Instructing While Pregnant

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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.

Supervise

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.

Be Careful

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?

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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!

10 thoughts on “Instructing While Pregnant

  1. While I am not pregnant, my volunteer is and since I am a one man show with my volunteers they do a lot to assist me. She is about six weeks from her due date now and we can’t get her to slow down. She is relatively small (still mostly wearing non-maternity items) so size hasn’t been a huge issue. I’ve been moving her to leader instead of side walker and stopping her from bending over much. I’m shocked at how much she has continued to do and ask her weekly if she is still comfortable with the activities she does. The next milestone will be after baby. She wants to continue volunteering and has mentioned baby wearing. I have zero experience so maybe someone can advise? Obviously this wouldn’t happen immediately. We are still trying to figure out if and how we could make this work.

    • I have never seen anyone carrying or wearing a baby in this situation. It seems to me that it is not a very good idea. We all know that dealing with horses in any capacity carries a high level of risk. This enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer may well be putting her infant in danger. One kick or bite, or one falling rider could be extremely harmful to her baby and to her. Not to mention that her first instinct will be to protect her own infant, which could result in injury to the rider in some situations. It’s just my vote that she should find a baby sitter to keep the baby in her home or to watch the baby at the center while she is out in the riding area. They’ll both be safer and she will be able to concentrate on her job more fully.

    • I agree with April. I imagine that the risks with baby wearing while volunteering are that the baby could get hurt if the horse spooked, or that the baby’s sudden movement or noise could spook the horse (whether in the arena or in the aisle), or the baby’s noise could interrupt the lesson. If the baby wearing doesn’t pose any of these risks (the mom is not in lessons, the aisle is not by the arena, the baby cannot be heard in the arena, the aisle chores are not in stalls with horses, etc.) then I might be open to a volunteer bringing their baby, especially if they’re such a good one. Be aware that there are baby things that might take the mom away from her work, such as diaper changes and nursing. Another idea is if you have a volunteer who loves babies they can watch the baby in a safe place while the mom volunteers. One warning is that allowing someone to bring their baby might open up the can of worms of bringing kids to volunteer – others might start asking and you’ll have to come up with a plan or age cut off date. Those are my thoughts!

  2. How wonderful and exciting for you! Your advice here is very reasonable and “doable” for expectant mamas who teach or who volunteer. Your advice is also very good for those of us with other situations such as back problems that pop up from time to time or for people with chronic problems, but who are OK’d by their physicians. Just do what you can. Don’t try to be a superhero. Put safety first: safety of the riders, the volunteers, yourself and your baby. Thanks for your wise post.

  3. In the last 6 years I have worked as a volunteer, taken riding lessons, done riding tests, gone through TR instructor certification, and taught TR lessons. I have also had three babies. 🙂 I think you are spot on with your advice. The only thing I’d add is to be mindful that others might be anxious about you working (I know my mentor and fellow volunteer nearly fainted when we got back from a lesson–I was leading the horse–and I told them I’d been having Braxton Hicks contractions the whole time. I was probably 36+ weeks with my first, so I’m sure they were having visions of delivering a baby in box stall.). With my last pregnancy I was instructing and there was definitely some “mother hen-ing” going on by our awesome board members and volunteers. Striking a good balance between CAN I do something and SHOULD I do it is key to keep everyone in a good frame of mind.

    Your advice on mounting/dismounting is important. I also did some planning ahead in training volunteers to assist more hands on with mounting/dismounting. Those baby growth spurts can catch you by surprise and one day you wake up twice as big and three times as sore! Start in the first trimester, so by the time you need help you’ll have some well trained volunteers at the ready.

    Lastly, for those who have pregnant volunteers who want to continue to volunteer after the baby comes, encourage them to view their volunteer time as a “baby break.” Maybe they need to shorten their volunteer shift to accommodate this, but mama needs some time out of the house without the little one! Coming at it from this angle might help soften the “you can’t bring your baby, it’s not safe” conversation.

  4. Whilst currently being pregnant, and a freelance instructor, here are my thoughts.

    My clients are all independent, capable riders, so I’m quite safe in the fact I don’t need to be right next to them throughout the lesson. I’m still doing up girths and helping adjust stirrups or tack if need be (I’m 22 weeks).

    I’ve often used a large mounting block in the corner of the arena to lean against, as I can see the whole arena, so now I sit on it, and the other yards that I teach at now all have various perches for me. Which does mean that I’m still comfortable when I teach.

    My biggest concern is that I’ll struggle to move jumps around soon. Thankfully, a lot of parents watch their kids and have already stepped in to get jumps out, and to help me. One of the boys I teach said to his Mum last week, “can you hold Stan (his pony) while I put the jumps away for Susy?” Which is lovely to hear an eleven year old say, regardless of my “condition”.

    I think with one client, a teenager, who has very heavy jumps at her yard, I’ll just have to ask her to hop off and give me a hand if she wants to jump. Although it won’t do her any harm to do some flatwork for a few weeks! 😂

    I guess that so long as I still feel comfortable and safe holding their horses, I can still teach, after all a bump on my stomach doesn’t affect the knowledge I can impart.

    I’ve not taken on more work since being pregnant, but from seven months I’ll only be teaching and doing a bit of lunging, so the physical side will reduce. I am booked to teach a few riding club gridwork clinics, but their location has been chosen with toilets close to the arena and lighter fences. I will also have an assistant to move the jumps, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

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