EQUESTRIAN:- Getting back in the saddle

Whether an amateur or a professional rider, getting back in the saddle after having a baby is a big but exciting step!

For me, the 8 months I took off riding felt like forever and since having my son and getting back in the saddle, I am enjoying riding more than ever. But, I did take my time and felt no rush or pressure to get started for a few reasons including riding being my hobby and not my job.

I was interested to know how it would feel if riding was your job and after years and years of hard work and dedication, the prospect of taking a maternity leave break would have a negative effect on your world ranking position? What pressure to make a return would push you and does becoming a mum change your mindset?

Who better to ask than about getting back to her day job than the Queen of showjumping, Edwina Tops-Alexander who successfully balances being one of the top riders in the world competing at the best 5* shows around the globe, running a business & being a brand ambassador and most importantly being mum to 4 year old Chloe Tops.

Photo credit: Therese Alhaug – GCT Final @edwinatopsalexander

HOW DID YOU FIND YOUR PREGNANCY?

I found it very easy, I was very lucky to have no sickness. I had only a little bit of nausea in the evening which gave me no appetite but other than that I found it very easy.

IN 2017, YOU WON THE PRESTIGIOUS AND NOTORIOUSLY CHALLENGING HERMES GP IN PARIS. FOLLOWING YOUR WIN, YOU ANNOUNCED YOU WERE 20 WEEKS PREGNANT WITH YOUR DAUGHTER CHLOE. HOW DID IT FEEL TO RIDE THE CLASS AND WIN?

Yes, I was 20 weeks pregnant and I had actually only put on 1kg so I didn’t feel much different physically. To win, felt incredible. I actually didn’t want to ride this GP because it was one of the toughest classes I had ever ridden. I’ve never seen so many people get eliminated or retire. I was last to go and I remember thinking “why am I riding today?” But then I thought to myself, if I have one down I’ll just come out. Luckily I rode!! 

In all honesty if I was to do this all over again after having Chloé, I would never have ridden throughout my pregnancy. It’s a huge responsibility and I think at some point in life you have to make sensible decisions. Chloé was really a miracle and I would have never forgiven myself if something happened to her. It’s easy for someone to tell you but I just felt completely normal which is why I just continued.

DID YOU STOP RIDING AFTER THE HERMES GP?

I rode at home for another 4 weeks but to be honest, it wasn’t really worth it to be riding.

HOW DID YOU STAY CONNECTED TO THE SPORT AND YOUR JOB WHILST NOT RIDING? DID YOU MISS RIDING FOR THOSE MONTHS?

I was training Jessica Springsteen and busy with the business so I didn’t have much free time on my hands and I actually didn’t miss riding at all and I really enjoyed the break.

DID YOU HAVE C-SECTION/NATURAL BIRTH?

I had a c-section, thank goodness. Chloe came 2 weeks early which I was happy about because at 38 weeks, we were so excited to finally meet her.

Photo credit – Stefano Grasso

HOW WAS YOUR RECOVERY? WHEN DID YOU FEEL READY TO RIDE?

It was incredible.  I was very careful for the first 10 days but then I was walking a lot and at 4 weeks I rode my first horse. I felt completely normal when I started to ride again.

DID YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE TO GET BACK IN THE RING COMPETING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE?

Yes because of the ranking and I don’t believe at all the system was fair and quite discriminating for women. But I just had to get on with it, I was on the show 7 weeks later jumping a 5* GP where I had one down. I did fitness 2 times a week throughout my pregnancy and I do believe this helped me get back to strength quite fast.

Photo credit – Stefano Grasso

DO YOU EVER SUFFER “MUM GUILT” HAVING TO SHARE YOUR TIME BETWEEN WORK AND BEING A MUM?

Yes all the time, nobody ever warned me about this!! It’s terrible but it’s how most mums feel which is comforting.

HAS BECOMING A MUM CHANGED YOUR ATTITUDE TO RIDING/COMPETING?

Not really, but I definitely feel like there is much more to life and a lot to look forward to than just riding over jumps as I love competing with anything in life!! I have also definitely become more patient since I’ve had Chloé.

Photo credit – Therese Alhaug @edwinatopsalexander

BEST THING ABOUT BEING A MUM?

The unconditional love, the pleasure and joy and happiness and to look at life differently.

MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION…..DOES CHLOE LOVE HORSES LIKE HER MUM AND DAD?

She loves animals and she is definitely very competitive!!

FOLLOW EDWINA…

INSTAGRAM – @edwinatopsalexander

WEBSITE – https://www.edwinatops-alexander.com

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