CONGRATULATIONS! The stick turned blue. And you have a jump lesson on your young horse tomorrow and just sent in your (ridiculously expensive) entry fee for the championships next month. You feel fine. Your show clothes fit. Nothing looks different, but the universe has tilted. So what do you do? Yes, everyone knows (and will tell you all about) someone who rode until they were 41 weeks pregnant, had the baby without drugs in
the back of the horse trailer, and
won an event three weeks later.
But what’s right for one woman is
not right for all. Stances on riding
while pregnant vary even among
individual medical professionals,
but the o;cial recommendation
from the American College of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists is
pretty clear: Better safe than sorry.
Carl A. Dunn, M.D., is a chief
of obstetrics and gynocology in
Waco, Texas. He also manages
a family horse farm. “The safest
riding while you’re pregnant is no
riding,” he says. “That’s something
a lot of people don’t want to hear.
I’ve been riding my whole life, too,
and I know every time I fall o;,
I’m sure it’s the last time—until it
For those whose livelihood
depends on interacting with
horses on a daily basis, he
recommends scaling back, even
limiting activities to ground work
There’s no period during
pregnancy when riding is o;cially
“safe,” but Dunn says the risk
increases significantly after
approximately 12 weeks, when the
uterus begins to rise up out of the
pelvis and is no longer protected
by its bony cradle.
For many horsewomen,
riding is as much a lifestyle as
an activity. Dunn says there’s no
reason to avoid horses or barn
time entirely, as long as standard
safety precautions are followed.
“We sometimes get relaxed around
horses we know, and that’s when
accidents occur,” he says. “With
anything you do, there is a degree
of inherent risk. It comes down to
your tolerance for risk, knowing
that you’re carrying another life
Ladies: It’s your call. You know
your body, your health, your riding
ability and your horse better than
anyone. Talk to your doctor, and
make the best choice for you and
your baby. And if someone else
doesn’t make the same choice you
did (or think you would), it’s really
none of your business.
Things Start Getting Weird
Eventually your show clothes will
stop fitting. And, for some odd
reason, they don’t make maternity
breeches. In the later months of
Picture this: At my first OB appointment, my carefully selected
doctor isn’t available, so we see another practitioner in the office.
She’s getting my medical history and asks about previous injuries. I
say I broke my arms (yes, plural) about 12 years ago and broke my
nose three months previously.
She says: “How’d you do that?”
I say: “Riding horses.”
She says: “You aren’t still doing that, are you? Because it sounds
like you’re not good at it.”
And that’s when I got arrested. (Just kidding about that part.) But
on the list of Things Not to Say To a Hormonal Horse-Loving Woman,
this ranks near the top.
I resurrected the topic with my OB at the following appointment,
and with her blessing, continued to ride my very quiet pony, walk and
trot on the flat only, until I became uncomfortable dismounting. At
that point, an amazing support network of my friends, trainer, working
students, and some paid help came together to keep my mare in
work and progressing in her education while I was out of the saddle.
Four months after having my daughter, I was back to showing.
Now that I’m a mom, I find that I am both physically stronger and
more cautious in the saddle. (Other people depend on me to make
safe choices—a minor wrist sprain means I can’t lift my toddler into her
car seat.) I’m also much more appreciative of the time I have to ride.
These days, I no longer feel the need to force myself to ride when the
weather’s bad or push myself to move up the levels—instead, I’m making
the choice to simply accept and enjoy the time I have in the saddle and
at the barn.