This has been on my mind lately because it’s happening to me. Surprise!
There is a lot out there in internet land about riding while pregnant, but not much about teaching riding. Perhaps that’s because most instructors are not quite as involved in physically helping their riders as the therapeutic horseback riding instructor – such as assisting with mounting, dismounting, emergencies, and aisle management. So here are some thoughts about instructing therapeutic riding while pregnant.
Everyone Is Different
For me, the best part about being pregnant is that (after people being happy for you) everyone admits that it’s different for everyone, so the advice is few and far between (as opposed to child rearing, which everyone seems to think they have the right advice about). Anyway, everyone is different, so the changes you may need to make as an instructor may be different from someone else’s and that’s okay!
Keep Doing What You Have Been, but Don’t Take On More
All the exercise advice out there is if you did it before getting pregnant, it’s okay to keep doing it, but it’s not a good time to try anything new. I expect that carries over into riding instruction, which is a fairly physical job. Carry on, but probably don’t try anything new like jumping from 10 riders to 20.
Listen to Your Gut
If you think something is physically too much for you, or you get the gut feeling something’s wrong or unsafe, don’t do it. Some people keep mucking stalls and tacking horses their whole pregnancy. My abs feel weird so I ask for help.
Take Shorter Shifts and/or Schedule Breaks
If you deal with exhaustion or your feet are killing you at the end of the day, cut back on how long your shifts are, or make sure to have breaks throughout the day.
Start Teaching Only Independent Riders
At some point you may get too big to safely dismount and/or emergency dismount your riders (safely for your riders and your baby). At this point consider teaching only independent riders who can mount and dismount themselves. Other options include modifying how you dismount (I have seen some people dismount riders using the side of their body instead of leaning their front into them) and having a volunteer trained to mount and dismount for you. For me, I just don’t feel as comfortable dismounting so my third trimester I’m only teaching independent riders.
Have an Emergency Dismount Plan
If you don’t feel comfortable dismounting riders anymore, have a plan for emergencies, because you don’t want to have to catch an adult rider on your baby belly. Discuss with your volunteer team who will emergency dismount and review the procedures. Make sure they know they WILL be expected to do it because you can’t.
As you can’t dismount anymore, or spend as much time on your feet, another option is to supervise instructors in training!
Have a Block or Barrel to Sit On
If your feet are killing you from long walking days, have something to sit on while teaching. If you have an emergency dismount plan, it should be okay because you don’t have to be “at the ready” to catch. Make sure it’s something you can spin around on easily so you can always see all the riders, and that it’s not in the way of the lesson.
Prepare Your Students for Upcoming Changes
Plan when to transition your students to their new instructors and let them know what’s happening. For those with a hard time transitioning, try to make it happen sooner rather than later. It’s better to have a smooth transition months before your due date when they are prepared, than have a last minute surprise transition when you have the baby. This also gives the new instructor time to shadow and learn their new riders, and have you around for any questions.
Obviously. But it’s easy to take for granted our therapy horses and forget that any horse can spook or kick. I’ve heard one of the biggest dangers of being pregnant around horses is getting kicked, so be careful when you’re out in pasture with them. Another risk is falling, maybe ask someone to help you catch a horse or do it for you if it’s pouring rain and muddy.
Those are my thoughts! Do you have anything to add?
Note: This is not professional advice, this is a blog. I am not liable for what you do with or how you use this information. The activities explained in this blog may not be fit for every rider, riding instructor, or riding center depending on their current condition and resources. Use your best personal judgment!