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Working On A Horse Farm During Pregnancy: Is It Safe To Work At The Barn When Pregnant?

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Did you know that your usual barn work routine could be continued almost till your third trimester, depending on your health and pregnancy? Delve into this eye-opening article that reshapes common perceptions of pregnancy and barn work.

So there are three most likely situations you are in right now if you are asking this question. You work at a horse farm as a volunteer or as your job or want to. You rough board, coop or work for the reduced board. Or you keep your horses at home and take care of them.

As for myself when I became pregnant I was a barn manager and teaching lessons as a riding instructor. I didn’t know I was pregnant until I was about two months pregnant.

I found out I was pregnant in March 2018 and continued working at the barn until the end of October 2018. As time went on I reduced the intensity and amount I worked. I also avoided certain chores or modified the way I was doing some of the chores. I had a low-risk pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Is It Safe To Be Around Horses And Handle Them When You Are Pregnant?

For the most part, horses are safe and rarely spread infections to humans.

Very Well Family- Donna Murray, RN, BSN Pets and Pregnancy

However, there is always a risk of getting hurt when working with horses. This is more a choice for you if you feel comfortable continuing to handle and be around horses while pregnant .

You want to listen to your OBGYN as they are monitoring you, checking you over and giving you advice based on best practices with how your pregnancy is doing. If you are a high-risk pregnancy there is more you will want to avoid than if you are low risk.

Personally I felt comfortable handling horses during my pregnancy. For the most part, all the horses I worked with were fairly calm and agreeable.

I would not suggest a person that doesn’t know horses well, be learning to handle them while they are pregnant. There are too many factors like not knowing how to be safe around horses, lack of understanding of the horse’s body language and behavior, making handling mistakes.

Best to get started with horses after having a baby .

Is It Safe To Do Barn Work When You Are Pregnant?

If your doctor gives you the okay to exercise and your pregnancy is low risk, it’s okay to do barn work. However, you may want to modify what you are doing as you get bigger and tasks get more difficult. Unless you are high risk, doing your normal level of exercise during the first trimester is not a big deal and often encouraged.

Overall, the evidence indicates that exercise during pregnancy is safe and perhaps even reduces the risk of preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

American Journal Of Lifetime Medicine- The Effect of Exercise During Pregnancy on Maternal Outcomes: Practical Implications for Practice

The more fit you can stay during your pregnancy the easier labor and delivery will be as well as your recovery postpartum.

If you are working for a stable, let the barn manager or barn owner whoever you are working for know that you are pregnant. They may want you to go to the doctors and make sure you are all cleared to keep working at the barn.

What Barn Work Should You Avoid To Keep You Safe While You Are Pregnant?

As long as your pregnancy is going well, you have no complications, you are clear to go, you should be able to do the normal level of barn work you have been used to all the way into your second trimester maybe into your third trimester.

You should be able to exercise just like you did before you became pregnant and it can actually be beneficial to your pregnancy health.

There are more studies starting to come out this to back up this theory. I found a book while researching through Google Scholar called Exercising Through Your Pregnancy: A compelling case for exercise before, during and after pregnancy.

If you want to learn more you should check it out. It is an e-book and costs about ten dollars. However there is a good amount of info you can read for free from the preview pages. Not an affiliate link.

It just really depends on you, your pregnancy health, your fitness level, and what’s okay for you.

When I was pregnant I did make sure to stop scooping the cat litter box at the barn. There are bacteria present in cat poop called toxoplasmosis, which can have an adverse effect on the pregnancy.

I did my regular routine at the barn until I got to the end of my second trimester. That is when I started to cut back, take more breaks and modify what I was doing.

Until one day a hay delivery came and there were not enough people to stack about 200 bales of hay or was it 300? Anyway, I stacked between 60-80 bales of hay during my 2nd trimester and I was surprised that I felt okay after, just a little tired.

You may need to cut back, slow down, take breaks and modify what you are doing. Just don’t push yourself beyond what you feel capable of doing, listen to your body.

Your posture gets affected during pregnancy and you are more at risk for strains and pulled out backs, so correct bending and lifting mechanics are important.

What Horse Products Should I Avoid At The Barn To Stay Safe?

Working at each barn is a little different and that includes the products that are being used at the barn. You want to reduce your exposure to chemicals that may cause problems for your pregnancy.

From my experience, the only products I had to try to avoid were fly spray, show sheen, and cleaning products for around the barn, like bathroom cleaner and Lysol spray.

