Horse riding while pregnant

1. Exercise and pregnancy

Women who exercise during pregnancy may benefit both physically and psychologically with reduction in fatigue, varicose veins and fluid retention. Women who exercise also experience less sleep disturbance, stress, anxiety and depression. Women should therefore be encouraged to participate in exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle during their pregnancy, however they “should choose activities that will minimize the risk of loss of balance and fetal trauma”. (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 2006).

Many women continue to ride while pregnant; there are health benefits to this, as well as some risks which should be known and understood before the decision to ride is taken. A summary of these considerations is presented below.

2. Considerations specific to horse riding

Riding carries the risk of falling no matter how experienced the horse or rider.

Hormonal changes in pregnancy lead to joint laxity and hypermobility, which may affect riding ability.

In the first 12 weeks of pregnancy the uterus is protected within the pelvis and direct trauma to the fetus is reduced, however, maternal trauma requiring a general anesthetic increases the risk of miscarriage early in pregnancy.

3. Recommendations

The decision to ride while pregnant is made by the rider, preferably after discussion with her obstetrician. A specialist opinion must be sought if there are any other medical problems or a history of previous miscarriage. However, if competing while pregnant additional considerations apply:

  • The National Federation’s responsibility in athlete selection includes the athletes’ fitness to compete (article 116.3, FEI General Regulations). Consequently, the athlete should inform the NF that she is pregnant if she intends to take part in FEI events;
  • If competing in pregnancy the medical officer must be informed immediately if the rider falls. Also, article 140, General Regulations provides that “the Ground Jury after consultation with the responsible medical officer may at any time exclude from further participation in a Competition or an entire Event any Athlete who is unfit to continue by reason of a serious or potentially serious injury, impairment, or health condition”;
  • After a fall, even if there is no obvious injury, the rider should report the fall to her doctor/obstetrician as soon as possible.

4. Warning signs to stop riding/exercise at any stage of pregnancy

The occurrence of any of these signs should be reported to the obstetrician. (Source: RCOG 2006)

  • Excessive shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or palpitations
  • Fainting or dizziness
  • Painful uterine contractions or preterm labor
  • Leak of amniotic fluid
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pelvic girdle pain
  • Reduced fetal movement
  • Breathlessness before exercise
  • Headache
  • Muscle weakness
  • Calf pain or swelling


Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this document is of general nature. It is not intended to, and cannot substitute for a medical consultation.


The FEI’s general regulatory requirements on athlete safety and welfare are set out in the FEI General Regulations.

Additional discipline-specific requirements may be found in the relevant Sports rules.

Anti-Doping matters are regulated in the FEI’s Anti-Doping Rules for Human Athletes (ADRHA).

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