Horses and a Baby

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14 August 2016
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Hello all,

Specifically...keeping horses at the same time as having a baby!

I have previously owned horses and, following a break of five years after losing my old mare, I'm considering venturing into the world of horse owning again. However, my partner and I get married this Spring and it's likely we'd try for a baby in a couple of years. How realistic is managing a horse and pregnancy/a young baby?

If I was to buy I'd look for something a minimum of nine/ten years old in the hope that the horse is relatively well established so if it had some time off or was in light work it wouldn't be the end of the world. I'd be likely to keep the horse on assisted DIY livery although there's a small chance of renting a field and stable very close to home. My partner is completely non-horsey but supportive and said he'd be happy to help out with jobs if there was a period of time where I couldn't carry heavy things/push a wheelbarrow etc. Our families live fairly close by and (whilst I'd plan to take mat leave) I work four days a week normally.

I've spoken to a couple of people who say it's doable but hard and requires some organisation and support! Equally, I had my old mare for 15 years and I wouldn't want to buy without feeling I could offer a horse a long term home. I currently part loan a horse and whilst I know I could continue that I miss the one on one relationship with a horse of my own.

All advice, whether it's "don't do it" or advice on how other people have managed this, gratefully received!

Thanks
 

Pinkvboots

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My friend has 3 very young kids and 5 horses how she does it I don't know, she rides 3 a day and the 2 older girls have a pony each and her little boy is not even in nursery yet, she does school with him in the buggy quite a bit and his such a good boy even my horses are used to the buggy parked outside the school with him shrieking it makes the schooling a bit interesting.
 

ihatework

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As an outsider who doesn’t have children, but has been through the stage where most horsey friends have had children these are my observations ….

All thought they would easily be able to juggle horses and children

All found it far more difficult than they imagined, irrespective of the amount of support they had.

The do-ability was very much driven by very good support by father/family

Not all livery yards are baby safe or baby friendly. Plan for full/part livery.

Some had real guilt about leaving baby, got very into the whole mummy thing and horses got sold/loaned/PTS/turfed in a field

You will hear stories of super-mum who cooked, cleaned, breast fed, ride etc - but they are few and far between and not the norm!
 

Red-1

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If you aren't planning on trying for a baby, for a couple of years, plus it is not unusual to be trying for a year, and if it is a strong pull for you, then I would go for it now.

When the time comes, you will either manage, or decide to sell. Either way, you won't be thinking what if.

I would purchase with an eye that it would be a horse that would sell again, so not a teenager.
 

blitznbobs

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If you have no help with both horses and baby and are not the kind of person to survive well on zero sleep and can deal with a baby crying whilst tied to your back as you muck out... don't do it - it's very very stressful. If you can afford to put horse/s on full livery , or have a friend/relative that will do them randomly on the days you cant and pay for childcare or have a willing grandparent who will take them at the drop of a hat then it can work. I was lucky. my horses were at home with my mum so she could do the horses when I was sobbing in a corner and look after the baby whilst I rode occasionally ( on my horse that I had had for ever so was like an armchair for me).... but without her I wouldn't have been able to keep them tbh. Everyone says this and no one ever believes it but having a child is the most life altering thing you can ever do... it's the total lack of time off that is the shock, its day in, day out, no holiday no break and it's very very stressful and tbh when they are little incredibly boring for most people and it is IMPOSSIBLE to go in to it with your eyes open.

think long and hard before adding horses into the mix... if you can do baby first and when you've got your head round that go and buy a horse then...
 

Upthecreek

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I made it work because I had the horses before babies came along, but I’m not sure I’d make a conscious decision to buy a horse if I was planning to have a baby within two years. It is a struggle to find the time and I always felt like I was neglecting somebody, whether it be horses or kids. That said I’m not sure I’d have survived three kids under 5 without having the horses to escape to. It is definitely achievable with a supportive partner and if you can afford full livery that will be a lifesaver. I kept my horses at home when my kids were little so got up at 5.30 to do them before he left for work and then literally threw the kids at him as soon as he got home so he could bath them and put them to bed. I continued competing at weekends when finances allowed. I guess it really depends how motivated you are, which only you can decide.
 

mariew

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Unless very lucky it's much harder than you think. Mine only ever napped for 30 minutes which was never enough for tacking up and riding, even on full livery! It depends on so many things but my advice would be to find a good share and reassess once you have had one.