Here is a list of products to avoid and pass on the task to someone else or to modify how you are handling products:

  • Fly Spray
  • Shine and De-tangler Sprays
  • Bug Repellent
  • Paste De-Wormer
  • Regu-Mate
  • Other Horse Pharmaceuticals
  • Hoof Polish
  • Thrush treatments
  • Kitty Litter Boxes
  • Moth Balls

If you do have to handle these products, wear gloves and wash your hands after. Try your best to avoid them as much as possible.

At What Point Should You Stop Working At The Barn?

This is up to your doctor’s advice, your body and what you are comfortable with.

“Most women can physically handle their usual workload until about 32 to 34 weeks of pregnancy. Around this same time, many women are also shifting their mental focus from their job towards being a new mother, and that can affect the decision on when to stop working.

NWHC- The Pregnancy Countdown – When Should I Stop Working?

Like I mentioned before I was able to keep working even though my third trimester. However, by the third trimester, I had reduced my physical work significantly and was delegating the parts I struggled with to others.

I didn’t continue working with no plan in mind. I made sure to think about what the best plan of action would be. I decided that would be to work until my 8th month of pregnancy if all went well and then stop working at that point. Unless I needed to stop before then for whatever reason.

One thing you should keep in mind when you are pregnant is that it is possible at any time that you need to stop working or even go on bed rest. That is probably far and few between but be prepared that it is a possibility.

So if you keep your horse at home. Find help sooner rather than later. So you can have back up set in place just in case you have to stop working for whatever reason.

You will want to find someone anyway for when you are in labor, at the hospital, and for a while when you are back home. It takes a while to recover. Recovery time varies between each mom.

Tips For Working At The Barn And Staying Safe While You Are Pregnant

1. Keep Hydrated

Make sure you are drinking lots of water to keep you and your baby sufficiently hydrated.

While you are being active you should make sure that you stay hydrated and regularly drink plenty of water. Water is more important and precious to your body while you are pregnant.

Dehydration during pregnancy can lead to serious pregnancy complications, including neural tube defects, low amniotic fluid, inadequate breast milk production, and even premature labor. These risks, in turn, can lead to birth defects due to lack of water and nutritional support for your baby.

American Pregnancy Association- Dehydration During Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms, and Prevention

2. Listen To Your Body

Working at the barn is physical work as you know. Make sure that you are not overexerting yourself.

Pay attention to how you feel. Take breaks if you are feeling tired or off. If something you are going to lift feels too heavy don’t lift it, find help or another way to move it without straining yourself.

Stop working and contact your doctor if you experience:

  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Dizziness
  • Migraine
  • Calf swelling or pain
  • Uterine contractions that continue after resting
  • Fluid gushing from your vagina
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Muscle weakness and off-balance
  • If you are concerned at all

3. Listen To Your Instincts

If you are feeling like something is not a good idea or unsafe, listen to your gut. Don’t do it. Ask for help if it needs to be done. Don’t put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation just to complete a task. You and your baby are more important.

4. Modify What You Are Doing As Needed

Let me give you some examples of what I mean by modifying your barn work.

  1. Water: use a hose to fill the waters instead of lugging heavy water jugs or buckets to fill them. If you need to lug water buckets or jugs only fill them halfway or less if you need to. It will take longer that way but be less strain on your body. If you need to lug water to paddocks use a wagon and put jugs or buckets halfway filled in the wagon.
  2. Mucking Stalls and Picking Paddocks: When you are using a wheel barrel or a muck tub don’t fill it all the way. Only fill as much as you can push and carry without too much extra effort.
  3. Hay: Instead of lifting and carrying a bale of hay. Slide the bale of hay across the floor. If you are feeding out hay and normally carry large amounts of hay to stalls or paddocks, use a wagon or wheel barrel to the paddocks and carry smaller amounts when throwing hay in the stalls.
  4. Fly Spray: If you absolutely need to use the fly spray and don’t have pregnancy safe products. Use a mitt or cloth, wear rubber or latex gloves too. Spray on the mitt or cloth careful not to get any on you or have the wind blow it on you. Then you can use the mitt or cloth and wipe it all over the horse. If you get it on you wash the area with soap and water as soon as you can.
  5. Rubber or Latex Gloves: If you need to use any horse product you are not sure is pregnancy safe. Be cautious and wear gloves. Don’t forget to wash your hands after.
  6. Face Mask- Consider using a face mask while mucking stalls, to help protect from dust, ammonia, and lime powder if you use that in the stalls. Just an extra precaution you can take.

According to a new study, the more common colds and viral infections a woman has during pregnancy – and the more exposure she has to house dust and pet dander – the greater the chance her baby will develop allergies.

