I first reached out to Chris (founder of Home Horse) with an article idea for pregnancy and post-partum recovery. After several phone conversations and emails, a Home Horse was on its way to me. Thank you Chris for sending me a Home Horse to work with and write about during my pregnancy and postpartum.
I write this article today at 5 and a half months postpartum. I have used the Home Horse on and off throughout my pregnancy and postpartum phases with different goals at different points. Before I had Derby, the plan was just to use it to test my balance and notice where I was having issues before I got on Spice for the day (I rode up until a couple weeks before birth). After birth, I used it as a test to see when I should get back in the saddle and to help work on bringing my balance back after the massive body balance change of having a baby and promptly losing 20 lbs. I’m currently using it to help fix balance and side to side differences/weaknesses in my body.
Below is my workout routine postpartum. I am including exercises on the Home Horse and exercises on the mat. I took into consideration the Diastasis Recti I had (even if it was slight) and made sure not to push exercises that would worsen that problem. I have also had to be careful to wear correct shoes and arch supports for all activities other than couch surfing or sleeping since I now have collapsing arches (thanks pregnancy hormones)! But those are different exercises to address that issue…and I’m not going into that hot mess.
Many of the floor exercises I started doing right away, and some I added on as I went. Funny enough, I had a Bio-mechanics clinic and the clinician gave me many of the same exercises I was already doing (but wanted me to focus on my right side weakness rather than do both evenly which I had been doing).
Disclaimer: I’m not a physical therapist or personal trainer…so take all this with a grain of salt. I’ve developed my own plan based on feedback from various professionals, but what I’m doing may not work for you.
Home Horse Exercises
Find Center – this one was honestly all I could do the last few weeks before birth…and all I could do the first month after I had Derby. It was so incredibly hard to find center that I just kept working on it. I am still working on it! It’s harder than you think to sit completely still and completely straight!
Side to Side – This was the second movement I added to make Finding Center more challenging and work on my obliques and address my issue of collapsing on the right and putting too much weight left.
Front to Back – I waited to add this post-pregnancy until I felt my abdominal separation improving. I had issues with this movement toward the end of pregnancy (as you can imagine) and would often get stuck forward and unable to get back to center. I am still finding this exercise harder than the others since my front abdominals are still recovering from being so stretched out. I still find myself stuck off the front sometimes and this is one I still really need to work on.
Around the World – You have to do this one in both directions to see the benefits. This one is excellent at showing you where you’re not balanced from side to side. I guarantee you if you do this…there will be a hitch in your giddiyup one direction or the other (or maybe both)! The goal is to make a smooth and even circle both directions going out to the furthest rim of the Home Horse. I have places where tightness restrictions keep it from being smooth and give me something to work on off the horse.
Seatbone Sweep – slide each seat bone pressing down ad forward as if to do a canter depart. This one is excellent at showing you if your canter departs are even on both sides and where you need to make adjustments and maybe practice them even over and over and over again without wearing out your horse.
These focus on working weak areas due to pregnancy and riding without making abdominal separation worse. Don’t do any exercises in prone position (donkey kick backs, bird dogs, planks, etc). These are all bad for you if you have abdominal separation. Add those types of exercises back in as your separation heals back up.
Pelvic Tilt Lying on Back – The gold standard for abdominal separation. Doing controlled pelvic tilts with a real concentration on control and form. These will help you start to get your abs back. This was what I did for the first several weeks after birth exclusively.
Bridge Roll Up – make sure you don’t do this full range at first. The point is to add a little bit of difficulty to the pelvic tilts and challenge you a bit more. The point is abdominal engagement, not a glute work out. Again, focus on slow movements, and moving up and down one vertebra at at time, holding, and form. Don’t push your hips too high. As you get stronger, you can turn these into a full bridge and start thinking about glute engagement.
Clamshells – Speaking of glute engagement….these next three are focused on getting that area warmed up and building a little strength. As a rider, my adductor muscles are really strong and so are my hamstrings. My abductors however need some work. I am sure you have the same problem. Being pregnant didn’t change that any. Enter the classic Clamshell! Again, controlled, slow motion is required. Keep hips square and don’t do too large a range of motion. Add an elastic exercise band to make it tougher (they have different resistances) and will limit your range of motion to the correct amount.
Side Lying Leg Lift – Same goal as the Clamshells, but slightly different muscle groups. Again, VERY controlled. Keep pelvis stable and don’t cheat by tilting the top of your pelvis back and using your hip flexors. Keep the range of motion low and you can add an elastic band to this one too for the same reasons. Think about sliding your heel up a wall slightly behind you (or actually slide your heel up wall right behind you).
Side Lying Kick Back (sorry I couldn’t figure out a good way to draw this one) – Lie on your side as if you were going to do a clamshell with your knees bent and your band around your legs right above your knees. Instead of doing a clamshell, kick back your upper leg about 6-8 inches until you hit resistance on the band. The same with the others…form over range of motion needs to be focused on. Slow and steady kick backs and really think about squeezing those glutes.
Hamstring and Inner Thigh Stretches – I don’t know about you…but I need to do these ALL the time. All. the. time. If I don’t I have lower back pain and hip pain… the standard stretches here. Nothing special.
Shoulder/Tricep/Chest/Upper Back Stretches – using a foam roller to assist with some of these, but holding a baby is hell on your posture…so these are super important!
For cardio postpartum I highly recommend walking (if your feet can hold up to it). Elliptical will be BAD for you if you’re breastfeeding since your ligaments will still be too loose and using an Elliptical can actually cause a lot of problems in your pevlic area and hips when you don’t have enough ligament stability. Swimming is good if that’s your thing (it’s not mine). And once you have healed up cycling is great (indoor or out)! And of course riding!
As you can see from the above routine, the Home Horse has been very important for my recovery and I highly recommend it if you can afford it (it’s really not that expensive if you compare it to the other things we spend money on for horses…). It’s only a couple months of board (or one month…depending on where you are). It’s only a couple pair of breeches and a couple of sun shirts out of your budget. I think it’s a valuable tool and worth the expense.
Here’s hoping your pregnancy and postpartum journey go smoothly and you’re back feeling good in no time! Let me know if you have any other exercises you though helped you that I didn’t try! I’d love to hear what others are doing to recover.