With a lot of common sense and a little mother's intuition riding is no riskier than driving a car while you are growing this precious being inside of you. Skeptics loudly declare, "A horse is unpredictable." To this I answer, "So is your automobile and so are the other drivers on the road."
But do you stay at home until you deliver? Of course not! You shop, you go to lunch, you run errands and you never worry because you take all needed precautions. You drive a dependable car, you wear a seatbelt and you watch the road.
So ride, but take precautions. Know your horse, ride only as long as you feel comfortable and never ride alone. If you're like me and you ride in a safe and thoughtful way, the release of mental stress will outweigh the far-fetched dangers. Happy trails!
I rode until I was seven months along and could no longer do it comfortably. Four years later, I did the same with my second pregnancy, although I was only comfortable for about five-and-a-half months as my baby was larger than average.
Every case is different! With the help of your doctor, and depending on your condition and pregnancy, riding may be a wonderful way to get your physical, mental and emotional exercise.
I stopped riding at eight months when I could no longer fit in my Western saddle--my belly was hitting the saddle horn! During that time, many people questioned my decision, even though my doctor said that while he didn't recommend taking up riding (or any new high-activity sport), continuing with one's regular activities was fine. He did suggest that I stop jumping, which I did when I really started to show because I became a bit unbalanced.
All in all, riding helped keep my weight off and my horse fit. If you're pregnant, I recommend you continue riding unless you are having a difficult pregnancy.
Imperial Beach, Calif.
I rode until around seven months, when my belly was so big it was hitting the pommel. After I stopped, I still went to the barn, but I was amazed at how hollow I felt on leaving. Just 16 days after delivering, I was back on a horse again. I was careful and I only walked, but I left the barn feeling truly filled right down to my soul.
Halfway through my second trimester, my trainer noted that my stomach was hitting the pommel. And while I was trying to rebalance, I was hitting Boo, my mare, in the mouth with the bit. That was the last time I rode while pregnant. But Boo and I spent the next four months hand-grazing in the fields and longeing in the ring. Boo kept me in shape through that pregnancy and made it seem to go so much faster.
When my daughter was 15 months old, Boo broke her leg and had to be put down. Some of my fondest memories include the time with her during my pregnancy and after: Watching her put her head in the stroller to breathe gently on my sleeping infant; sitting on the mounting block nursing my baby with Boo's reins over my arm before getting on to ride; hearing my daughter laugh as Boo nibbled Cheerios out of her stroller tray.
A month after Boo's passing, I arranged to try another horse, but right before my first ride, I found myself pregnant again. This time there was no question: I hung up my boots and stayed out of the barn for more than two years. I wouldn't take any chances with my health or my baby's.
I discovered that I was pregnant the same week that two new projects--an unbroken two- and three-year-old--arrived in our barn. I did a lot of groundwork, ground-driving and longeing, and soon after my daughter was born, the horses were ready to be ridden.
Two years later, when I was pregnant with my second daughter, I rode Bob (by then five) until I became too uncomfortable. Bob took care of me, and while my second daughter, now three, has smaller ponies that she can ride, she insists on riding big ol' Bob.
To read more thoughts from our readers, see the Rider to Rider column in the November 2008 issue of Practical Horseman. Share your own thoughts in the Practical Horseman forum.