Diapers & Dressage – The Challenge of Getting Back in the Saddle

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At my first USDF show two summers ago. My position was far from perfect but I was fit! I can't wait to feel this strong in the saddle again.

By Erin Tupper

As my husband and I packed our bags for our ski trip out in Jackson Hole, WY, our discussion turned to the Coronavirus.  We were bringing baby H, just under 6 months, with us. It was mid-February, and things were ramping up.  Flying through smaller airports, we decided we felt comfortable enough to still bring our future ski racer. Who knew just how unprecedented the situation would become! 

One of the most difficult parts of this has been only being able to move forward making what we believe to be the best decisions for us and our families.  Not being able to ride has left most of us feeling sad and out of shape. Few and far between are riders that feel confident sending in entry fees, should show season even happen.

Trust me, you’ll make it!  Many of you reading this have babies.  Some rode while pregnant.  Some didn’t. Most of us were anxiously counting down the days until we could ride after giving birth.  When we did, I promise it was ugly and frustrating. Or maybe that was just me!  Either way, each ride got better, and this will be true for all of you.  Just hang in there, and maybe do a few planks while you watch the morning news.

My DeNiros that once fit like a glass slipper pre-baby are now a hit or miss thing. This was a “miss” day! Their zippers are incredible. It took quite a hissy fit to rip them off.

I rode the first couple months of my pregnancy, with my doctor and husband’s approval and support.  I will never forget when Phil told me that should something happen, he would forgive me long before I forgave myself.  It is such a deeply personal decision to make. For those yet to go through this, but plan on it someday, don’t allow yourself to be swayed by others.  You will quickly learn that everyone, though well-intended, has an opinion and a story.  Instead, put a smile on your face, listen, and then let it go.  The best thing you can do for you and your baby is to listen to what your own body is telling you. Women’s intuition is a mighty powerful tool, and when we truly listen and honor it, we rarely regret it.   I didn’t want to stop.  I have friends that rode up until giving birth. I was fit and thought I could, but after a weird experience, I had to stop until my next appointment.  Although approved for light riding, when I did, it didn’t feel right.  I finished and my anxiety went through the roof.  I questioned everything I was feeling… was that tightness normal? Was I still feeling kicks?  I realized it wasn’t worth it.   

I spent my remaining months doting on my mare.  I spent them cheering on my friends, grooming a couple days a week, and being wildly jealous of those riding without a care in the world.  I watched riding videos like crazy and couldn’t wait to be in the saddle again.  I walked the dog and would spend 20 minutes at a time practicing half halts with my body, working on my cues for shoulder-ins and leg yields as we went.

My first ride ended in tears.  I felt disgusting and ticked at my body.  Okay, I had a newborn, and that’s pretty good evidence of how incredible our bodies actually are.  But in that moment, I felt let down.  I had tried to take care of it the best I could, and yet, as my brain said half-halt, my core said… wait. It didn’t say anything.  Because it was GONE.  Non-existent.  And that was depressing.  It was maddening knowing what I had to do, yet feeling a total mind/body disconnect. 

After not riding for a couple months, you may experience this.  Hopefully you’ve been working out some, and eating somewhat healthy, and you’ll feel rusty but strong.  But hey, no judgement if the only exercise you’ve done are what I like to call “Corona Curls”… when your weights are coffee cups in the AM and wine glasses at night!  We’re all in this together. We’ve each processed this a little differently.  Like pregnancy and riding, how we’ve worked through this has been a deeply personal experience. Do the best you can, and cut yourself some slack.  If you’re not feeling confident, chances are good your barn tribe isn’t either.  Now, more than ever, let’s cheer each other on.  Celebrate the little victories, because even without being in the saddle, the last few months have been a heck of a ride!  

Read Erin’s first story here.

Follow Erin on her Instagram page @diapersanddressage

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