Forget What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This is the only pregnancy guide riders will need...
1. You will need to get off to pee approximately every 10sec. This reduces to around 7sec if you have a horse that is a) over 17hh and b) won’t stand still to be mounted.
2. After “Congratulations”, the second thing people will say after you have announced your pregnancy is, “But isn’t it dangerous to ride?” To which the correct answer is, “No, it’s perfectly safe — it’s falling off that’s the dangerous bit”. This will be particularly reassuring for mothers-in-law.
3. What’s that? “But it’s only a pregnancy, I’m going to be like Mary King and keep riding until the day before I give birth! She won a European gold medal at five months. How hard can it be?!” I hear you say. Sadly, unless you are either a) Mary King or b) some sort of X-Men mutant — Lady Abdominals? — your core strength will disappear around 12-14 weeks. Flatwork will render you a jelly in the saddle. Just go with it and go hacking instead. Unless you fancy entering a fancy dress class — as a blancmange.
4. If you are Mary King and manage to look tidy in the saddle until 39 weeks, on no account attempt a dressage test. You will forget it. You will also forget the following: putting your hat/boots/saddle in the car before you go to the yard, the location of your yard, the route you have taken hacking twice a week for the past five years, your horse’s name, your partner’s name, your own name. Give up and go hacking. But take a map, or a GPS. Just don’t forget how to use it.
5. Breeches do not come in maternity sizes. Apparently Robinsons used to do a pair with a stretchy waistband and these now change hands for thousands of pounds on eBay. A belly band will extend the life of your jodhs, as will buying a pair two sizes bigger than you wore pre-pregnancy. After that, it’s trackies. You might get a dispensation from the field-master to hunt in grey jeggings. Or you could accept defeat and go hacking.
6. Horses are incredibly intuitive animals, right? So your horse will nuzzle your bump tenderly, nod sagely and look after Mum from now on, no? Truth is, it’s more likely that the lack of fast work will render him a riotous hooligan, with spins, squeals and running backwards enlivening the quiet hacks you have become reduced to.
7. There is never a good time to have a baby. Get knocked up in the summer and you will spend the entire hunting season on the bench. Got a bit merry on New Year’s Eve? I hate to break it to you, but summer shows are likely to be out — unless you fancy entering a fancy dress competition. As a blancmange.
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8. So you’re having a girl. Hurrah! Time to get scanning the classified ads — those lead rein ponies are like gold dust and don’t come up very often. A boy? Don’t despair. He may resist your efforts to dress him in a tiny hacking jacket and dismiss riding as for girls — but you’ll be able to leave him watching rugby with dad while you disappear to the yard for a guilt-free weekend.
9. The birth. Mary King was riding again two weeks after giving birth to Emily — by Caesarian section. On no account attempt this. Unless you are Mary King.
Don’t miss our feature in this week’s magazine (9 February 2017) about how to cope as a rider when you’re pregnant
(Horse & Hound recommends pregnant riders speak to a healthcare professional for advice on whether to continue to ride during pregnancy and what safety equipment is most appropriate for their needs)