Huffington Post Uk- Pregnant Women’s Exposure To Common Colds And Dust Increases Risk Of Childhood Allergies
  1. Feeding Grain– Every barn is different with how they set up and feed grain. Some use carts where they scoop out grain as they go to each stall. While others set up feed buckets and then carry them all to the barn aisle and then feed them out to the horses. Carry fewer buckets and make more trips.
  2. Turning Horses Out and In: Only turn out the calmer level headed horses to be safe. Let someone else handle the rambunctious energetic horses. I just read a post about a woman who was pregnant that got kicked in the stomach trying to catch her loose horse and her baby who was 8 months along died. It was heartbreaking for her. That being said also make sure you are only leading one horse at a time. Don’t take more risks than needed. Some barns I have worked at lead more than one horse. I have led 2-5 horses at a time and it is a risk without carrying a baby inside you.
  3. Instructing: I just wanted to add this one in. Some of you may be riding instructors as well. As you know you are on your feet standing a lot. It can actually be harmful to your baby standing for very long periods of time. Have a chair available so you can sit and take a break from standing.

5. Consider Full Boarding Your Horse

If you take care of your horse at home. It may be a good idea to look at barns in your area that offer full board.

It will cost more money than keeping your horse at home . Although, if you end up not being able to take care of your horse for a large chunk of time full board may be a good temporary option.

The farm may even be able to help you find someone to lease your horse and keep them exercised and in shape. Plus that would reduce the expenses of your horse while being boarded.

There are also some barns that will give you a reduced board if you let them use your horse in their lesson program. Of course, your horse would have to be suitable for these things.

6. Get Help Sooner Than Later

Find backup help for your horses if you keep them at home. If you can’t afford to do full board or you don’t want to.

You will need help at some point. You will be most likely be away at the hospital for labor and delivery and you could be there from a couple of days to a couple of months, you just don’t know. You want to prepare for that possibility.

I had a healthy pregnancy. The labor and delivery were tough. 48 hours of labor until my baby boy was born. Then I stayed for a week. I was exhausted and in a lot of pain during and after delivery.

You also don’t know what might happen. You may need to go on bed rest early on in your pregnancy. So be prepared for what could happen.

Hire someone to do a small bit of work, so you can train them and get them used to the barn. Make sure they are okay with taking over when the time comes that you need them to.

Also, find more than one person who could take care of the animals. Back up just in case. Maybe friends or family that could step in if you needed extra help or back up.

Maybe there is an equestrian college student in the area that might be interested in riding in exchange for helping with barn chores. Or maybe you can find someone to lease your horse to help keep an eye on your horse and keep them active.

7. Stay Alert When Working With Horses

When working with horses for many years it can become second nature. We get used to it and feel comfortable and confident around the horses. Our alertness and caution decrease with the trust we have in our abilities and the horses we work with.

But don’t make the mistake to not pay attention to the horses you are working with. Keep an eye on your horse’s body language and the environment you are handling your horse in.

Be aware of potential hazards that may cause your horse to spook. You want to be prepared and alert to take action as needed. People get hurt usually when they get too comfortable with horses and have let their guard down.

8. Slow Down

Even in the beginning, you might need to slow down.

  1. The first trimester can be brutal for some women. If you feel great and can keep up with your normal pace, awesome. But don’t feel bad if you need to slow it down and take longer.
  2. The second trimester is usually the best time during pregnancy for many women. The second trimester was a breeze for me thank God.
  3. But in the third trimester, I got really big and uncomfortable. Bending over was much more difficult. Carrying feed buckets felt awkward. Pushing a wheel barrel was a lot more effort.

Just go at a pace you are comfortable with.

Poll: Which Best Describes Your Barn Work Situation?

Summary Of Working At The Barn Pregnant

You can do this. You can work at a barn and take care of the horses. But modify. Take breaks. Listen to your body. Take precautions. Stay alert and aware when working with horses.

Have help, set in place early on for moms with horses at home, or if you rough board.

There are risks and pregnancy can be unpredictable at times.

Keep you and your baby’s safety high on the priority list. Do what you need to do to keep your baby healthy and safe. You are a guardian and protector of your little one.

But if you are having a healthy pregnancy, take the right precautions, follow your doctor’s advice you should be able to continue doing barn work and be fine.

The exercise working at the barn may even help you have a better safer pregnancy, delivery and postpartum experience.

Do what you think is best, listen to what your doctor has to say and follow your gut!

Cheers, Kacey

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Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
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