Competing mums: 9 top tips to make it work

  • How long is your packing list for a day’s competition? Now add a baby’s paraphernalia — from nappies and toys to pushchairs, cots and playpens — and you’ll consider upgrading your lorry.

    It’s small wonder many mothers don’t have the energy to combine sport with parenthood. Each is all consuming, arguably incompatible. But some mothers do manage — how?

    9 tips for competing after having children

    1. Polo player Aurora Eastwood says that having someone dedicated to looking after the child as their sole job, so you are not distracted, is a must.

    2. Eventer Emily Gilruth puts a playpen in the lorry so when it is cold and wet, the children can play with their toys safely. “Take a rope — my husband pulls them round on their bikes. And Scarlett loves taking her hobby horse to pretend she’s galloping round the course,” she says. Emily also makes bacon butties as a treat along the way and takes a children’s singalong CD.

    3. Dressage rider Steph Croxford (pictured) says:  “Take lots of toys and gadgets, plus juice and snacks — apples last much longer than a bag of crisps.”

    4. Steph also puts her children to bed at 8pm which means that they sleep in the next day, giving her a chance to do the yard chores and ride before they wake up.

    5. Physiotherapist Ann Clare, who works with many riders recommends pelvic floor exercises initially after giving birth, while the core muscles settle, followed by early core and deportment exercises, and Pilates by six weeks (three months after a caesarean).

    6. Losing your nerve after having a child is a common problem. Performance psychologist Charlie Unwin, who works with the British equestrian teams, suggests setting small goals: “It could be useful to develop specific skills at a lower level while you regain confidence.

    7. Charlie also advises nervous riders to use breathing techniques, which directly control the nervous system and cognitive (thought) patterns.

    8. International dressage couple Gareth and Rebecca Hughes take their daughter Ruby when possible, although school can interfere with her jet-setting. If not, their nanny steps in.

    9. Rebecca’s parting advice is: “Have help, have help, have help!”

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