Horse Riding When on Your Period
Being able to sit calmly and ride effectively while a volcano is erupting and burning up your insides should be acknowledged as a superpower. Can I ride on my period is something many of us have questioned in the past.
Before we get into our flow, we need to let you know that this blog on horse riding when on your period does not intend to replace medical advice. If you have any concerns about horse riding on your period, we recommend you speak to a medical professional.
Most women experience a period, around 400 in a lifetime. They also experience the monthly joys of mood swings, feeling hangry, being in pain and dealing with the extra laundry being on your period can create (this will make more sense later!). Even though it is something that happens naturally to 15 million women in the UK, it’s something we rarely speak about. For some reason in this modern world we live in, it’s still a taboo subject. Our curious spirit has taken over. We’re here to lift the lid on horse riding when on your period.
We’ll discuss whether it’s safe to ride when you’re on your period and we also talk to an expert on how female reproduction hormones affect body strength and mental clarity. Plus, we consider whether horse riding, could affect your cycle. A huge thank you must also go to members of SDU group on Facebook who helped us put this piece together. Their openness and ability to share real-life experiences is much appreciated.
Is it safe to ride my horse on my period?
Medical research shows there is no reason why you shouldn’t ride on your period. In fact, being outdoors and exercising can boost your happy hormones (dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin). Plus, if you’ve been horse riding for years your mind and body will be used to the movements. While preoccupied with the small act of menstruating, your body won’t have to think about what you’re doing too much. However, if period pains hit you with full force and you lose the ability to function, it might not be the best idea to arrange an intense training session with your instructor. Feeling floppy and a lack of motivation are all quite normal side-effects of menstruation. Opt for gentle hacks for a few days and give your body time to recover. There’s also no reason your horse can’t have a few days off while you hug a hot water bottle and dose up on painkillers.
Dr Rebecca Robinson, a Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine with a special interest in Female athlete health, reminds us that physical activity can reduce systemic inflammation around the premenstrual phase into menstruation. “For people who experience significant cramps or other symptoms, horse riding, yoga and Pilates could help.” Dr Robinson goes on to recommend riders “seek medical attention to help overcome symptoms if pains limit the exercise you’re able to do.” In addition, Dr Robinson comments that, “the question of female hormones affecting body strength is still a growing area of research. The earlier phase of the cycle (before ovulation) might be conducive to optimal perfomance, when hormonal levels are lower and carbohydrate stores can be readily mobilised for higher intensity exercise. There is a bigger lactate threshold meaning exercise can be done at a higher intensity. The body is better able to perform in heat at this time too, whereas in the second half of the cycle (after ovulation, leading up to menstruation), the threshold for exercise in heat stress can be lower, and fluid retention higher.”
Atma found horse riding helped her period pains ease, “riding during the first days of my period helped me to ease tension. I felt much more comfortable after a leisurely hack.” For Roz it’s a different story, “I don't usually ride the first couple days of mine. I'm way too sore, my head is foggy, and I am uncooperative as all heck. Rest of the week is chilled road hacking or beach riding, whichever takes my fancy!”
Can horse riding bring on my period?
There is no scientific evidence to suggest horse riding can bring on periods. Diet and exercise do affect your hormones, and hormones control your menstrual cycle. A new diet or exercise regime could cause an early period as could drastic weight gain or loss. Stress can also bring on periods. If you have a big competition coming up and your period starts early, just in time for the competition, you might find yourself thinking “cheers body!” In actual fact, it could have been the stress of the competition that brought on your early period. Stress levels affect the part of your brain that controls hormone levels. So, if you’re under stress your hormone level could go hay-wire, causing your period to come early.
It’s unlikely horse riding alone could bring on your period, preparing for a big competition, however – guilty!
Horse riding pushes the tampon further inside you – myth
Horse riders have been known to avoid rising trot for fear of pushing a tampon further inside their body, the truth is it is not possible for a tampon to get lost inside you. The only other opening is your cervix, this is too small for a tampon to pass through.
Can stallions really tell when you’re menstruating? – myth
There is no industry evidence to suggest stallions behave differently towards women on their periods.
I feel uncoordinated on my period, and can’t ride – myth
Well, it’s not a myth that you feel uncoordinated, it is normal to feel this way during your cycle. The pre-menstrual phase can give us brain fog – an altered sense of consciousness where we feel a bit out of it. The myth is that you can ride! Just because you’re on your period, your ability to control half a tonne of horse is still there. Be kind to yourself and remember it’s your hormones speaking, not your ability!
Dr Robinson confirms the science behind our disappearing mental clarity. “When oestrogen levels are higher the female brain may be best primed for mental clarity. This would occur in the second week of the cycle up to the third. In contrast, around the pre-menstrual phase, symptoms of anxiety, depression and mood change may occur due to fluctuating hormone levels. In people with low oestrogen due to relative energy deficiency syndrome (RED-S, where energy output from sports and energy needed for daily life is higher than intake), a relative reduction in cognitive focus has been reported.”
You shouldn’t horse ride on your period – myth
There is no should or shouldn’t when it comes to horse riding whilst on your period. Everyone experiences periods differently and where horse riding might help one person’s cramps, they might make another’s worse as we discovered earlier through Atma and Roz.
Does horse riding affect your period?
Dr Robinson believes balanced physical activity can help regulate your cycle.
“Very high levels of physical activity can alter the menstrual cycle for some people. If high levels of exercise outstrip someone’s energy intake, this can lead to missed periods - this is important to address because it can impact bone health negatively. For others, high activity can alter intensity of periods. But for the most part, balanced physical activity can help regulate the cycle.”
