Michael Dooley, a consultant gynaecologist and former Director of Sport Medicine and Science to the British Equestrian Team, gives his advice for riding and being around horses during pregnancy.
Am I safe to be around horses while pregnant?
You can never guarantee anything with horses but it’s fair to say that a lot of injuries occur off the horse. This can be anything from being kicked or knocked by your horse, to falling over around the yard.
The environment horses are kept in has increased dangers but this depends on individual circumstance. I’d recommend letting people around the yard know that you’re pregnant, just in case of an accident.
How long is it okay to ride while pregnant?
This question really depends on the individual. It depends on a variety of things from whether or not you’ve ridden before and what type of riding you do to whether you have any existing conditions or have had any complications associated with your pregnancy.
For example, circumstances will be very different for a rider with a reliable, slow cob that goes hacking compared to a rider entering a three-day event.
From 12 weeks onwards, the uterus can be felt in the abdomen, increasing the risk that the baby will be harmed from an abdominal injury.
As you’re pregnant, it’s also worth remembering that you’ll have an increase in joint laxity and your centre of gravity will alter, meaning you won’t be as well balanced and may have a higher risk of injury.
By 20 weeks, a lot of people struggle to get on the horse due to their size and have to stop riding anyway. If you’re in doubt, seek medical advice from your doctor and if you do decide to go riding, please make sure people are aware that you’re pregnant (regardless of what stage you’re at), just in case you fall off.
How long should I wait after having a baby before riding again?
This depends on what sort of delivery you’ve had and whether or not there were any complications.
In principle, normally it’s around six weeks, but I’d say listen to your body as it depends on the individual. You should seek medical advice if you’ve had a caesarian section before riding again.
When you do decide to get back on your horse, it’s important to take things slowly. Your body will have changed since you last rode – it’ll probably have been several months since you were last riding after all.
Ride a horse that’s stable and secure and can give you your confidence back and take things slowly.
If you’re breastfeeding, remember to stay well hydrated. Your breasts will be engorged so a sports bra is going to be important to keep you well supported.