In the USA alone, around 30 million people go horseback riding every year, making it one of the most popular pastimes out there.
Understandably, the question as to whether you can (or indeed should) ride a horse during pregnancy is not a simple one to answer.
This is because it comes down to several considerations, including your experience, how far along you are, the intensity of the riding and what you are most comfortable with.
One thing all moms-to-be should be aware of is that riding a horse carries the risk of falling, which could put mom and baby at risk, and this applies to everyone irrespective of how experienced you are.
Let’s investigate the subject in more detail to help you make the best decision for you and your baby.
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Benefits Of Horse Riding While Pregnant
Riding a horse while pregnant does come with risks and should only be done with caution, which we’ll cover in more detail below.
The benefits of horse riding during pregnancy should not therefore be taken as a recommendation to go ahead, but rather to help you make the most informed decision.
If you are thinking of riding while expecting, here are some of the purported benefits:
- Helps strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, which support your growing baby during pregnancy.
- Can help you maintain a sense of normality and routine.
- May help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.
- Helps maintain or improve your stamina, which you’ll likely need during labor.
Can You Ride A Horse While Pregnant?
According to experts including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should avoid activities that put you at increased risk of injury, such as skiing and ziplining.
To provide even further clarity, The ACOG go further by specifically naming horseback riding as an activity that pregnant women should avoid while expecting.
This recommendation is given mainly because of the risks and consequences that come from falling off or being kicked by a horse.
The biggest risk that comes with horse riding – and this applies to everyone to some degree – is the risk of being thrown off your horse.
Typically, a minor fall during early pregnancy is nothing to worry about, because your body is designed to protect your developing baby during pregnancy – although this fails to take into account that a fall while horse riding could be worse because of the elevation involved.
Given the height that riders are off the ground, the potential to be crushed by their horse, and the speed and velocity at which you might be thrown off, a fall has the potential to be very serious, and can result in anything from broken bones or worse, to bruises, sprains and strains.
Keep in mind that even if your fetus is physically unaffected by the fall, an injury that requires you to undergo a general anaesthetic could potentially increase your chances of having a miscarriage.
In your second or third trimester, a fall could be even more harmful to both you and your baby, which is yet another reason why most people believe the risks of horse riding during pregnancy are simply not worth taking at any stage of your pregnancy.
Are There Any Exceptions?
As with many pregnancy-related questions, it’s hard to provide a one-size fits all answer, because several factors often come into play including your individual circumstances.
For this reason, a good place to start is by talking to your doctor or midwife so they can give your some guidance that is best suited to your individual circumstances.
There is clearly a different risk level between a beginner or novice horse rider compared to a highly experienced rider or professional, so your level of skill is an important consideration in determining how risky horse riding is for you.
Unlike other sports, the risk of injury is highest for the most inexperienced riders, so if you’ve never ridden a horse before, it’s definitely not wise to start doing so during pregnancy.
Another thing worth thinking about is the intensity of the activity – a gentle ride on the beach is very different to a rodeo or even show jumping.
Finally, some horses are easier to ride than others, so if you know a horse and its temperament, your risk of falling will likely be lower than if you’re riding a horse that is unknown to you or has a reputation for being a little “hot”.
How Long Can You Ride Horses While Pregnant?
As we saw above, the typical advice from experts is that horseback riding should be avoided during pregnancy.
This is certainly the case if you are an inexperienced rider, or even if you have a moderate level of skill and experience.
However, if you are an expert rider than you may wish to consider riding while pregnant, although it’s best to check with your medical provider first, and to only go head if you fully understand all the risks and consequences that are involved.
Typically those women that do decide to ride during pregnancy limit their activity to early pregnancy – i.e. during the first trimester only, because that is when the fetus is most protected.
After around 12 weeks the fetus moves up into a position that is less protected by the bones of your pelvis, meaning that there’s not as much in place to protect your baby should you get thrown off or are kicked by your horse, which is why even if you are highly experienced, it’s still not a good idea to ride in your second or third trimester.
- For most moms-to-be horse riding is NOT recommended because of the risks of falling, so anyone other than an expert rider should not consider riding during pregnancy.
- The risk of falling is reduced – but never eliminated – by the rider’s experience and skill level, which is why some women feel comfortable enough to continue riding during pregnancy.
- Even among experienced riders, it’s best not to continue riding beyond your first trimester, because after this time your baby is less protected from potential trauma that could result from a fall or being kicked by your horse.
- If you are considering horseback riding while pregnant, it’s best to speak with your doctor before going ahead.