The only ones I know who could do it were mums on full livery with long napping babies, or those who could drop the baby off at Grandma's etc, or were happy to do just chores with a relatively safe horse to be around.

Basically consider how much time you had spare when you had a horse (work, relationship, commute, other half and horse) then consider adding another absolute time absorber who doesn't play by the rules into it lol!
 

Widgeon

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If you aren't planning on trying for a baby, for a couple of years, plus it is not unusual to be trying for a year, and if it is a strong pull for you, then I would go for it now.
When the time comes, you will either manage, or decide to sell. Either way, you won't be thinking what if.
I would purchase with an eye that it would be a horse that would sell again, so not a teenager.
I don't have children, but I'd have said the same as Red-1....you never know what life is, or isn't, going to throw at you. If you want a horse now, and your partner is supportive and you're financially comfortable, I'd say go for it. Try to choose a sensible type who you could loan or sell or turn away (at worst) for a couple of years if circumstances require it. Life is far too short to be living now for a decision you might make three years down the line. And without wishing to sound cruel, not everyone manages to have a baby just like that. It might take longer, you just never know. With the obvious caveats of financial responsibility and sensible decision making - live for today.
 

poiuytrewq

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As an outsider who doesn’t have children, but has been through the stage where most horsey friends have had children these are my observations ….

All thought they would easily be able to juggle horses and children

All found it far more difficult than they imagined, irrespective of the amount of support they had.

The do-ability was very much driven by very good support by father/family

Not all livery yards are baby safe or baby friendly. Plan for full/part livery.

Some had real guilt about leaving baby, got very into the whole mummy thing and horses got sold/loaned/PTS/turfed in a field

You will hear stories of super-mum who cooked, cleaned, breast fed, ride etc - but they are few and far between and not the norm!
This! This was me. Determined I’d make it work, I did for a while, until my daughter stopped sleeping constantly, tbh even then it was hard and horses routine had to be altered to fit her. Ie, if she was still awake and screaming at 8am then we went late.
When she was a bit older I decided to put him out on loan. It was the best thing I did and I should have done it sooner. I didn’t have a horse again until she was 4/5 years old. I enjoyed concentrating on my baby rather than forcing her to sit and wait constantly.
 

Leandy

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Horses and children too young to safely be left on their own for a period (ie at least 10 years old) are not very compatible I'm afraid. Late pregnancy and a young baby are completely incompatible with horses. You will not reliably have the time or be able to keep to a routine to do horses, nor to work them. The only exception would be if they are out 24/7 and not in work - which isn't really keeping horses for any useful purpose longer term. In my view it is not possible to keep horses on DIY (or otherwise where you are responsible for day to day care) and have young children unless you have someone to leave the children with at all times when you are doing the horses (which is quite an ask). Yards are simply not safe or appropriate places for pre-school children to be. When the children are very young eg under 5, your priorities will, and should, change dramatically. I would strongly advise against imagining you can start a family and horse ownership at the same time. Add working into the mix and really something has to give and that will need to be the horse. I say all this from experience as a working, horse owning mother. I have never got back to horse owning, riding and competing as I used to (to a fairly high standard) pre- children. Now the childrens' riding takes priority and I borrow their horses to hack once in a blue moon. Pre-children I would never have imagined I would give up myself to this extent, but I have. I simply couldn't imagine myself not prioritising the horses. I rode until I was 7 months pregnant with my first yet sold my top competition horse whilst pregnant with my second, having realised I really was not going to get back to it any time soon. You will also find that your risk tolerance will change when you have children. Once I would ride and handle anything, as soon as I had children I developed a sense of self preservation which made me a significantly more nervous rider than I was previously, and of course you have dependents to worry about if you get injured, not just yourself. Having children is life changing. Don't underestimate how all consuming they will (quite rightly) become. I have continued working full time in a demanding job also, I did not give that up, as many mothers do to some extent. Much may depend on your attitude to work too and your disposable income. Sorry, bit of an essay!
 

