The Expert: Justine Davies – Justine is a doctor, rider and journalist, who understands jugling a busy working life with caring for horses.
Riding during pregnancy is a personal choice – it probably doesn’t have any effect on a healthy pregnancy but there’s always a risk of an injury.
Whether or not to ride during pregnancy really comes down to personal choice. Many riders, including Sylvia Loch, think it’s too risky. However, in his report for the Hong Kond Jockey Club, Professor Michael Rogers – an obstetrician at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong – writes: “In a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, horse riding per se does not cause any obstetric problems unless an accident occurs.”
You can imagine the scene – you put your horse in the field and he gleefully trots over to his companion, mane flowing, tail raised. His friend asks why he’s so happy and gets the reply: “My rider is pregnant – no work for me for at least nine months.”
You, meanwhile, will probably not be so keen on giving up one of your favourite pastimes.
There are three main reasons why women are cautious about riding during pregnancy. The first reason is that horse riding is exercise and women are often confused about how much exercise to do during pregnancy. For at least 150 years, women have been advised that they should only do light, stretching exercise during their pregnancies and up until fairly recently, women were also advised to have a month of ‘laying in’ after giving birth to recuperate.
Nowadays, continuing to exercise during pregnancy is recognised as a good thing for both mother and the baby – but still, the majority of doctors are cautious and will only recomment that pregnant women walk, swin or do yoga.
Despite this, many women do quite vigorous exercise such as running and aerobics during pregnancy and doctors have found that, unless the woman has a history of early labour or miscarriage, more vigorous exercise probably doesn’t do them any harm. So, from the point of view of horse riding being an exercise, it shouldn’t cause you too much harm during pregnancy.
The second thing that concerns pregnant women is the percussive, or jurky nature, of horse riding – they worry that this and the open pelvis position that they sit in may cause miscarriage. No one has compared the rate of miscarrage in women who ride throughout their pregnancy with those who don’t ride, so it’s difficult to say whether or not horse riding can cause a miscarrage. But, if you do have a previous history of miscarrage, it’s probably better not to ride during your pregnancy.
The third and probably most important concern of women who are thinking of riding while pregnant, is the risk of injury. There’s no doubt that horse riding can cause injury and falling from a horse or being on the receiving end ofa kick may well put both you and baby at risk.
Fact – If you decide to ride while pregnant, but experience swelling of the hands, feet or face, seek medical help.
Be kind to yourself
Although riding is part of our lives, we need to recognise that our horses are usually going to be skipping with joy if we have to take some time off riding.
For a horse, being ridden is like riding a bike and once taught they don’t forget – although they may pretend to forget every now and again!
For this reason, if you do have to stop riding for a while, don’t worry – you and your horse will soon get back into it.
The most important thing is that when you do ride, you make sure you’re as fit as you can be so that both you and your horse have a great time and enjoy yourselves, whatever you’re doing.