How long did you ride while you were pregnant?

“Stacy, I know you have 3 boys, and I was just wondering how long you rode while you were pregnant. Did you compete, or was it more riding for pleasure?Thanks, and I look forward to hearing your response!”-Sharli

“Stacy, Just wondering what ideas you might have for a pregnant gal to keep her horse in shape for next year. I’m 5 months along now and my husband has asked that I stay safe and do not canter or trot my horse. We do mostly gaming. If you have any ideas I would appreciate it. Thank you!”-Crystal N.

I do have three sons and I received differing advice during my pregnancies from professionals. My first advice would be to follow your doctors orders. For fun I will also recap some of what I did.Stacy Westfall's son and horse

I became pregnant with my first son in the fall. I was newly married and I had a job as a bank teller. I had recently sold my only horse (with a promise to buy him back someday) and Jesse and I hadn’t started our training business yet. This made it easy for me to not ride. The temptation of riding a horse I knew wasn’t there and I wasn’t interested in experimenting with other horses. Over that winter Jesse started riding a few horses for people and I grew restless without horses to work. I cleaned stalls, brushed horses and watched Jesse ride. That spring I trained a filly for the yearling lounge line class. I have a win photo from a show shortly after my son was born…but it is buried in my storage unit in Ohio. My Doctor recommended that I wait to ride for 6-8 weeks after my son was born so I did.

When I became pregnant with my second son we were training horses and I was staying home with my first son. I rode, with permission, quite awhile into my pregnancy. I tended to lose weight for the first three months and then it took a month or two to gain back to my original weight. It didn’t seem like a big deal to ride because all of the horses were broke (no colt starting) and it didn’t seem uncomfortable…until around 5-6 months. At that point I noticed several things. First, my balance was affected. Not huge, but it was there. Second, I could feel the supporting muscles in my stomach being stressed-especially at a lope. At the time the doctor and I were both operating under the idea that ‘if I was in shape for it, it probably would be safe’. The thinking was very similar to the runner, Alysia Montano, in California who competed while 8.5 months pregnant.

Stacy Westfall's boys ridingI was due January 1st and when the Congress entries had to be mailed in August 20th I thought it was a good idea to sign up for the Ladies Reining. Keep in mind that shortly after this is when I started to notice the symptoms above. By September Jesse was riding the horse for me most of the time and I would get on occasionally. I did show at the Congress in October and my son was born December 22. I have a photo sliding and placing at the Congress while very pregnant. It is buried somewhere in my storage unit in Ohio…but maybe it should stay there, if I remember correctly it was taken after midnight and we all look worn out, lol.

The third time was a bit more interesting because of one woman I met. My third pregnancy started out like the rest and I rode. People didn’t even know I was pregnant for quite awhile and I continued riding aged horses and showing. One day I was at a small local show and a lady walked up and introduced herself to me. She told me she was a nurse and she worked with my sister-in-law. We visited for a few minutes and then she mentioned that she had heard I was pregnant. I confirmed this and then she said, “I know it isn’t any of my business but I feel the need to tell you something. I am a nurse. I specifically work with newborns. You are an expert in the horse world and I respect that. I also would guess that, as a professional, you have seen more than most when it comes to bad things that can happen.”

I nodded in agreement. She went on, “You have probably learned both from mistakes you have made…but also from mistakes you have seen other people make.” I nodded again.

“I am asking you to consider not riding. I know it feels safe because you know the horses but think of the risk. I work everyday with children who are born premature, who are injured before they are even born. I see the problems and the pain it causes their families. If they could go back and change things they would. What if your horse trips? Just a simple trip could cost your babies life.”The barn help

As you can tell, she was very convincing. I had seen a horse trip and go down in a smooth arena, on a loose rein, for no reason and the rider suffered from a dislocated shoulder. Accidents do happen and as soon as she gave me her perspective I couldn’t erase it from my mind. I went home and didn’t ride for the remainder of that pregnancy. I still cleaned stalls and spent time in the barn. I am aware that accidents can still happen on the ground or driving in a car, but I also had two small children and when I looked at them I knew I wanted to do all I could to reduce any chance of hurting the baby I was carrying.

I believe that if I had met this lady during my first pregnancy I would never have ridden during any of them.

I wouldn’t feel bad turning my horse out during my pregnancy and accepting the idea that we could both get fit together after my baby was born. I can imagine doing groundwork once the doctor has cleared you for lifting weight, etc after the baby was born and then, when cleared by the doctor, I could see my horse getting fit along with me. Horses that are turned out will stay in shape pretty well. Another option would be to lease the horse to a friend or someone you trust. The options are almost limitless when doing this-you could choose to keep the horse at your house, you could give lessons, you could allow the horse to go to someone’s barn that you trust-the list goes on and on.

Congratulations. Enjoy this time. I loved being pregnant. Keep safe and remember there will be plenty of time for riding in the future. Getting back on after some time off is a little bit like a Christmas present to yourself.