What to wear whilst horse riding on your period?
Period mishaps must be a top-three fear for most women. On the whole, we trust our chosen form of protection but there’s always the underlying worry that something will happen. “I used to wear tampon, pad and two pairs of undies for fear of leaks on competition days” reminisces Helen.
In an ideal world we would avoid tight, lightly coloured clothing for the duration of the outpouring but thanks to our chosen sport, this isn’t really an option. Where possible stick to dark colour breeches, jodhpurs or riding tights whilst horse riding on your period. Fabric with a four-way stretch will help you feel more comfortable too. A high-waisted fit will hug your abdominal area and look for legwear with breathable properties too. Our body temperature can rise by 0.2 degrees after ovulation which can make us feel hot and bothered. Check out some of our riding legwear if you’re on a quest to find out how to be more comfortable whilst riding your horse on your period.
Can you wear a tampon whilst horse riding?
You can wear a tampon whilst horse riding. Get to know your flow and figure out what size tampon is best for you. Look for 100% organic tampons to avoid using tampons that are made with several types of chemicals. Ohne produce 100% organic tampons that will keep you feeling healthy and fresh down there. If you do opt for tampons, Raenor, having learnt the hard way, has a top tip, “A Dr once told me to tuck the tampon string inside so it didn’t scrub on the outside when riding - worked a treat!”
Don’t have a mare - make sure you change your tampons regularly to prevent infection and toxic shock syndrome.
Pad, tampon or menstrual cup whilst horse riding?
This really is down to personal preference and your flow. Some people don’t like the feel of a tampon whereas others find pads clumpy and irritable. Kate used to double-up, “I've always struggled with heavy periods, riding with super-size tampons and big pads is not the most comfortable, but the saving grace was a good workout in the school did seem to help with the cramps.”
And watch out for the escapee pad as Gillian explains. “My cousin was out riding while on her period. Cars kept tooting at her as they came up behind to overtake and then waved at her as they passed. She happily waved back with a big smile. When she got back to the yard and got off, she found her pad had worked up between her butt cheeks and was waving about out of her waistband. Luckily, she thought it was hilarious!”
A menstrual cup is a good option, and environmentally friendly but does bring an extra level of worry especially when you’re bobbling around on horseback all day as Petra experienced. “I use a cup. Best idea ever. No leaks or chaffing. But did have a ‘surprise’ on a long, bareback trail ride once. Let’s just say it was the first time in years that my bareback pad got washed at 60 degrees. I was proud of my mare though; she took it like a champ and didn’t miss a step all the way home!”
Underwear for horse riding on your period
It can be hard to know what underwear is best for horse riding on your period. These riders share their underwear experiences…
“Wearing period pants changed the game for me,” says Julia. “No more worries about shifting pads! Buy in beige and throw some white women boxers over to reduce chance of seeing dark under white breeches. I seem to have all my competitions on period days because, well that’s what our bodies like doing to us!” Catherine agrees, “Modibodi, Ohne or Knix menstrual pants are, officially the best thing since sliced bread. Once I was at a local show and had a mishap in white jodhpurs. You can picture the scene, although I wouldn’t. No extra tampons with me and had already leaked through so no show jumping for us that day or anything else in fact.”
Alison had a similar experience. “I was competing at a local show in beige beeches when my period started a few days early. I had no sanitary products with me, so I went to the St John's First Aid tent. They gave me a sling and suggested I folded it to make it fit. The medics in the tent were men, obviously!”
So top tip ladies, always have a spare tampon, pad or menstrual cup to hand and it might be a good idea to invest in period pants for show days. It seems our bodies like springing surprises on us.
You might also like: What are the best riding breeches for spring and summer?
Does being on your period affect your horse?
According to Clair, her horse can sense when she’s on her period. “My pony knows the day before, and she becomes really tense and pushes my buttons. I've learnt now, so when she starts, I give up and give us both a break. As soon as I come on, she's a unicorn again!” Issy’s gelding also has a sensitive nose, “he always knows what time of the month it is for any female that goes near him!”
Here are some tips for horse riding on your period.
- Know your flow and know how long you’ll be in the saddle for to help you determine what level of protection you need
- Always have spare period products with you
- Invest in period pants for comfortable competitions
- If it’s going to happen it’s going to happen. Don’t let the worry of white jodhpurs and leakage ruin your competition
- Know your body – if horse riding helps ease your cramps and improves your mood, draw down your stirrups and hit the saddle. If it doesn’t, have a few days on the ground and don’t give yourself a hard time about it - If the proverbial hits the fan, laugh about it with your mates. The likelihood is they will have had a mishap at some point too.
So next time you’re in the saddle and a volcano is erupting and burning your insides remember you’re not alone. We hope the real-life experiences and expert insight from Dr Robinson will help you plan your riding schedule around your period. If you are still questioning, can I ride on my period, and have some concerns, we encourage you to seek medical advice. Here’s to embracing your superpower and using it your advantage.
PS, note to self, always pack a spare sanitary product…
About Dr Rebecca Robinson:
Rebecca is a Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine with a special interest in Female athlete health and oncology.
Rebecca graduated from Newcastle University, and went on to train in both Hospital medicine and Sport and Exercise Medicine. Rebecca has also completed research on the impact of physical activity on chronic illness, working in clinical research in Oncology to address barriers and opportunities to integrate exercise prescription into medical care. Her current clinical work covers musculoskeletal medicine, sport and exercise medicine for elite athletes and also event medicine. Most recently Rebecca is running our ‘Long COVID’ clinic helping patients get back to exercise safely.