Interview: Janneke Punte

Riding While Pregnant

The question of riding while pregnant is a vividly discussed topic, to say the least. At some point during pregnancy, many riders find themselves thinking, “Can I keep riding while pregnant? How do I need to change my routines, and is it safe?” While every pregnancy and body is unique, it’s always insightful to learn from other’s experiences. That’s where Dutch dressage rider Janneke Punte comes in: She’s a top-level rider with her own stable in the eastern Netherlands and has recently shared her pregnancy news. Maya Delorez took the chance to ask her about her personal experience, the challenges she’s encountered, and any tips for fellow pregnant riders. Keep reading to learn more 👇

For someone who might not know you, who is Janneke Punte?
My name is Janneke Punte, and I’m 36 years old. I live in the eastern Netherlands, where I have my own dressage stable. I teach a lot, train my horses, and occasionally sell horses. At the moment, we have 9 horses ranging in age from 1 to 11 years old, all at different levels.

How has your daily schedule at the stables changed since your pregnancy?
Not much has changed. I’m fortunate that I haven’t experienced many pregnancy-related issues. I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant and have started to reduce my riding activities. I avoid heavy lifting and find bending over increasingly challenging. Other than that, my days look the same as before. I still muck out stables, ride the horse(s) in the morning, take them to the field or paddock, and give lessons in the afternoons and evenings.

Did you change anything about the way you care for and groom your horses?
No, luckily, I employ two girls who take care of the heavier tasks. One of them will also train my horses if I‘ll be unable to do so for a few months. The daily routine for the horses hasn’t changed. They still go out in the field, paddock, the horse walker, and they are trained 4 to 5 times a week.

“Listen to your body, do what feels good for you, and avoid unnecessary risks”

Did you change anything about your riding and training because of your pregnancy?
Riding became less intense around week 20. Sitting trot quickly became uncomfortable, and I no longer felt safe competing. Currently, I do more lunging and ride one to two horses per day. Being with the horses does feel very relaxing because the performance pressure is less high.

How do you manage the potential risks associated with riding, such as falls, while pregnant, and what precautions do you take to minimize those risks?
As your belly grows, you become more and more aware of the fact that there is a real person inside you. This heightened sense of responsibility makes me more cautious. I currently train 3 horses that are very sweet and I trust completely. And I currently only ride in the indoor arena, and people around the stable take extra care to ensure the horses aren’t unnecessarily startled.

How did you adapt your riding clothes and equipment to stay comfortable and safe during pregnancy?
Fortunately, there have been very nice riding leggings available for a while. They offer ample stretch, which I could comfortably wear until around week 22. Recently, I’ve been riding in Maya Delorez’s breeches (Peggy Maternity), which provide excellent support for my belly without putting too much pressure on it.

Did you receive help or advice from other equestrians or professionals about being pregnant and riding?
I was certainly curious about how other (expecting) mothers experienced the combination of pregnancy or having a baby, and riding. I posted this question on social media, and there were (understandably) different reactions. But to answer the question: I completely agree with listening to your body. For me, every now and then I don’t want to do too much and don’t ride for a few days. This helps my body recover and allows me to continue riding comfortably.

“Riding a horse often feels safer to me than driving a car and having to depend on other road users.”

How did you feel emotionally about being pregnant and still riding horses? Were there any special challenges or happy moments?
After I found out that I was pregnant, I began riding with a heightened sense of awareness. But at the same time, riding a horse often feels safer to me than driving a car and having to depend on other road users. As my pregnancy progressed, I became more cautious, given my growing belly and the sensation of my baby moving. Each ride now brings me joy. My priorities have shifted, and I’m less concerned with having a “perfect” ride. I’m more grateful for my body and think it is special to be able to carry a child.

Was there something you weren’t prepared for or didn’t expect before getting pregnant, and which you would have liked to know before?
As mentioned earlier, I can’t complain about pregnancy-related issues. I have friends and family who have children, so I learned about the physical changes pregnancy can bring. While I’m still adjusting to having a “big belly” and reduced fitness, I’m not disappointed with how my pregnancy is progressing.

What are your plans for riding after giving birth? How do you think you’ll balance your riding with being a parent?
Of course I hope for an easy-going and contented child who sleeps well and can be easily taken along. Both my husband and I have our own businesses, which grants us flexibility. Additionally, we live on the same property as my parents, so a babysitter is always nearby. 😉 I tend to go with the flow and I believe that certain things will probably turn out differently even if you think about it beforehand, so you cannot fully prepare for the arrival of a baby. I have confidence that everything will work out fine.

What are your hopes and plans for passing on your passion for horses to your child?
I certainly hope she becomes an animal lover. And while horse riding would be nice, any sport or interest is welcome. More importantly, I want my child to develop a respectful and compassionate mentality towards people and animals. Like her mother, I hope she discovers her passion, be it for a particular sport, an interest in music, or education.

What advice would you give to other pregnant equestrians who want to continue riding during their pregnancies?
Listen to your body, do what feels good for you, and avoid unnecessary risks. As long as you can, enjoy your pregnancy, your growing belly, and the incredible sensation of a little person moving inside you, because it is and remains a miracle!

Thank you, Janneke, for giving us these exclusive insights into your experience. We wish you and your family all the best.🖤

💡 If you’re pregnant and thinking about continuing to ride, it’s highly advisable to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and recommendations. They can provide you with valuable insights and tailored guidance to ensure your well-being and the well-being of your baby throughout your pregnancy.

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