Should I Horse Ride When Pregnant?

In truth, you are the only one who knows the answer to this question! This article will help you decide what is right for you when it comes to horse riding when pregnant. We’ll deliver some helpful facts, and we’ll also hear from two riders to find out what route they opted to take during pregnancy. We’ll look at the official NHS advice and give you some questions to think about that should help you reach a decision.

Horse Riding When Pregnant

Before we get into the ins and outs of horse riding when pregnant, congratulations! You’re expecting, soon you’ll be joined on your yard chores by two small feet in a four wheeled horse spooking machine. And your horse will wonder how something so small can make so much noise. You’ll long for the day you can buy your new-born their first pair of jodhpurs and enter their first showing class on a super hairy, ancient pony who’s taught hundreds of children to ride and is ready to chuck their head down to munch on grass at any given moment.

So, should you horse ride when pregnant?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reports that women who exercise during pregnancy can benefit psychologically and physically. Exercising can help to reduce tiredness and prevent fluid retention as well as improve sleep and reduce stress. They encourage women to participate in exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle in the run up to giving birth, but just where is horse riding on the exercising scale and what are the risks involved?

Horse riding when pregnant

Is Horse Riding During Pregnancy Safe?

We’ll head straight to the elephant in the room, horse riding is a dangerous sport. We all know this and we understand the risks involved. Falling off is part and parcel of horse riding and that is why it is considered a less safe sport to participate in during pregnancy. Here are some things to help you consider how safe you’ll feel in the saddle with a small passenger on board:

  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy lead to joint softness and increase hypermobility which could affect how secure you feel in the saddle.
  • In the first 12 weeks, the uterus is protected within the pelvis so direct trauma to the foetus as a result of a fall is reduced. After 12 weeks the risk increases week on week.
  • Should you fall and require a general anaesthetic (GA), it’s worth knowing that having a GA could increase the risk of miscarriage early in the pregnancy.

Horse Riding When Pregnant – NHS advice

The NHS advises that you should keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable. They also advise that exercise is not dangerous for your baby. There is some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour. They do go on to say that taking part in exercises that have a risk of falling, such as horse riding, downhill skiing, ice hockey, gymnastics and cycling, should only be done with caution. Falls carry a risk of damage to your baby.

Pregnancy and Horse Riding - things to consider

  • How well do you know the horse(s) you’re riding?
  • Do you trust them to the moon and back? Are they partial to a little spook? If their bucks scare you on a normal day, it might be worth staying grounded for now. Do you really need to ride? Sometimes an enforced rest for the horse can be good, six to nine months in a field to let their body have some time out too is no bad thing so don’t give yourself a hard time if you decide to stay out of the saddle.
  • Is it comfortable to ride? If sitting in the saddle is doing nothing for your, you know what, then that might be a sign to dismount and hand over the reins for the remainder of your pregnancy.
  • Is it right for your horse? Your position in the saddle, balance and fitness will change so consider if your horse is experienced enough to deal with all these things.
  • Could someone else ride for you? Ask family, friends or even pay someone to ride your horse if you feel they need ticking over. If you get the word out early enough, your local horse community will know someone that can help out.
  • How much does riding contributes to your mental health. Sometimes staying in the saddle is healthier for us that staying out of it.
  • You could pop out of your breeches – as bump grows your waistbands will too so it might be time to invest in some stretchy riding tights that can expand with you.

What should I wear horse riding whilst pregnant?

Made from 17 individual pieces of material which move and adapt to your unique body, Flexars are comfortable, flexible and extremely flattering. With a super-high flat waistband with no elastic, and no uncomfortable zips or buttons, Flexars stay comfortable throughout the day, and do not sag or fall down.

What to wear horse riding whilst pregnant

Horse riding when pregnant, what riders say:

Eden Markl – a mum of two with three horses

“In December 2020 I found that I was pregnant with my second child. With my first pregnancy I owned a newly broken 4-year-old, she was sharp and highly strung! After finding out that I was expecting, I decided a break would do her the world of good, it would allow her to mature and process her education so far. It was the perfect time for a break, she had been out a handful of times, she was beginning to see the world and was developing into a gorgeous mare. So I stayed out of the saddle and let her enjoy some time with Doctor Green Grass.

This time round, carrying my second child, my circumstances were different. Alongside our ponies, I owned a 16-year-old, schoolmaster type. He had just had quite a lot of veterinary treatment on his legs and was due to start his rehabilitation. My plan was to get him through this rehab then do some dressage and hacking until I felt like the time was right for me to stop.

I began his rehab and he was coming on beautifully, he was enjoying work again and we were both enjoying each other's company. Unfortunately, through my second pregnancy I struggled with Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), which caused me severe pelvic pain, something that riding was making worse! I was devastated when I had to hang up my riding boots, but I didn’t feel I had a choice in the decision, walking was painful at this point!”

Horse riding when pregnant

Olivia May Proctor – livery yard owner and grass roots eventer

“When I found out I was pregnant, I was eight weeks along, and quickly decided to take a step back from riding my horses as much, mainly because my main discipline is eventing. The risk was higher, and I based my decision solely on my own horses and their behaviour. I kept riding my older horse just hacking him out, as he’s super safe and I trusted him. I got someone to keep my ex-racehorse ticking over as he can be quite exuberant at times, and I didn’t fancy turning him away for seven months.

I run a livery yard for a living and riding is part of my job, thankfully we have a yard of super horses, so I managed to keep riding them for a while longer. I decided when I got a bit bigger to stop as I felt I wasn’t doing them any justice with less balance and loss of fitness. I was riding for my own sake and no longer having as positive effect on the horse as I’d like. I think it’s such a personal choice if you choose to ride or not as long as you feel safe!”

Horse riding when pregnant