Having a baby is one of the most transformative experiences someone can go through. But for many mothers, adjusting to both the physical and emotional changes that come from their new bundle of joy can be challenging, and for equestrians who are keen to get back into the saddle, changes in their bodies and emotional states can feel even more overwhelming. If you’re a new mom who is desperate to get back to your pre-baby riding and confidence, this post is for you. We've put together our 6 top tips for returning to the saddle postpartum.
1. Embrace Available Resources
Nowadays, there are a whole lot of free resources available to help new moms navigate pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Podcasts, online videos, courses, and communities can all be accessed to help you feel less overwhelmed on your journey to getting back into the saddle.
Ride iQ has put together a 'Navigating Riding & Postpartum' series of podcasts. In this three-part series, we hear from 4* event rider Meaghan Marinovich-Burdick about the struggles she has faced since returning to the saddle after having a baby. We are so grateful to Meaghan for her honesty and vulnerability in this podcast series, and hope that her journey can make others feel less alone.
2. Reach out to a Community
As a new mother, it's important to build a supportive community around you for both practical and emotional support. This could be in the form of family, friends, or even a community on social media (the Ride iQ community is immensely supportive).
Joining a local riding club or connecting with equestrian groups online can help you find and meet fellow equestrians who understand the challenges you are facing. You can share experiences and ask for tips, as well as hearing from others who have been through the same.
3. Give Yourself Grace & Keep Expectations Reasonable
Your body can change considerably after having a baby. You may notice changes in your balance, less stability in your legs and, dare we say it, less stickability in your seat!
Keep your expectations low at first, giving yourself the time needed to adjust and reconnect with your horse. Start with light and slow rides, gradually building up your endurance and confidence. If time allows, you could work on your physical fitness off the horse so that it's not such a big step when you get back on.
If you are feeling a little nervous, take a look at the Ride iQ Sports Psychology sessions. These include pre-ride meditations and mindfulness to help you stay present and relaxed before getting back in the saddle.
4. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
While we love being inspired by riders at the top of their game, comparing yourself to riders who have 'bounced back' rapidly after having a baby can actually be counterproductive. By all means, listen to others' tips, but be mindful of making comparisons. If you find yourself comparing yourself to new mothers who have regained their confidence quickly, you may end up feeling even worse (and in all likelihood, you're comparing your journey to someone else's highlight reel).
Think of returning to riding as your own journey. Remember that for every new mother who is flying around a showjumping course shortly after giving birth, there will be a much larger number of new mothers who are taking it slower.
By being mindful of unhelpful thoughts, you can quickly reject them as they arise. If you find yourself thinking, "I'll never be as confident as I used to be," try to reframe it. Consider the evidence you have to support this claim (there likely isn't any!) and reframe it into something positive, for instance, "things are different now, but I'm going to do great!"
5. Work with a Physiotherapist
If time and budget allow, you might consider working with a physiotherapist who specializes in horse riders or new mothers. This can be especially helpful for those who are struggling to regain strength and mobility postpartum. A physiotherapist can address specific issues that you are having in your postpartum body, such as core weakness or pelvic floor instability. They can provide you with a custom exercise plan to help ensure your return to the saddle is safe.
6. Be Mindful of New-Mom Guilt
Something we often hear from new mothers is that they feel guilty taking time away from their newborn to get back into the saddle. This is completely normal, but the saying goes that you can't pour from an empty cup!
Prioritizing self-care, including making time for exercise and spending time with your horse, can boost your energy and help you to be more present during the remainder of your day. Taking some time away to just be you again is a great gift!
As a new mother, returning to horseback riding postpartum can be a real challenge. Be kind to yourself, listen to your body, and do your best to reconsider negative thoughts. With intentionality behind your community and mindset, there is no reason you can't have a positive, safe, and empowering return to the saddle. Go mama!
Let’s face it: equestrians live a high-risk lifestyle. We spend countless hours around animals ten times larger than us. Accidents can occur with even the most schooled, laid-back lesson ponies and the most experienced handlers.