Lucky Snowball

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Most of my friends who had horses and then children gradually gave up their own horses in favour of childrens' lead rein ponies then first ridden. They mostly said they'd get back into riding when the children were older. Few ever did. They went on to be grooms while the children / teenagers did the riding. They were happy to do this.
 

Bonnie Allie

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At a show once, I watched a woman warm up her horse. Just before her class, her baby (in a pram being looked after by a grandparent) started crying. The mother dismounted, breastfed it, then got straight back on horse to enter the ring and go on to win the class.
I gave up riding to look after my twins but my girlfriend wanted to keep riding and she had her child at the same time as I had the twins.

So we would go to SJ days, where I would look after all three whilst she rode. She was hilarious, she would be warming up and then come trotting over at speed, dismount and say “wake my son up, hold my horse, I’m going to breastfeed quickly as I can’t jump with these huge boobs full of milk”.

She had a schoolmaster of a horse, so it was doable. My children grew up to be riders as well which meant 15yrs of putting their competitive riding before my own. I wish I had just continued to ride a little bit through those years as getting back into competition riding - the gap was too large and I’m a pathetic example of my former self.

(But I do have some amazing children who have grown into successful young adults, so the choices were worth it).
 

meleeka

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I didn’t work when mine were small, so that was my sanctuary. I made it work because I valued that time being ‘me’ so much. I just couldn’t have been a mum and nothing else. My kids grew up with it so it was the norm. They were pretty good really and doing the horses every day meant they had plenty of time outdoors and got to do things other children didn’t. We also had structure which I think made things easier. I can imagine how it happens that it’s 3 o’clock and you aren’t even dressed, but that wasn’t an option so I had to be organised.
 

HopOnTrot

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When my first was born I put my horse on full livery. Now we have them at home which is much easier as children are old enough to be in the house whilst I pop in and out.

To be honest it’s a countdown to them both being at school full time!
 

windand rain

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A very long time ago I bought a mare and foal while pregnant with my third baby (all born by section all under 5 years old) I did all the horse care while pregnant and after but after my OH was great with the babies and kids which gave me a couple of hours a day free. The ponies lived in our yard so just outside the back door or I am not sure breast feeding would have been an option. So depending on your choices and support it can be as easy/hard as you want to make it. I love horses I love babies so made it easy on myself because I was lucky enough to have the best dad they could have. We did get a bit in a pickle when he was posted overseas on short up to 6 months postings but just turned them out and an old neighbour took the ponies for walks etc as he missed the farm horses so much. Had a good friend who would look after them for the 30 minutes or so in bad weather while I did the field and fed etc. I took the kids into the yard with me when dry they had a ball messing about. I do think the best balanced kids are those who mix with and play with more than mum but it is again choices and what is available in terms of support. Like others I would buy something no older than 8 so it is in its prime to sell if you cannot juggle. Never been much of a sleeper so that helped too. my youngest is 40 this year so a lot has changed since then. They learned to drive in the pony paddock aged 5,6,9. they probably wouldn't be allowed now When the youngest was 3 we shared a nanny with said neighbour it was cheaper to employ her than pay childcare for them all. She came for 4 hours a day 10-2 monday wednesday friday to my house the kids from next door came to me at 8 as their mum taught dyslexic kids.
 
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mini_b

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My friend has 3 very young kids and 5 horses how she does it I don't know, she rides 3 a day and the 2 older girls have a pony each and her little boy is not even in nursery yet, she does school with him in the buggy quite a bit and his such a good boy even my horses are used to the buggy parked outside the school with him shrieking it makes the schooling a bit interesting.
Does your friend do all this and work?! I can barely do one!!
 
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I have a 5 month old baby and 2 competition horses who live at my parents place. I rode into late pregnancy and was back on when baby was 4 weeks old.

