Just like no one really volunteers information about the crazy things that happen in a labor and delivery room, no one gave me the heads up on what it was really going to be like getting back in the saddle after having a baby. Two years, two pregnancies, and two deliveries later, I’m still learning the impact motherhood has on my riding life.
I’m sure managing a horse life with babies looks different for the professional and super serious amateur competitor. (You know, the ones who were still showing half-way through pregnancy, riding at eight months pregnant, and have a schedule and childcare that allows for plenty of barn time). But I would guess that the majority of horse-loving women are a little more like me: the casual rider fitting a horse into an already too-full lifestyle of husband, kids, work, home, and ministry.
Here are some of my confessions and lessons learned about what it’s really been like getting back in the saddle after having two babies.
Confession 1: Ouch!
My post-baby body doesn’t react to getting back in the saddle as easily as in my younger, leaner, fitter, less physically traumatized years. Duh. What I didn’t expect, though, was how much harder it was going to be after the second baby. I was back riding three weeks after I delivered my oldest, and despite the expected lack of fitness did pretty well.
However, six weeks after welcoming my second baby and three weeks after just one short ride, I’m still in pain (and going to the chiropractor three times a week). I developed faciitis in my hip (a chronic tightness of the muscle) that, in addition to pain, compresses my sciatic nerve and shoots pain and tingling all the way to my foot. Lovely.
I’m healthy and pretty fit, but two pregnancies in two years made me quite prone to injury and pain when I got back in the saddle – even when I take it easy. Ouch!
Confession 2: No Trot Warm Up
Please don’t tell the warm up police, but when I finally got to ride for the first time in six months, I didn’t do a trot warm up. Lets just say that when you are riding three weeks after a vaginal delivery, a hunter/jumper background and well-honed two-point come in really handy. Ace and I walked and cantered. I quickly ditched any attempts at trotting, posting or otherwise.
Confession 3: The Value of a Sports Bra
I’m not particularly well-endowed, so sitting trot has never been uncomfortable no matter how well supported I was. Until I had a baby. And nursed that baby for a year. I very quickly learned the importance of wearing good support. I’m sure many of you already knew that – but lesson learned for this small-chested rider.
Confession 4: The 2.5 Hour Time Limit
With a nursing baby at home, I’m on the clock when I head to the barn. I pretty much have 2.5 hours from the time I walk out the door until the time I need to walk back through it. That includes driving, grooming, tacking, riding, talking, and getting distracted. A hungry baby isn’t as understanding as my husband if my “I’ll be home at 4″ is more like 4:30 or 5:00. (My hubby knows perfectly well that I never get home from the barn when I say I’m going to).
Confession 5: My Tack is Dirty
It kills me, oh it kills me. But I don’t have time to wipe down my tack every time I ride. Ok, let’s be honest. These days I’m happy if I get to clean it a few times a year. This morning, I even forgot to rinse off Ace’s bit. Refer to Confession #4.
Confession 6: I Question “Is It Worth It?”
Every day I wonder if it’s really worth having a horse that I only see a few times a month, ride even less, can barely afford, and that puts my out-of-shape post pregnancy body in constant pain.
The answer is yes. Yes, it absolutely is. Despite the time restraints, fitness issues, and financial strain that horse is my happy place. Even if I only make it out once every few weeks to be reminded of that.
Can you riding mothers relate to any of these confessions? Do you have confessions of your own to add to this list?
For more like this, see Confessions of a Working Mother, Wife, and Horse Woman written after I had my first child.