I took off a whole show season, and all I got was this lousy baby.
What a whirlwind of a month, Horse Nation. I ended up having my baby 2 days after my due date at the end of July, without any induction intervention beyond my self-made home remedies of mucking stalls, sitting on a yoga ball, and eating spicy foods. From my first contraction to my daughter’s birth was about 12 hours. I put up with about seven hours of mild contractions and three hours of blinding pain contractions before my epidural kicked in, which is a beautiful gift from Science to women everywhere.
In those 3 interim hours of blinding pain, I had to dig deep to find my happy place, and it turns out my happy place was pinned down by the other happy places on the playground and inscribed with HORSE NERD across its forehead in permanent ink. It started with my mother talking me through the contractions using the visualization of sitting a big extended trot across a really long diagonal, which is total nerddom, but as far as contractions go is really good advice. On the one hand your body and core have to be taut and toned, but on the other hand, you can’t hold your breath through it or tense up; you’ve got to be able to relax and absorb the movement.
This was not only a really helpful analogy, but it also gave me permission to ride horses in my head for a few hours. At first I was riding my own horses past and present, but eventually I started riding much more famous mounts. I took a spin on Totilas, naturally, and some veteran dressage horses from my childhood (the Gigolo/Bonfire rivalry of the late 90s? Excellent fantasy riding, right there) but also some beautiful eventers like Alison Springer’s Arthur and quite a lovely serpentine schooling on Andrew Nicholson’s Rolex winner, Quimbo. His flying changes were ON POINT, y’all.
My husband says watching this exchange between loopy horsewomen was hardly unexpected, and he also found it fairly amusing that I chose not to ride my “dumb mustang” in my happy place. To which I responded that I really couldn’t afford to get bucked off in my fantasy. That’s not a helpful visualization at all.
I’d like to think that this sort of pain management is something that will teach me something later that could better my riding. But if not, hey, I still got this little cute baby out of the whole thing:
A week and a half went by from that day to when I made it out to the barn next, and I’d like to tell you that it was a wonderful respite from new motherhood and a beautiful reunion, but it wasn’t. It was a nightmare of logistics, poor timing, a crabby horse and a frazzled new mom. It felt more like a job than a hobby. But the more I have done it since then, the better it’s gotten each time. It took practice to know how and when to leave the house, how much time I needed to not feel stressed, and how to maximize my time with Itxa.
Finally, four weeks to the day since I gave birth, I got back in the saddle. I had read on the internets that a lot of women felt ready at three to four weeks (I’m quite certain I heard Jessica Phoenix rode intermediate at a horse trial three weeks postpartum, so COME ON.) and I really wanted to meet that benchmark and prove that, like these other women, I am also completely insane.
I had some mild discomfort in my seat and certainly I was hyper-aware of what core muscle I’d lost in the past several months, but overall, I really felt like physically this was not a huge demand on my body to walk, trot, and shy at some birds once. Perhaps more than anything, I was overjoyed that Itxa seemed as pleased as I was to be back to real work (aside from the bird thing). I’ve got jumping and dressage lessons lined up for the next month, and I’m excited to maximize the autumn season before Utah Winter kicks in.
For all the discomfort, inconvenience, weight gain, missed goals and emotional roller-coasters of pregnancy, there was an equal force of joy and satisfaction that came not only from holding my little cute baby, but also from getting back to my horse self after a long summer of baby books and keeping my feet elevated. It’s now very clear that my barn time is critical to being a well-rounded human and a better mom. Having a die-hard passion, treating myself like a competitive athlete, and having goals for my equine partner and friend is not a burden or an enemy to motherhood, it’s a gift. I am so happy to be back to it, with a new little best friend in tow.
Lorraine has been a regular contributor to Horse Nation since its inception in 2012. She and her husband, daughter, dog, cat and BLM mustang live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Utah. See more of the family’s equine adventures and beyond on Instagram, @lorraine.jackson