Before I kick off this long overdue blog post, I would like to make it very clear that I am in no way saying that women who choose to ride during the duration of their pregnancy are wrong or that the choice makes them bad mothers. I simply want to share my own reasoning and research behind my decision with my readers and other future moms-to-be who are struggling with the decision like I did.
Before I became pregnant, I rode two to three horses a day six days a week. Riding was and is a huge part of my life. It keeps me sane, happy and healthy. I love everything about the sport, from the horsemanship and lazy hack at home days to the higher stake competition days where your adrenaline is spiking and your heart is beating a million miles a minute before you walk into the ring.
When I took a pregnancy test and those two little pink lines showed up, it was like every emotion known to man raced through my head and my heart. I was overjoyed, nervous, excited and also a little scared. Of course one of the first things I brought up to my husband was riding. Since the baby is so small and tucked behind the pelvis during the majority of the first trimester, I made the decision to continue flatting the horses until the second trimester when baby wouldn’t be as protected from an unexpected fall. And those unexpected falls – those are what scared me now that I had a baby on board.
Two of my worst adult falls within the past three years have been complete freak accidents and totally unexpected. I was riding a very safe horse that tripped and went all the way down at the canter extremely fast – too fast for me to realize what was going on and do anything about it to try and break the fall. I ended up with a severe concussion only a few weeks before my wedding. Thankfully he rolled the other way and not on top of me. The second was the same thing, I was cantering cavaletti’s, the horse tripped and went down on it’s knees and flipped over. I got the wind knocked out of me and was black and blue for weeks. Again, there was nothing that could have prevented the fall or me getting thrown into the ground like a rag doll. The horses weren’t misbehaving or being fresh, it was just a bad step and unlucky timing.
I polled my Instagram followers to see how many had fallen off within the past year – because let’s just round nine months up to twelve – it’s easier. 1,538 (70%) voted yes to falling off and 666 (30%) voted no. I then went on to ask if the fall was the result of a misbehaving horse or a random freak accident and 962 (48%) voted naughty and 1,060 (52%) voted freak accident.
Call me crazy, but I just am not willing to risk a fall off of a horse while carrying my baby. It is a matter of safety and wellbeing for my future child. I consider my current horses almost bomb proof. I would put my little cousins or my non-horsey husband on them, thats how much faith I have in their demeanors. But horses are living, breathing creatures of flight with their own instincts – something innocent to us can come across as a big threat to them. I know you’ve all been there, too – so don’t pretend like you haven’t! Even the safest, quietest horse has the ability to decide they aren’t really into whatever is going on down at the far side of the ring and quickly spin around to exit stage left.
Whenever we get on a horse we play a game of risk. We have to ask ourselves, do the pros outweigh the cons? Before I was carrying my daughter, the pros always outweighed the cons. If I fell off, I would (hopefully) get right back on. But now that I have another human life that doesn’t get a say in the risks she takes (yet) I’ve had to adjust my thinking.
“Trauma is the most common cause of nonobstetric death among pregnant women in the United States. Motor vehicle crashes, domestic violence, and falls are the most common causes of blunt trauma during pregnancy.“
“The rate of fetal mortality after maternal blunt trauma is 3.4 to 38.0 percent, mostly from placental abruption, maternal shock, and maternal death. Fetal loss can occur even when the mother has incurred no abdominal injuries. Regardless of the apparent severity of injury in blunt trauma, all pregnant women should be evaluated in a medical setting.“
Regardless of if you want to admit it or not, falling off a horse is a form of blunt trauma. I’ve had friends fall off and land on their feet only to suffer from a compound leg fracture – so yes, falling off a large, moving 1,200 pound animal does equate to the human body undergoing some form of blunt impact and trauma. A 3.4% to 38% risk of losing my child due to blunt trauma from a fall off a horse isn’t a risk I am willing to take. My unborn child deserves every chance at a healthy, happy life – so if I can eliminate any sort of risk, you better believe I will.
“The severity of the injury to the pregnant woman does not necessarily mean that the baby experiences the same levels of trauma- even a minor trauma to the mom could have extremely traumatic consequences for the fetus.“
Some women do not have a choice and riding is their livelihood. Maybe they have to continue riding to provide for their family. Perhaps others do not want to turn their horse out for nine months and deal with having to bring them back into shape once the baby comes. But I will say this: riding throughout your pregnancy does not make you a better horsewoman than those who choose to stay out of the saddle, and those that do choose to stay out of the saddle are no lesser of a horsewoman than those who continue to ride. We are all equals, doing what we feel is best for ourselves and our babies.
I still go to the barn multiple days a week to love on my boys. Seeing them makes my heart so happy and gives me that instant dopamine boost I so regularly crave. I’ve adjusted and instead of riding my horses, I am riding a stationary bike. I workout with a trainer four days a week and supplement with long walks and biking to keep myself in shape. Just because you are pregnant doesn’t mean you have to stop all forms of physical activity: in fact most doctors encourage pregnant woman to get moving for at least 30 minutes minimum a day. According to my mom friends and my doctor – staying fit and working out during pregnancy helps make for an easier labor and recovery, which I am all about because I cannot wait to get back in the saddle!
So, regardless of if you ride or not during the duration of your pregnancy, what it all comes down to is what you are most comfortable with. I know many women who successfully rode throughout their third trimester and some who boast they were in the saddle the day before they delivered. However when I search “can I ride while pregnant” no information comes up. Just a mix of stories from mothers giving advice about what they did. So I hope the information provided here helps other expectant moms-to-be make an informed and healthy decision on riding while pregnant. There is no ‘wrong’ choice – you just have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself and decide what is best for your future little one. Do the pros outweigh the cons? I am in the minority. Most women I know continued to ride, jump and show while pregnant. And I’m okay with that. All decisions related to pregnancy are personal, and as long as you’re making educated & informed decision you are comfortable with, that is what’s most important for you and your baby.