5 Tips for Managing Barn Work With a Pregnant Belly

Feb 08, 2012 7 Comments by

All right my boy Ace, you and I need to have a little chat …

I realize that you and the boys tend to get a little rowdy when you are turned out all day together. I also realize that you may be trying some new tactics to get my attention. But seriously – you HAVE to stop getting cut up on your lower legs because in a few weeks I’m not going to be physically capable of bending over to take care of you.

A few weeks ago Ace cut the inside of his hock. It got a bit infected and was swollen and hot for a few days. I spent lots of time with cold compresses and clean water (wash stall is out of commission for winter) to reduce the swelling and encourage healing. Yesterday I discovered a lovely cut on his right front leg above his pastern. It looked like one of his play buddies had come down on it with his hoof, taking out a chunk of hair and skin and scraping down his fetlock. It wasn’t terrible, but it was a little sore and swollen. So I did my cold compresses, cleaned it out, treated it, and wrapped it overnight to reduce the swelling. (PS Glenn and Jennifer – Well-Horse really is amazing stuff!)

At 28 weeks pregnant with my first, I’m fortunately not overly large in the belly yet (but I’m getting there fast!). I do, however, find myself modifying how I have to perform basic tasks around the barn – from treating leg wounds (or just cleaning off the excessive mud thanks to this non-winter) to filling the grain bin to getting brushes out of the grooming box.

With slight issues with balance starting to kick in, a lower back that gets sore fast if I bend over, and a bulging belly that gets in the way, I’m quickly finding new ways of doing things when I’m at the barn. Fortunately, with a few modifications (and a special helper) I haven’t had to give up my feed nights yet that help reduce my board costs.

Here are 5 basic modifications I’ve discovered that keep me active around the barn well into my pregnancy.

My Top 5 Tips for Modifying Barn Work While Pregnant

5. Carry stuff (yeah, I mean hay bales) low or to the side and use your hip if needed.

I found out real fast that I apparently have a habit of lifting with my arms and bracing hay bales against my stomach when I carry them. I never noticed I did it until a little bit of a baby bump made it super uncomfortable when I would lift a hay bale, and push it into the wheelbarrow with my belly. My modification? I carry the hay bale low against my thighs, lift with my arms, and use the side of my hip if I need to push it around. Large stacks of grain buckets are a little more awkward, but still manageable off to the side instead of the front of my upper body where I used to brace them.

4. Rest your horse’s hoof on your knee for hoof picking.

It’s amazing (read:pathetic) how out of breath I get these days just cleaning Ace’s feet. And with the amount of mud we’ve had, it’s an essential and sometimes lengthy process. Bending over is about the most uncomfortable thing in the whole world right now, which literally made hoof picking a royal pain. Modification? Partially squat keeping my back straight to ask Ace to lift his hoof, then stand part way up and have him rest his hoof on my knee for cleaning. Both are significantly easier on the back and the belly.

3. Use those arms to avoid twisting.

Any kind of movement where I twist in my core is uncomfortable and is sure to leave my poor stretched out abdominal muscles quite sore after I head home from the barn. It is also rough on the lower back. Pay attention to how you clean stalls or sweep out the barn aisle, and you’ll discover real fast that there’s a lot of twisting. The modification is using lots of arms, keeping your core straight, and moving your feet more often to get facing in the right direction. It feels awkward at first, but is much better than the alternative.

2. Always squat, never bend.

Mixing up grain buckets and bending over to scoop supplements, bending to the grooming box for brushes, bending to clean hoofs (and treat wounds), bending for flakes of hay – sense a trend? All that bending makes for a very sore lower back (and is just plain uncomfortable when your baby belly gets in the way). The modification? Always squat, never bend. It felt weird at first, but now I don’t have to think about it. And bonus? Squats are supposed to be a good pregnancy exercise in preparation for delivery.

1. Recruit a helper, preferably a pre-teen girl.

The very best trick for staying active in the barn late into pregnancy – making friends with a 12-year-old girl who is willing to do the heavy lifting and handle the misbehaved horses. Shout-out to mine – Hannah – who has been coming with me to the barn on feeds nights for nearly two years. We play with our horses together and then she helps me bring in and does most of the heavy lifting (read hay bales and grain bags) on our feed nights. She gets a ride weekly ride to the barn when her parents are tied up, the occasional English lesson on Ace, and valuable experience caring for the horses. It’s a win-win for both of us!

What other tips do you have for modifying your activity around the barn to accommodate for pregnancy? Comment below to share your best tips.

Babies & Horses, Featured

7 Responses to “5 Tips for Managing Barn Work With a Pregnant Belly”

  1. DS says:

    I totally agree. I’m at 30 weeks now and have found all the same modification techniques to be true. Definitely the best technique I’ve developed is to accept help from others. Usually I’m a do it myself-er, but I’ve found that with a baby belly it is so much easier to set up jumps and give legs-up when I have a younger late-teen early twenties helper do it instead! I’ve even found that they do a great job of catching, tacking up, and leading my horse for me. This is what it must be like to have a groom!

    Adventures In Colt Starting

  2. Jackie says:

    So true DS! I’m fortunate to have some great people at my barn who don’t even offer to help – they just take the time and do it. Nights that Hannah isn’t around, it’s common for me to walk in and find that someone brought hay in and stacked it for me, or filled up the grain bins. It was hard to get used to accepting help, but the further along I get the more I enjoy playing my “pregnancy card” in general and letting people take care of me.

  3. KC says:

    All great tips! I have to say, I’ve been searching for other horsey kindred spirits who are going through this for the first time. I’m 18 weeks now with our first, and we own and run a small boarding and lesson facility – which means all of the work is on mostly me. My hubby has stepped up when he’s home and has been a big help, and I have a few tweens who will be picking up the slack when I’m about to pop and after we bring baby home.

    It’s so hard to relinquish control, but I’m already looking forward to getting back in the saddle! I’m still riding now, although carefully – how about you?

  4. Jackie says:

    KC – nope, not riding any more. I grounded myself when I hit 12 weeks. I just wasn’t comfortable with the risk of falling. I’m a good rider and I come off very very rarely, but you never know what can happen and I didn’t want to take the chance. I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I fell off as the baby grew bigger and would be more at risk. My TB is incredibly laid-back most of the time, but every once in a while can have a pretty serious spook if something really sets him off.

  5. Kate Pilcher says:

    I’m also 28 weeks pregnant and stopped riding after 12 weeks because I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to me or the baby while riding. Even though I have well-schooled horses, they are still unpredictable. Sometimes my yearning to ride is overwhelming and there was a time when I couldn’t be around my horses because I missed riding them so much. Some nights I dream of riding and I wake up with a chesire cat grin on my face. Not long now and I’ll be back riding.

  6. Jackie says:

    Kate – I about died when I read your comment about dreaming about riding and waking up with a cheshire cat grin. I’ve done the exact thing on multiple occasions! If I can’t ride in real life, at least I’m having good dreams about riding my horse. I always wake up in a good mood when I’ve gone dream riding.

  7. Recoleta says:

    Hi, my wife stopped riding after 1 week we know she pregnant, I know maybe this is too much, but well, this is only for nine month, then we will enjoy again riding with our new baby.

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