We’re tracking down expert insights into your toughest, horse-related questions. In today’s edition, show jumper & mom Alexa Pessoa shares her thoughts on getting back into the ring after baby, and why the experience isn’t the same for every mom—or every child.
Q: I recently gave birth to my second child and I’m trying to decide the best time to get back in the ring and start showing again. With my firstborn son, I was back after a few weeks. For my second child (a daughter), however, it’s taken me almost two months. Is that normal? I feel less confident about my ablities and less inclined to show altogether. It’s almost as if my whole stance on riding and competing has changed now that I have two children.
I’m wondering if other mothers have dealt with these same issues and if it changed over time? Or, is this part of our evolution as we juggle our priorities as mothers and our passion as riders?
A: Getting back into the ring after baby will look different for everyone. After our first daughter was born, I felt a considerable (self-imposed) pressure to be back on my game. I started showing about eight weeks after she was born, and within a few months of that, I was back to jumping my usual classes with my very dependable mare. By the end of that year, I accomplished certain goals that had always escaped me. That was then.
This time around, for me, has also been very different. After waiting six years to have our second daughter, I saw things in a totally different light. I felt absolutely no pressure to do or prove anything to anyone. I knew how those long days and nights with my baby would blur into a lightning fast year, and I didn’t want to miss a beat. That little baby depends on me and me alone. She is my priority.
Those first few months, I rode, but with no particular goal in sight. Riding became a time for myself that I cherished. I think that it is important to remember that this is supposed to be fun! Therefore, you should do as much or as little as you want. Enter your 1.50 horse in the 1.25 until you feel great! Before you know it, you will be back where you were, or even better. It is important to remember that the horses will always be there. You could take five years off to focus on your kids and still come back swinging.
My last piece of advice would be to separate yourself from your kids when you go to train or show. Make that a space just for you and your horse. Even with my older daughter, I find it very distracting to have her at the ring with me. Find a fun activity for them to do at the show away from your class so that you can really dedicate your concentration to the task at hand.
Some parts of jumping horses do go against our natural instincts as mothers, but it is also what helps us feel alive. Some important advice I received after I had my first was, “Cherish her fiercely, but don’t forget yourself along the way.”
I think that applies here and to many other aspects of the juggling act that is motherhood.
- Alexa Pessoa