Pregnancy is an exciting time filled with many emotions. There are a lot of dos and don’ts when it comes to expecting a baby and often many adjustments to be made in everyday life. It’s common knowledge that the liquor will need to remain on the shelf during this time but an equestrian mother-to-be will likely be wondering if the saddle should too.
It is recommended by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that pregnant women avoid activities that come with a risk of falling, which includes horseback riding. Ultimately, this is a decision that should be made between the expectant mother and her doctor. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the risks versus the benefits of riding while pregnant and how the progression of pregnancy can also play a role.
Weighing the Risks Against the Benefits
The choice of whether to ride during pregnancy or not is up to the mother. Anything related to the health of the pregnancy should be discussed with the OBGYN. Those that are considered high-risk will likely have different recommendations from their doctor and/or specialists.
No one should begin their horseback riding journey while pregnant but many experienced riders that do so regularly have chosen to continue up to a certain point. There are always risks and benefits to be weighed and here’s what should be considered on this topic.
Risks Associated with Riding While Pregnant
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that any exercise activity that puts you at an increased risk of injury or could result in a fall should be avoided during pregnancy. Falling is one of the primary risks associated with riding horses, therefore they strongly advise against it.
Falling can happen at any point from mounting to riding, to dismounting and it could result in a variety of issues related to both the mother and the unborn baby. Falling from a horse is also much different than falling from your own height. Even the most docile, well-broke horses can slip, startle, or spook so it’s not a matter of how experienced the rider is or how well-behaved the horse is.
Potential Complications Resulting from Falls:
There’s always a risk of trauma when you are working with horses. They are large, powerful animals and accidents can happen. Trauma can result from a fall, a kick, bites, being trampled, or even being crushed under their weight. These types of injuries are dangerous regardless of whether you are pregnant or not.
Experienced horse owners and riders are aware of the risks associated with working with large animals. If you are pregnant, you just need to keep these risks in mind, no matter how small, and consider the harm this could cause you and your unborn child. Anyone that chooses to ride during pregnancy should take all necessary precautions to avoid trauma.
Lack of Stability Due to Ligament Laxity
Relaxin is a hormone produced by the ovaries and the placenta. Its function during pregnancy is to loosen and relax the muscles, joints, and ligaments to help your body stretch and prepare for birth. This laxity can lead to weakness and instability, which can cause issues when riding horses.
The way an individual woman’s body reacts to relaxin will vary but it’s important to keep this in mind if you plan on riding during pregnancy. Horseback riding involves muscle engagement and keeping yourself stable and in balance with your horse, and the relaxin could very well hinder that.
Benefits of Horse Riding While Pregnant
Great Physical Health Benefits
Horseback riding is incredibly beneficial to physical health for several reasons. It is considered a moderate exercise that can help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health. It also helps you maintain balance and coordination while strengthening your core and keeping your muscles toned.
All of these benefits are great to keep up with during pregnancy. Expectant mothers should remain active as long as there are no restrictions in place by the doctor. Regular exercise helps you sleep better, prevents excess weight gain, and may even reduce backaches, swelling, and constipation.
Stress Reduction and Improve Mental Wellbeing
Riding isn’t just great for the body; it is also great for the mind. It has been proven to help reduce stress levels and improve mental health. Not only are you bonding with your horse, which has its own share of emotional benefits, but you are also getting away from everyday life and enjoying nature at its finest.
Horses pick up on our energy and can bounce it right back at us. Experienced riders understand that you leave your stresses at the barn door so that you and your horse can have a positive, stress-relieving ride.
Promotes Feelings of Relaxation
Riding is a combination of exercise and stress relief. It results in the release of endorphins in the brain, which are the “feel good” chemicals in the body. This leads to feelings of contentment and relaxation, which most expectant mothers understand is something they need to soak up.
Exercise Alternatives to Horse Riding During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and looking for some safer exercise alternatives to riding while you’re pregnant, here are some great recommendations that come highly recommended by the experts:
Riding carries a risk of falling regardless of how experienced the rider and the horse is. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends avoiding any exercise that could result in an injury or a fall, so it’s generally recommended to avoid horseback riding during pregnancy.
There are risks and benefits to riding a horse while pregnant. Someone who has never ridden or hasn’t done so in a while should never start riding during pregnancy but more experienced riders that are on horseback often should speak to their doctor and get a professional recommendation if they are considering keeping up with the routine during the pregnancy.
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