This time 3 years ago my life was very different. I was flying high in the corporate world, had just started a new job in financial services and my life outside of work revolved around my mare April. Riding has always been my sanity, for me there was absolutely no other therapy after a long day at the office than to go straight to the yard.
I was out competing most weekends through the summer, and drag hunting with my husband every Sunday of the winter. We had just returned from a holiday of a lifetime driving cattle across the Wyoming mountains with the cowboys when suddenly everything changed!
My mare, my absolute pride and joy came in from the field cut up and lame after getting into an argument with another horse. After weeks of box rest, bute and investigations we discovered she had fractured her Pedal bone and I was left with the decision to turn her away for a year (two weeks before opening meet!) or go for surgery.
I agonised over what to do and finally made the decision to operate, the very same day I made the decision I realised my period was late (with all the stress I hadn’t even noticed) and figured I had better take a pregnancy test. I was more than a little shocked to see the positive result!
I knew I had to stick to my decision as it would give my horse the best chance of recovery and figure the rest out along the way. Not riding was not an option, taking a young, green horse hunting for the season (as I had originally planned) was definitely no longer an option either!
April thankfully had a successful surgery at Newmarket Equine Hospital and her journey to recovery began.
I did a huge amount of research into riding while pregnant and decided with my midwife’s blessing that I would continue completely as normal until 12 weeks and after that I would avoid higher risk activities such as drag hunting and jumping. The baby is very protected and low down in the pelvis in the early weeks so even if I fell, I knew the risks were low.
I was so lucky so many amazing friends lent me their horses for days out hunting, all quiet reliable types amazingly as nobody knew I was secretly growing a little bump. I even did my very first side saddle lesson on one of those amazing cobs. Once I’d hit 12 weeks April would be ready to rehab slowly and I would be able to concentrate on that.
But then we had a setback! The screw which they had inserted to her foot hit a nerve and she became very lame once again! The fracture had healed perfectly but I had no choice but to operate again to remove the screw. More weeks of box rest and finally she was ready to be brought back very slowly into work. My bump by this point was getting more prominent so on vets’ advice we used Sedalin the first few times but she was a complete star and really didn’t put a foot wrong.
During the months that passed I really felt my bond with my horse grew so much stronger, we had to take care of each other and I took the time to go right back to basics and work on our flatwork which had never been our strong point. I rode right up until the day before my daughter was born and honestly felt it helped me so much mentally and physically.
A few weeks later we were back out and about jumping and competing again and I can’t begin to describe the happiness I felt sailing over that gate!
I’ve recently just had my second baby. This time thankfully without any major horse injury dramas. Again, I continued as normal for the first 12 weeks, I even hunted side-saddle (albeit only for 1 line, in second field and avoiding any jumps) and stopped all higher risk activities after that. I didn’t ride for as long this time as towards the end I was retaining so much water I could barely get my feet into flip flops let alone riding boots!
Whether to ride or not while pregnant is a very personal decision. Everyone has an opinion about it. For me I trust my horse completely. I minimised the risk when the bump appeared and my babies moved further up into my belly. Lots of women I know continued to jump until much later in their pregnancies and for them that was the right decision. I’m happy with the decisions I made, although it would appear my daughter has inherited my love of ponies so it may well end up costing me quite a bit of money in the future!