Okay, so I don’t actually wear spurs for my weekly riding lessons. You get the idea. As of this week, I’m taking a hiatus from horseback riding, with full intention to start up again as soon as I’m allowed. That’s probably not going to be until about December, if all goes well.

From everything I’ve read, horseback riding while pregnant isn’t inherently dangerous. Unless you fall off, but that’s a given. I read stories of women who rode up until the day they gave birth. First, that’s kind of insane. Second, they were usually professional equestriennes, something I most certainly am not. Third, I planned to quit at the end of this month, as most doctors said it was perfectly fine for women to ride in their first trimesters, as long as they felt comfortable with it. This is exactly what Dr. Shoji told me when I asked him about it. I enjoy riding very much, and I wanted to continue as long as possible, so I decided that I could wait until the end of March to stop. If I had just kept my stupid mouth shut, I’d be taking another lesson next week.

At the beginning of February, my instructor at the time suggested that I try taking the Beginner Canter class, which was actually a little less physically demanding than the class I was taking. That class involved a lot of standing at the trot, which was great for exercise even at an aerobic level, but bouncing in the saddle was also a big part of it. I actually had one of these lessons before I knew I was pregnant, but so early on that it made no difference. It was a good lesson, and I was psyched about doing the canter practice the next time.

This week was my fourth canter lesson, the second one after learning about the pregnancy. I felt fine last week, though I had been a little worried about it. The Beginner Canter class involves riding in a small circle while going progressively faster. I was already experiencing pregnancy-induced nausea, and I half-expected to have problems along those lines. I was fine. Watching the other riders take their turns made me a little dizzy, but it wasn’t terrible. I confidently scheduled a lesson for this week, telling myself that if I didn’t feel up to it, I would just try again next week.

I started the lesson feeling good. It was a little chilly, but I figured that once I got on the horse and moved around some, I’d warm up. I was riding a horse called Nancy, which suggested to me that I would either have to work extra-hard to keep her moving (Nancy is notorious for being the slowest, most difficult to motivate into action horse at the club) or I could let the instructor put her on a lunge and let her do all the work. Lunge we did, and everything was dandy until Nancy actually started to canter.

Nancy is perhaps also the most uncoordinated horse at the club. She drags her hooves when she walks, she bounces like a car with bad shocks on a dirt road when she trots, and appararently she flails like a maniac when she canters. The only time it’s comfortable to sit on her is when she’s not moving, only then you have to worry about her falling asleep while you’re on her back. Seriously. She starts to doze off if she’s not moving.

So, after my first turn in the ring, I started feeling a bit wonky. I was entirely unprepared for her freakish canter, and the instructor went faster than I was comfortable with. I distracted her by telling her that my foot had come out of the stirrup and could we please slow down a little? I probably would have been fine if I hadn’t taken a second turn in the ring. Immediately, the instructor flew me into Nancy’s monstrous canter, and I quickly stopped her. She asked me what the problem was, and I finally just said, “I’m having a little trouble because I’m pregnant and this isn’t very comfortable for me.” Or something along those lines, because my Japanese isn’t nearly that good.

I immediately wished I had just said, “I’m going to puke,” but I don’t know the Japanese word for vomit, because she got all wide-eyed and protective.

“You can’t ride a horse while you’re pregnant! It’s too dangerous! Cantering is too much for you! Get off! Get off!”

Or something like that. Her Japanese was really rapid and excited, and I only caught about 25% of it, but that was the gist. And she really did make me get off the horse then and there, as well as having her assistant escort me back to the tacking area to make sure I didn’t do anything else crazy. At least he was cool about it. I told him I could untack Nancy, so he just stood back and watched.

Well, he would have, until one of the front desk ladies came running up and basically repeated what the instructor had said: “You can’t ride when you’re pregnant!” Apparently, you can’t untack a horse or be anywhere near it when you’re pregnant either, because she made me back away from Nancy and allow the assistant to finish. She practically ordered him to finish for me. Which is hilarious, because Nancy was barely conscious during the whole thing, and I was 90% done anyway. If I can say one nice thing about Nancy, it’s that she’s easy to tack up. The only part is making sure she doesn’t actually fall asleep on you.

But, because pregnant women are delicate flowers who might break if a stiff breeze comes along, I was ushered back up to the clubhouse and given my options, none of which were “come back for another lesson next week.” One of the English-speaking front desk ladies explained everything to me, and we eventually decided it was best to cancel my membership – temporarily. If I kept my membership but took a “break,” I would still have to pay half my monthly fee. But if I cancel, I can join again later at a discounted membership fee, which would be less than the total cost of the previous option. Since we have no idea where we’re going to be when Lucky is born, I figured cancellation was for the best.

As surprising, confusing, and terrifying as this whole pregnancy thing has been, giving up horseback riding is the only truly disappointing thing that has come out of it. I’ve been riding at the Crane Club for almost 16 months, and except for one terrible instructor, I’ve enjoyed all of it. I don’t want to give it up. Nothing would make me happier than to be able to ride again in the future.

At least I can go and visit if I should ever get the urge. I might not be able to ride, but that doesn’t mean I have to give up horses for good. I just wish I’d had a little more time to enjoy it.

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