears
Riding a mare you’re familiar with sure is safer, but that doesn’t mean you can close your eyes while riding. Staying active and riding responsibly can further minimize accident risks.
Emotionally, the first trimester is the most challenging pregnancy period because of the sudden changes. Going trail riding in this period can help you cope with these changes better by reducing fatigue, depression, stress, and anxiety levels.
Second Trimester (Week 13 – 26)
By the time you’re in the second trimester, you’ve experienced significant hormonal and physical changes. The baby bump is bigger than ever, and you’ve started looking pregnant.
At this point, most pregnant equestrians have complained of feeling a little uncomfortable, mostly due to a disturbed body balance and the belly touching the pommel. However, you may choose to mount a different type of saddle and continue to ride comfortably.
It’s best to consult your doctor at this stage as some women develop more (belly) by this period. For example, if your body has released a high amount of relaxin hormone, your pelvic and hip joints would be looser. This would, in turn, make your legs wobbly, and you’ll find it hard to mount the horse and maintain your balance — thus, increasing your chances of falling.
Third Trimester (Week 27 – 42)
The question: can you ride horses if you are pregnant or not in the third trimester is pointless.
The baby is highly exposed, and the chances of a miscarriage in case you fall are the highest. Your body control and balance deteriorates by a lot, and the delivery is around the corner.
Although you should regularly arrange close check-ups for conditions like placental abruption from the beginning of your pregnant horseback riding activity, it’s most likely to occur in the third trimester.
So, ensure as much rest as possible, work on your diet, and if you really miss your horses, you can still visit them for grooming and petting purposes. But, keep your distance from riding during this stage for maximum protection.
How Soon Before You Can Ride a Horse After Having a Baby?
In case you gave birth with no complications, you should be able to ride a horse again in 3-6 weeks. However, if there were complications (including tears and C-sections), you may have to wait as much as 3 months or more before you can get back on a horse. If you had complications during birth, then consult your doctor on how long you should wait before riding a horse again.
Once done with the delivery, the urge to go back to horse riding might be at an all-time high, but maybe it’s best to stay put a little while longer.
The postpartum condition will stick around for a while, making you feel no less pregnant than you were moments before. Generally speaking, you’ll be weak, exhausted, and will need time to repair.
So, the question is, if not now, then when?
Your Body Will Tell You
Once you start feeling you’re not pregnant anymore, you can go back to your horses. Your hormones will start normalizing, and your swollen body parts will begin contracting, giving back you more control over your body.
But here’s the catch: this won’t happen very fast. Natural processes like these take time. Immediately trying to ride a horse (as soon as a week after delivery) is still dangerous for your health.
It Will Be Difficult at First
After this long a break, don’t expect to ride like your peak days. Pregnancy can make your legs and core weak, in turn weakening your control over the horse you’re riding.
One way to tackle and catalyze this natural process is postnatal exercise. You can begin by setting up and following an exercise routine for the first 2-3 weeks. This will help you restore a good chunk of your old glory.
When done with warming up, you’ll be ready to hit the fields!
Another thing you need to stick with when riding a horse while pregnant is to look out for physical conditions that might be hinting at potential danger to you or the baby.
These conditions are easy to mistake with other common problems, so better get in touch with your gynecologist at the earliest.
Some of these conditions are:
- Regular and severe headache
- Vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic girdle pain
- Reduced fetal movements
- Breathing difficulties
- Amniotic fluid ejection
- Pain chest
- Abdominal pain
No matter how comfortable you’ve been horseback riding during the first trimester (or any other stage of pregnancy), once you observe these problems, inform your doctor for expert consultation.
Ask Your Doctor
Having your doctor’s advice and say is the most vital part of horse riding while trying to conceive a child. Your doctor would have the best idea of how you’ve developed throughout the month/s, how your health has been keeping up, and what you should be expecting.
Keeping your doctor informed of your regular performance (inside the house and outside) can prevent you from developing any unwanted infection/problem.
You can, for example, choose to meet with your gynecologist every weekend. This would keep you both updated on fetal development and the right time to stop horse riding.
FAQs Related to Horse Riding While Pregnant
Now that you’ve got a fairly decent idea of the safety of horse riding during pregnancy, let’s talk a bit about the specifics that we might have missed out.
Is it safe to ride a horse while pregnant?
Horse riding is safer for a pregnant horsewoman, not a newbie. Though still, both are at the risk of falling and getting kicked.
But that’s not the only factor to consider. The second and more important one is your physiological state. You might be experiencing pelvic girdle pain or severe headache, and mistake it for common bodily pains. In such situations, taking your doctor on board is the best thing you can do.
Once your doctor is satisfied, only then is it safe to ride horseback during pregnancy.
How long can you ride a horse pregnant?
Gynecologists and obstetricians suggest riding no longer after the mid-second trimester (or 4½ months). This is the prime time until your baby bump starts making you uncomfortable, and your first mommy feelings start kicking in.
However, you might not develop a large enough baby bump until the end of the second trimester. But at that stage, only continue riding if, one, your OBGYN is satisfied, and two, the horse is a decent chap.
No matter how experienced, you’re still at the risk of falling. Your horse choice can help you be safe.
Can horse riding cause a miscarriage?
Riding a horse itself won’t cause a miscarriage, but being involved in horse riding accidents might. The accidents could be falling off the saddle, getting kicked by an unfriendly or unfamiliar horse, getting hit by a running horse, and so on.
Avoiding most of these accidents takes two things: being experienced and being responsible. However, the experience has a smaller role to play, your techniques of handling a galloping mare matter a lot.
And by being responsible, I mean that even if you’re experienced, try not to have all the fun you could have with your horse when you weren’t pregnant (jumping and sprinting, etc.).
What activities should be avoided during pregnancy?
As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t engage in jolty and bouncy activities, especially past your first trimester – and yes, that counts for horseback riding as well.
While healthy and supervised exercises can positively influence you and your child, going hardcore would needlessly put you (and your child) at risk. Examples of this could be weight-lifting, soccer, and basketball.
There are other activities as well, which are not necessarily jerky but expose you to danger. A few examples could be drinking alcohol, consuming drugs, and consuming unhealthy and unhygienic food.
Long story short, yes, you can go horse riding while pregnant as long as you’re not new to the game, are physically healthy, and stay cautious.
The only reason to avoid horse riding is to protect you and your baby.
Just make sure your doctor is updated along the way and that you’re well-aware of the sport itself.
Other than that, you can always wear high-quality safety helmets, shin guards, and other protective gear to minimize the chances of damage.
Horse riding and becoming a mommy are two amazing things even if done together, but staying safe is name of the game!