Friday, April 1, 2016

Bump Riding

So after finding out I was pregnant, I thought "What's riding going to be like?" and "Do I even keep riding??"

Which of course led to me scouring the internet for forums and blogs where riders spoke about how long they rode, the dangers of riding, what type of riding they continued and what docs thought of riding.

Of course, what's out there can scare the crap out of you. Or in my case, make you feel a little like you're 99% crazy and everyone thinks it.

Take Zara Phillips, who did Polo and Dressage while pregnant. While I've been in the polo circuit enough to know that it's probably outside my own pregnant comfort zone, if I had a local club I was involved in, I might still do some slow pitch and enjoy it.

Dressage? Seriously? When blogs like: THIS ONE exclaim that Zara was endangering her child, I balked a little.

Add in these stating that after 12 weeks placenta abruption is quite likely, or these that claim most doctors just don't support it.

It starts to be a bit of a struggle, when the internet world is telling you not to ride, especially not after 12 weeks. I'm not saying to continuing to ride is for everyone. And I agree, knowing your horse is a huge proponent of continuing to ride. But do we really need to start telling woman they're endangering their child because they keep riding??

I can honestly say I've thus far taken more painful spills navigating our staircase then I have on horseback. Heck, at 16 weeks I was in a car crash that resulted in $5k in damages and am still waiting to find out if my car is written off.

Do you know what the responding paramedics did when I said I was pregnant (and NO, I didn't call them. The other driver was a bit dramatic, and YES, I told the paramedic I felt fine). The paramedic said "Well you should be fine, but if there's any bleeding, don't hesitate to come in."

Because that's what that is. That's exactly how my OBGYN feels too. Pregnancy isn't a disability. If you've been healthy and not had any issues (which I haven't), no reason to turn your world upside down and spend 9 months on a couch.

Heck, my physician even gave the thumbs up to me travelling and flying out of the country at 26 weeks and 29 weeks.

Where I'm going with all of this, is that I really think riding while pregnant is a personal decision, and it doesn't necessarily come with the multitude of guilt people like to add onto it. Especially if those people aren't horse people.

For me, it's the furthest thing from endangering my child. Smoking? No. Drinking? No. I'm avoiding sandwich meats, rare steaks, taking my vitamins and not eating pre-packaged salad. But not riding? No happening.

It's more then just some need to "prove myself" as many people claim on the blog and forum world. I'm not still getting on my horse so people won't think I'm incapacitated because I'm pregnant.

Moon is some piece of my soul. And it goes beyond just his being. It's insanely hard to describe if you've never had the joy of a heart horse, but he's an extension of my being. We somehow almost "feel" what the other needs, and how we move together is more instinct then thought.

Moon and I last summer...we're far from perfect, but perfect together <3

Yesterday I mounted up and the weather was miserable. Strong north winds, crisp air, everything was creaking. We rode away from H and S2 who were gonna condition ride and go in the opposite direction, so I set Moon off at a trot. We trotted a good 1/2 mile before I got him to walk again, and we started doing leg yields down the road. He had a couple of spooks because of the wind, but he's Moon. They're like "stop and stand in place" type spooks, not anything the least bit scary.

We trotted some more, and then let me tell you, I've never experienced this before, but LO (little one) can apparently use my bladder like a spring-board during posting trot...and despite what I was certain was an empty bladder, I spent a good 1/4 mile feeling like my bladder was being pounded and wondering if there were any thick brush around for a quick...lady's break. Not sure how I'd do that discretely while holding an 1100 pound animal, but I was feeling desperate.

Thankfully it was 100% LO-on-bladder related, and when we went back to walking I felt better. I have to tell you, my legs are both in fine shape, and out of shape. I've put on around 15 pounds already, and that's actually a fair bit of extra weight to carry in a fairly short period of time. I can feel my legs start to swing after awhile, and I can feel the muscles being worked. Thankfully no pelvic pain this ride, which is a blessing.

That said, I read an awesome article by a Biomechanics researcher, that said it's not Kegels as the key to a strong core. I've been told over and over "Do kegels" and somehow that'll make all the postpartum stuff easier. Interestingly, what the article spoke about, is that strong muscles are like trampolines, elastic and taught, but not tight nor loose. Overworking and holding a single muscle area, makes that muscle stretch. Which means you have to keep holding it tighter and tighter and tighter to perform, to the point where it's constantly tight, and thereby weakens. A trampoline isn't over tightened, because it would stretch the fabric and thereby make it weaker.

Apparently instead, what we should add into the equation, is strengthening our glutes, but also to learn to relax our muscles. It spoke as though our glutes are the springs to the trampoline fabric; they create the right amount of counter tension to keep everything nicely in place. So if we work both the kegels and the glutes, we're making the whole system strong equally. AND, if we also learn to relax muscles, we're able to not overstretch them in our strengthening.

The whole thing really hit home to me. And made me DETERMINED to focus on an exercise routine that was balanced. I've read so many amazing articles that talk about the power of squatting, and even more, how horseback riding builds those muscles.

So here I am, working key muscle areas while I'm riding. That's a win. But it's more then that. Horseback riding is one of my favourite fitness activities; I don't run, I don't like biking, I'm a terrible swimmer because I hate water...

But riding gets me moving. And moving makes me feel less puffy and inflated. After a ride, even though I got on feeling like a balloon about to burst, I feel "normal". Non-pregnant even. Another huge win!

Next week is my 20-week OBGYN appointment, and I'm excited for it. My doctor has been 100% supportive of my horseback riding, just telling me that it's probably wise to avoid jumping or highly competitive environments (where one would be inclined to shove and rough-house). But every time I go in, I feel like I've reach another milestone, and I don't want to give up on riding anytime soon. Getting on Moon next week, I'll know that I made it 1/2 way through my pregnancy still riding.

And never mind still riding. While that posting trot might have been bladder-ly difficult, and sitting trot is off the books, I still managed a BEAUTIFUL canter through an open field with my boy yesterday. Clocked in at 16mph to boot. Not just because I'm able to open him up and feel his feet pound the earth (something we both need), but because somehow in the last couple of years together (I'm pretty sure it happened during our monster riding session in Spruce Woods last fall), but he now has speeds WITHIN his gaits. Which means I can collect up that beautiful stretched out canter, into this stunning uphill collected one. He moves almost on the spot, in this rhythmic rocking horse gait. Something I only ever dreamed of getting out of my stiff necked giraffe for years.

We covered 3.6 miles in 55 minutes :) Not bad for a pregnant woman ;)

Floating across a field, 4.5 months pregnant, and the world just melting away?? That is bliss. That's the thing that carries you through the next 4.5 months, and that's the peace and serenity you channel in that L&D room.

If horseback riding teaches us anything, it's that tension is bad, be soft, be fluid, breathe. Don't hold too tight to the reins.

Maybe LO will be born on horseback...

Me and Moonpie @ 16 weeks


  1. Your horses are your life!! No judgement here for riding while you are pregnant. Famous New Zealand rider Katie Laurie (formally known as Katie McLean) was competeing at horse of the year show in the Olympic Cup when she was 22 weeks pregnant.

  2. I ended up riding until month 6? Or early in 7. Either way, I knew what I was doing and what as right for us. I'm sure you feel the same.

  3. My mom rode through her second trimester and into her third when she was pregnant with me. Nothing crazy, but she stayed in the saddle. The only reason she stopped was because one day she got on her horse and the horse looked over her shoulder and just plain refused to move. She says it made for a very quick and easy delivery, and I joke that it's why I turned out to be horse crazy even though my parents moved and gave up the horses shortly after I was born.