I need to ride to parent, there are no two ways about it. I also have to feed the horses twice a day. Sometimes my parents will help and hubby helps a lot too, and I think thats the key for it working for us. mum and hubby are happy to look after the baby while I ride, and I ride around the time that people can look after him.

I wear the baby if i need to feed or hold a horse and dont have childcare, and the baby quite likes seeing whats going on.

For me having a supportive and available husband makes riding and competing possible.
 

AUB

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Well, I’m sitting here breastfeeding my 9 week old daughter as I’m typing… I haven’t been riding since June because of bad SPD/PGP and a slipped disc during pregnancy but hopefully soon.
Right now I still can’t leave baby without boobs for 2-3 hours, and she won’t take a bottle. And I can’t go up during the day as hubby has the car and even if I could baby won’t sleep in the pram if it’s not moving.

Luckily I have a very sweet sharer who hacks my horse twice weekly. And the horse is on livery with service, so I don’t have to muck or turn out/bring in or feed. I do have to make the food ready but I prepare 5 days at a time, so it’s fine if I only go a few times weekly.

That’s just how it is right now. And that’s okay. It will be easier soon when I can leave baby with hubby.

It’s definitely easier if the baby will take a bottle and you have someone to look after the baby or baby can sleep in the pram and you can go during the day.
 

TGM

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Whether you can make it work depends on so many different factors, such as:

* How easy your baby is, particularly in the sleeping department!
* Your finances - are there the funds to pay for full/part livery and/or childcare
* The hours your partner works, the length of his commute and whether he has time-consuming hobbies of his own
* The type of horse you get - the ideal would be a hardy, placid type that could live out if necessary and remains sane even if ridden irregularly
* The yard environment - would there be a safe place for the baby, are the fields a long trek from the stables, are children even allowed on the yard?
* Whether you have access to reliable childcare, whether paid or voluntary?

I had two out of work horses kept at home when my daughter was young. I managed but it was hard sometimes. Having them at home made things easier and I could set things up so baby was safe whilst I was doing the horses, which isn't always the case on a public yard. But if the baby gets poorly or one of the horses is ill or injured then it becomes harder to juggle if you don't have a lot of help (which I didn't).
 

Blanche

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I would get a horse, as someone above said life is too short. No one knows what is around the corner, never put off doing something enjoyable for something that might never be. I have known many people manage multiple horses on diy, difficult but it can be done. One friend got a sharer for a ridden horse but they helped out with the other five too. They are still friends thirty plus years later. I sold my horse (under pressure) just before my second was born, big regret, huge. I worked with horses while my children were babies, though I did take a break for five or six months with my second as we were forever going to the hospital. Looking after young children can be mind numbingly boring, constantly busy with mundane stuff. Having some respite to hear yourself think , even if you are just mucking out , cannot be underestimated. Having said all that children are wonderful, if exhausting.
 

ownedbyaconnie

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I have a 5 month old baby and a very easy to keep connemara pony. Pony is on grass diy but was stabled whilst I was pregnant.

i have “fond” memories of throwing up in a bush at 6am as I led my pony to the field in snow and freezing temps in the midst of morning sickness. Plus poo picking in boiling heat at 9 months pregnant. But if I’m honest I think mucking out every day and lugging hay nets around etc meant that I bounced back very quickly from my emergency c section. I was back mucking out after a couple of weeks and walking the dog and then got back on pony at 4 weeks post partum. But I made a point of making my pony as easy as possible. She is barefoot and whilst I was pregnant was rugless so if I was having a bad day pregnancy wise it was very easy for a friend to chuck her in and out of the stable. She is also the kind of pony who you can ride every day or once in a blue moon and she doesn’t change.

I then moved 4 weeks after giving birth to other end of the country with pony in tow and baby has just had to learn to fit in. She gets popped in a carrier whilst I poo pick or watches me from the pushchair whilst I fill haynets. If I’m honest having the pony to sort everyday saved my sanity. It got me out of the house, into fresh air and in adult company every day. Having a baby can be so isolating. But my baby is very chilled and very go with the flow. Whether that’s because she’s just had to be or luck I don’t know! Being on grass livery helps because it doesn’t really matter what time of day I go down.