  1. […] recently wrote a blog answering the question, “How long did you ride while you were pregnant?” but I didn’t go into detail on the groundwork side. You are dealing with two separate issues […]

  2. Rachael Miller on December 3, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Stacy, I had a similar thing happen to me. I rode when I was pregnant with both my children. My first one I was competing up until about 35 weeks showing at APHA shows mainly WP, SMS, HMS, and Trail. It was at a show I realized that my balance had changed and only ended up showing in the showmanship because it felt so strange to ride when my balance went.. However, with my 2nd pregnancy I was a lot older and I realized I really needed to downsize because with 2 kids there would be less time to ride. I decided to sell a young mare I owned who was 5 at the time. This mare spent her entire life on the backburner, you know the horse, the one that gets rode when you have time. So while she had a good start she wasn’t nearly as far along as most horses I own at 5. She was good but could be pretty silly if she sat around. I was riding this mare and showing her to buyers etc. One day I want to see my OB for a check-up and she was out of the office and her assistant was there. When I mentioned I was still riding at 6+ months she said I want to tell you about a story that happened in the ER over the weekend at the local hospital. This nurse was a sub in the ER, she told about a pregnant women was out riding her tried and true trail horse out on the trail and the horse spooked and tripped at the same time. The spook wasn’t what got her off it was the trip. She ended falling off, she got rushed to the emergency room she was bleeding bad, not only did she lose her baby but she almost died she was 6 months pregnant. She asked me ‘would you be able to live with yourself if you lose this baby because you didn’t want give up riding?’ I knew the answer was ‘no’ but I kept riding because I needed to get this horse sold. Winter had set in here and I hadn’t been riding this mare when a buyer showed up and wanted to see her. I took her out and lunged her but when I got on she was still too fresh. I rode that mare that day and that afternoon I called a good friend of mind that sells a lot of horses and told her I couldn’t do it anymore that nurses story was still in the back of my head. So I consigned her out and sold her through a friend that had lots of time to ride and show the mare for me.

    I think when you have a nurse tell you that kind of story you realize that riding can really wait. I did however not wait the 4-6 weeks to start riding again. I rode at 2 weeks after delivery both times. I ride WP so it’s a lot smoother and slower ride and I guess I would only injure myself at that point.

  3. Alexis on December 3, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I rode right up until 2 days before my son was born. My family Dr told me that so long as I wasn’t jumping or doing speed events I was ok. However I did have people lecturing me about riding, even my own horses around the yard at a walk. I did take a tumble when a horse tripped and fell. Thankfully it didn’t affect my son at all, and it was a young horse with 120 days on it. Personally I think it all depends on the person and their comfort levels and health through the pregnancy.

  4. Jennifer Clements on December 3, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    I rode to the last day on both my pregnancies. My doctor also rode and gave explicit direction not to think I needed to “go to the Olympics”…in other words NO Eventing/ NO jumping/ NO showing/ NO young stock. I did very lazy short rides as long as I was comfortable, never went alone, used a very stable mounting block to get on, gave up the jump saddle for an old Bonna Allen western for more security, and only rode my own 2 very trustworthy older horses. Accidents do happen, but you can at least try to avoid what you can and know your own comfort level, limitations. My best friend opted for no riding during her pregnancies. Love your blog and the very many points of view and great ideas! keep posting 🙂

  5. Anna on December 3, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I always thought I would continue to ride while pregnant. With my first child we were told that we probably wouldn’t be able to get pregnant on our own. Low and behold while waiting for more testing, for a long time, we found out I was 11 weeks pregnant; on our own! I had ridden during that time and felt really crappy after riding, now knowing why. Also I figured we were blessed enough to have been given this baby that I wouldn’t risk doing something I didn’t need to do. My second pregnancy I didn’t ride either as I don’t have a horse that I trust enough to even think about it. Also my Dr. gave me a different perspective that even a broken arm is a big deal while pregnant because of X-rays and possible anesthesia and drugs given while fixing it and healing. I had only thought about injuring my baby while riding but not so much from the view of what would need to happen medically to fix me if I got injured and the impact it would have on my baby. I think as horse women we feel that it is almost a challenge of strength and bragging rights to say “I did it”, and” I was strong”. I understand that because that is a lot what drives me too; proving I was strong enough. Thanks for the insight and thoughtful reasoning in your post. I too loved being pregnant and as hard as it is to give up riding, it is nine months that you will cherish for their lifetime.

  6. Laurie on December 3, 2014 at 9:53 am

    HI. With my first son, my doctor said I could basically do whatever I did previously, but I did delay jumping until after my son was born. With my second son (born in October) I remember helping a neighbouring rancher gather cattle in the forestry, I was in my western saddle trying to go through some trees and having to hang off the saddle sideways because of the horn! All rides after that were in the English saddle haha.

