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Is It Safe To Ride A Horse While You Are Pregnant?

Whether or not you ride while pregnant is really up to you. Many obstetricians believe that if you are an experienced rider with a quiet horse and an uncomplicated pregnancy, continuing riding should not pose any problems. Even so, many riders, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists believe that the chance of falling or being thrown makes it too risky. In this article, we explore the question “Can you ride a horse while pregnant?” Read on to learn more.

How Can Riding Hurt Your Baby?

Early in your pregnancy, riding is unlikely to be risky. In the first trimester, the fetus is located in a bony structure called the pelvic girdle. This is a very protected location, so even a fall would be unlikely to cause damage.

In the second trimester the baby is carried higher up in the abdomen, so the risk of injury increases. While quiet riding is unlikely to cause harm, if you are thrown or get kicked, the baby is more likely to be injured.

At any stage of pregnancy, there are risks involved in riding an unquiet horse or in participating in strenuous riding. Jostling, twisting and sudden moves can all contribute to the risk of placental abruption. This is a very serious complication that involves the separation of the placenta from the walls of the uterus.

Is Horseback Riding While Pregnant The Same As Exercising While Pregnant?

One reason many women and doctors are confused about the safety of horseback riding while pregnant is that there is also some controversy surrounding whether or not women should exercise while pregnant. Traditionally, doctors and well-meaning friends and relations have told women to take it easy while pregnant. Advice for prenatal exercise has been limited to walking, yoga, stretching and deep breathing exercises.

Lately, this has changed, though. Today, doctors recognize that a woman who was fit and exercised regularly before pregnancy can safely continue to do so while pregnant. There are some modifications to be made, and some exercises that should be avoided, but overall you can continue doing what you are used to doing. That includes horseback riding as long as you avoid strenuous riding and are not at risk for injury.

How To Exercise When Pregnant

Although many serious female athletes continue to do aerobics, run and pursue other strenuous forms of exercise while pregnant, riders should tone it down some. Even if you normally participate in strenuous riding activities, you should not continue to pursue activities such as barrel racing, calf roping, jumping or extended, arduous trail rides. All of these involve sudden moves, twisting and/or the possibility of falls, injury, overheating and dehydration.

If you are going to continue riding while pregnant, you need a quiet horse and a calm, controlled setting. Depending on the smoothness of your horse’s gaits, you may wish to limit your riding to just walking; although, if your horse has a very soft trot and canter, and you are still comfortable, you may wish to continue to step out a bit.

In this video we see that riding a gentle horse with very smooth, quiet gaits can be safe and enjoyable even at the end of the second trimester of pregnancy.

This rider says she found riding bareback more comfortable than riding with a saddle at this stage.

Consider Riding Alternatives

If your horse has rough gaits, you may be rightly concerned about the jarring effect on your pelvis as you sit astride. This could definitely be uncomfortable, and many moms-to-be, midwives and obstetricians worry that riding astride and jostling up and down could trigger a miscarriage. Of course, if you have a history of miscarriage, you should not take any chances.

For this reason, you may wish to explore other forms of riding while pregnant. For example, Knowing how to ride sidesaddle can make riding accessible for people with arthritis, people with disabilities and women who are pregnant.

Rescue Pony Shanly Is Side-Saddle Star

However, you should not begin your sidesaddle experience when heavily pregnant. If you are planning to become pregnant, you might take it up in preparation for riding while pregnant, or begin very early in your pregnancy.

Another option for equine related activity while pregnant is driving. If your usual saddle horse is not trained to drive, a well-trained mini or donkey can provide a safe and enjoyable experience.

Donkey Driving

If you are going to change your mount or your equine activities during your pregnancy, it is best to initiate this change in advance or very early in your pregnancy. You should not ride an unfamiliar horse or begin or participate in a new equine activity while very pregnant.

Pregnant Equestrians Should Take Good Care Of Themselves

If you plan to ride while you are pregnant, start out at a good level of fitness. Ideally, you should have been participating in at least 20 minutes a day of light to moderate exercise in preparation for becoming pregnant. Keep that up! Maintaining a comfortable fitness level will make riding while pregnant easier for you. It will also make your entire pregnancy, labor and delivery much easier.

Staying active and doing the things you love while you are pregnant makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. Furthermore, by staying fit while pregnant you will have a much better chance of getting back in shape quickly after your baby is born. Be sure to get plenty of high quality rest and relaxation. Eat right, stay hydrated and call your doctor right away if you notice any sign of problems.

In the final analysis, you should be able to continue any exercise you participated in before becoming pregnant. Just be sure to make smart, sensible modifications to prevent overdoing it.

Adjust As Your Body Changes

As you advance through your pregnancy, your body will undergo many changes. One thing you should be very aware of is the fact that your joints will become very flexible due to hormonal changes.

You should also understand that your equilibrium or sense of balance will shift. You will be carrying more weight in front, and your pelvis will shift forward. This will affect your riding seat and your stability in the saddle.

Because of the natural weight gain that accompanies pregnancy, you may find all forms of exercise a bit more strenuous. Adjust to accommodate your changing stamina levels.

Also be aware that, depending on the size and strength of your horse, added weight may cause him or her a bit of consternation. Be sensitive to the ways in which your horse reacts and responds to the changes in you.

If you rode regularly before becoming pregnant, you will miss it if you quit while you are pregnant. If you are an experienced rider, used to riding regularly and you have a quiet, dependable horse, you should be able to ride safely as long as you are comfortable. Pursue your equestrian interests mindfully and follow the advice presented here to successfully continue riding while pregnant.

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Horses & Foals since 2017. Horses have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

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