So I say go for it! But just bear it in mind when deciding what horse to go for. Another lady at the yard I’m on has a ottb and had a baby 8 months ago and the horse has been off on rehab for months. I personally did not envy her getting on for the first time in months with a very weak core on to a very fresh ottb. Getting on my safe as houses chunky connie was like settling into my favourite armchair.
 
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Pregnancy and horses is easy, I worked as a groom until I was 8 months. Just be sensible.
However, I was really naive about what things would be like with baby. I thought I could continue working with horses and riding, but I can barely do either. Don’t be fooled by those people who park the pram in the yard and go about their business - my baby would not and will not let me do that! It once took me an hour to muck out one stable because he wouldn’t stop screaming and it was the most frustrating day I’ve had and actually the only time I’ve cried since having him 😂
He’s now 6 months old and I get a babysitter one morning a week just to go muck out 7 stables because it keeps me sane. My partner has him on weekend mornings so that I can do the same and for this I am hugely appreciative. I don’t ride after every shift as I feel guilty and that I must go back home ASAP.
Of course it entirely depends on your finances, how much help you have and your equestrian goals. I’d say if you want to compete or the horse is on DIY then it’s bloody difficult or impossible, but if you just have the one horse and it’s on full livery then you’ll be fine. 😀
 

MagicMelon

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I have 3 kids and have had my horses non-stop since I was 8yrs old myself! I have a 1 yr old, 4yo and a 9yo. It makes life a lot easier when they're at nursery / school as the 2 older ones are. The youngest makes things harder again, I keep mine at home which makes life easier as I can often leave my son with my OH (he works from home, although often goes abroad for work too which is annoying!) and I can pop out to ride etc. I just accept I cant ride every day, it really depends. In the nicer weather, I can park him in his buggy to watch or time it so he's fallen asleep in the car on the way back from the school run so I can park the car right beside the field to keep an eye on him as I ride. Winter its too cold for that obviously.

Its totally doable, the only time I struggled was after my first son when Id had a terrible emergency c-section and was on blood pressure pills for a couple weeks after so often felt dizzy etc. I had to leave my mum and OH to deal with the horses during that time. Just try to be relaxed about the whole thing, dont put any pressure on yourself that you MUST ride daily etc. You have to adapt, like one day Id like to ride but my son hasnt fallen asleep so I'll put him in the carrier and go and lunge instead.
 

VRIN

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You are not pregnant yet - have a horse .... enjoy and then face the problem when you have a little one. It might not happen exactly when you plan and you are already thinking a couple of years. Enjoy life as you go.
 

bouncing_ball

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I have a 5 month old baby and 2 competition horses who live at my parents place. I rode into late pregnancy and was back on when baby was 4 weeks old.

I need to ride to parent, there are no two ways about it. I also have to feed the horses twice a day. Sometimes my parents will help and hubby helps a lot too, and I think thats the key for it working for us. mum and hubby are happy to look after the baby while I ride, and I ride around the time that people can look after him.

I wear the baby if i need to feed or hold a horse and dont have childcare, and the baby quite likes seeing whats going on.

For me having a supportive and available husband makes riding and competing possible.
That all sounds good. But think the baby years can be more doable for riding / horse care than the preschool toddler years for most!
 

wispagold

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I think it depends on how much support/ help you have and what your horse is like.

I found it quite stressful. My horse was on full livery, she wasn't the easiest horse. Needed a consistent routine and wouldn't live out, but weaved when stabled. My first baby slept really well in the car so I could usually do a quick bath and groom. But I wouldn't leave baby in the car to ride. My 2nd baby has never slept as well.

I had to have my horse PTS unexpectedly when my first baby was 4.5 months old and, as much as I was very sad and deeply missed her (I'd had her 15 years from a 2yr old) the weight off my shoulders was immense.

I have no family to help with baby sitting and my husband works stupid hours away from home so I found it really difficult and I won't consider getting another horse until my children are much more dependent

However, I have friends in different circumstances who have made it work.
 
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