  7. Jennifer Reed on December 3, 2014 at 8:12 am

    I found out I was expecting the day I went to pick up our new trail horses (we finally had the opportunity to get a small farm!). Now, at 21 weeks pregnant, it’s tempting to ride in the field, but I quit about 5 weeks ago. It’s just giving me a chance to do some ground work and build trust with our new pair.

  8. Dorothy Davis on December 2, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    I rode as well in the early months for all three of my pregnancies, (in 1970s). I didn’t suffer any adverse effects, but I did receive a broken arm 4 wks after my son was born due to my horse stumbling as described above! ALL the nurses in the ER asked me what was I thinking? Getting on my horse only 4wks after giving birth. I was just glad that I wasn’t pregnant when my horse went down!

  9. Bonnie Grippin on December 2, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    I rode into my eighth month, until my belly started rubbing the saddle horn. I also played softball until I chased a fly ball and pulled the muscles in my stomach. The doctor said, Ok time to stop.. LOL

  10. Kate Hazelton on December 2, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    I rode until I was about 4 months pregnant. I was on a trail ride, walking, and my face scraped against a tree we were going under. I could have broken my teeth or even my neck. My face was very badly torn up and I felt very ashamed when I returned home to my husband that I had undertaken such a risk while carrying our child. It was the wake up call I needed and I didn’t ride again until after my son was born. Your only job while pregnant should be keeping that baby safe.

  11. Katie O'Brien on December 2, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    I was not allowed to ride at all in my first pregnancy as I was carrying twins. With my Drs. permission, I rode my very well trained Arabian mare almost daily during my second pregnancy, including jumping until 4 months and team penning until 6 months. I continued pleasure riding up until 5 days before I delivered my son, at 40 weeks gestation. I did get some wicked Brandon Hicks contractions that night though….
    My son did fall asleep every time he got on a horse for the first 4 years of his life, lol.

  12. countrykc on December 2, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    Oh Stacy, this so near and dear to me…I am now a 55 + grandmother of two, and a semi-pro horseman for a bunch of years…I am a bit fit strong “European” gal….my first pregnancy I rode ( with my DR shaking his head but saying Ya OK for now) my reiners and WP horses until 7 months, when my body started feeling “full”, but rode my old pony down the laneway to pick up the mail until the snow was too deep for us to go there!!! Got a stunning filly out of that go..:) second time around, I was riding 2′ 6″ hunters in competition at 8 months…I was so thin, and not healthy mentally or physically …perhaps driven by the need to prove that I “could ride right up to Dee-Livery day”… all the good ol’ ranch gals….my sweet boy arrived on Christmas Day 1985, three weeks early, and a true gift. Staying fit and active is good, but perhaps taking care of the precious gift that our body cradles, we ought be , indeed, gracious and caring. Thank you.

  13. Emili on December 2, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    I was so sick during my pregnancy riding wasn’t even an option however on the days where I’d feel good enough and the opportunity presented itself, I’d jump on old faithful and just walk around casually, but withpreganancy priorities change and a young girl needed a good trustworthy mount so I sold my mare to her and they have been co peting and winning buckles and saddles. I still get to see and ride her but it was bitter sweet! Toward the end of my pregnancy I was so busy going to the doctors 3x a week due to unforeseen complications so i didn’t even have time to think about it!

  14. Kristy Licu on December 2, 2014 at 7:28 pm

    I rode until I was 6 months with both my boys. After that I didn’t like how my stomach felt & my balance was off a bit too. The dr said it was fine to ride but had to be careful.

  15. Renee Pownall on December 2, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    I rode with all my children but with my third child I rode until I was 8 months pregnant. She was in foal at the time and due soon after me, so we just leisurely walks down my road (dead end street). She loved the exercise and loved that the neighbors all came out to give her treats.

  16. Marsha Conner on December 2, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    Stacy, you are a lovely person and your writing is lovely as well. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and your work with horses.

  17. Kim Van Drisse on December 2, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    I guess this is why I wear a helmet when I ride, same concept…. what if – so many great riders have been hurt falling off and hitting their heads. I’m 50 years old, I’ve been riding since I was three…. and I just started to wear a helmet after coming across Melissa Davis’s ‎Melissa’s Helmet Crusade Facebook page – riding a broke horse through a gate, the gate bumped the horse in the butt and the horse spooked, Melissa got her leg hung up on the gate post and hit the ground hard. She didn’t have any broken bones but she has had to learn how to walk, feed herself, brush her hair and more…. and the doctors can’t find anything physically wrong with her….. if she had been wearing her helmet this might not have happened. It only takes one fall… Look up Melissa’s page… she’s a heck of a fighter.

  18. Patti Crawford-Baxter on December 2, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    I rode my mare untilI was 8 months pregnant but at a very relaxed walk until she wouldn’t allow me to mount. She put her nose on my belly and keeping turning away from me when I went to get up on her. So I listened to her and stopped riding. LOL

  19. Anita on December 2, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Stacy, I love reading your stories. Helping young and elder riders it all makes us think about what we should, or should not of done. Keep writing love reading your blog.

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