Friday, May 11, 2012

Back In the Saddle Post-Partum

It seems like just yesterday – and yet a lifetime ago at the same time – that I was lamenting the many months since I’d been able to ride a horse to protect my pregnancy. Back in the middle of March, T minus 6 weeks to due date, I was starting to wonder how long it would take me to recover enough after giving birth to get back in the saddle. I’ll admit that I was a little discouraged by all the commenters who relayed that it took them months before they rode again.

The final verdict for Ace and I? Exactly three weeks.

This past Monday, May 7, I climbed aboard Ace for the first time in 28 weeks and 4 days. It was exactly three weeks and 15 minutes since I had given birth to my first son, Isaac.

The night before was one of the worst Isaac and I had had yet. The baby and I were up almost all night. He wouldn’t sleep. He wouldn’t eat. His diaper was clean. He wasn’t screaming – but he was constantly fussing. My best guess is that he had gotten overtired and/or was gassy from his late night feeding. At best, I was exhausted and irritable come daylight.

So what do I do to get out of my mental slump? I decide to go try riding my horse. Finally. I figured riding is my go-to recovery/reward to get beyond any other bad day, so why not this one?

Post-Partum Recovery

I had recovered very quickly after giving birth to Isaac. He was born at 2pm on Monday and the next morning I was up and moving around the hospital room – washing up, getting dressed, and straightening up my stuff. The OB who delivered Isaac caught me in the act and was quite impressed that I was up and moving already – and wearing normal clothes.

A week after giving birth I started taking Isaac out for walks around our neighborhood. I felt pretty good, but wasn’t quite able to take normal-sized steps yet.

By two weeks post-partum I was feeling almost completely normal. At 2 week and 2 days, I made my first solo trip to the barn and brushed and longed Ace. It felt absolutely amazing to have my normal energy levels and to feel so good even just grooming him! I was pretty tired, however, after my hour at the barn. I started contemplating getting back in the saddle during that visit.  But I decided to give myself a few extra days just to make sure my episiotomy was healed enough (sorry if that’s TMI for most of you – want to do it justice for all those other pregnant and post-partum moms who are wondering when they’ll ride again). Didn’t want to jump the gun and cause myself any set-backs that would delay my recovery.

By three weeks, I was feeling ready to give it a shot. I polished my boots and pulled out my favorite purple and lime green saddle pad in honor of the occcassion.

Back in the Saddle at Three Weeks Post-Partum

I arrived at the barn and pulled Ace off grass and out of the rain. Since his back was a bit wet, my grooming time consisted of toweling him dry and picking his feet. In less than 20 minutes he was saddled up and ready to go.

Swinging up onto Ace’s back and settling into my uber-comfy saddle was a sweet, sweet feeling.

My typically lazy horse must have known it was a big day – and known that it was his mom back in the saddle. He was rarin’ to go and the slightest leg to wake up his walk would send him into a trot. We did some serpentines and circles to test his bending and suppleness and getting him listening to my seat and leg. It was like I hadn’t even stopped riding. We trotted a bit in both directions and even tried a bit of canter (in two-point!). After all his time off and getting used to another rider, he was still my horse. He was heavy on the forehand trot and canter and as a result not collecting well – but we can work on that!

Note to other post-partum riders: posting trot and two-point cantering are much more comfortable than walking!

I called it quits after about 15-minutes of riding. I wanted to make sure I still felt good once my feet hit the ground and again the next the day. Several days later, I call this first ride a success! All the parts of me involved in growing and delivering a baby still felt good after that 15-minute ride. My inner thighs were a tad sore, but that’s to be expected after posting a thoroughbred trot after such a long time out of the saddle.

Now that I know I can comfortably ride again, I plan to get in the saddle 2-3 times a week and work on building myself back up physically. Ace has been ridden consistently during my time off – but mostly walking out on trails. He’ll need some time to build up his topline again and get reconditioned for my more challenging rides. And it’s a perfect time of year to hack out occasionally as well, with the beautiful spring weather and greenery all around.

For all you fellow pregnant moms who are currently not riding – happy pregnancies, deliveries, early weeks with baby, and first rides to you! Our two-legged and our four-legged babies are more than worth all of it.

Happy riding!

Read this article here

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