You have your horse ready to go. You’ve been waiting for that ride all week long. Today is the first day of the competition you’ve been preparing for the past few months. You feel some pain in your belly and head to the toilet only to discover that IT arrived. Earlier than expected, without invitation or prior notice. It is here to complicate your day and cause discomfort. Period.
Most of us experience mild symptoms in the few days leading up to menstruation and a bit stronger during the first day (or two, or three…) of menstruating. Various studies show, that there are over a hundred (!) symptoms that have been attributed to menstruation, and these may change over time and from cycle to cycle. Normally, period discomforts should be manageable enough that you can carry on with your normal life. However, for some women, symptoms are so harsh that it becomes difficult to carry out the normal tasks of daily life, not mentioning horseriding.
Ok, we’ve been through it before. Every single month to be precise. We are fierce goddesses of life, equestrian Amazon queens. Periods are completely normal and nothing to be ashamed of, yet, let’s face it, they do make things complicated. At times you may feel so out-of-order, that it may be more than tempting to cancel all your riding plans, wrap yourself in your favorite blanket, eat chocolate and watch your favorite TV series until it is all over.
If staying at home makes you feel better, do it. If you want to keep on riding, we are here to help.
Here are some tips and tricks on how to ride on your period:
Dare to ride
Horseriding and other physical exercises release endorphins, “the happiness hormones”, which promote well-being, relieve pain and help with discomfort, anxiety, and stress. To make riding a bit easier- so you're not squatting on the paddock every 10 minutes (something I have 100% done)- try taking a single painkiller (ibuprofen or acetaminophen, not Aspirin as it might cause heavier bleeding) about 30min before your ride.
Drinking water may help ease bloating and cramps and it's good for your overall health. Get in the habit of drinking about 2 liters of water per day, especially during your period. If drinking water is too ‘boring’ for you, add some lemon, mint, cucumber or ginger, try chamomile tea or sip a cup of low sodium broth to increase your fluid intake.
Go easy with those riding pants
Don't even think about wearing your tight riding pants. You're already uncomfortable, so why torture yourself by squeezing your poor bloated belly into your tight pants? Try wearing that old pair you keep at the back of your closet, the ones a bit looser in the tummy area. Your welcome. You will thank me later.
Use padded underwear
Being on your period makes your whole intimate area more sensitive and so horseriding may affect you a lot more. Good riding underwear with correctly placed padding can be your best ally at this time. It will take away some of that saddle impact and make you enjoy riding even while on your period. It will also absorb the accidental drops and keep the leakages at bay.
While on period, you may be craving salty, fatty or sugary foods, but remember: these doughnuts and chips are not your friends. Eating the right kinds of foods may help ease menstrual pain. Try anti-inflammatory foods: cherries, blueberries, squash, tomatoes, bell peppers and calcium-rich beans, almonds, and dark leafy greens. Omega-3 fatty acids (cold water fish) and iron-rich foods (spinach, kale, legumes, broccoli, dark chocolate) are also there to help.
Skip white, refined foods including sugar, bread, and pasta, as well as trans-fatty acids (found most often in commercially-prepared foods like French fries, cookies, onion rings, crackers, and margarine). Avoid alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and salt. They may increase inflammation and encourage fluid retention, bloating and period pain.
Choose your menstrual method wisely
The menstrual method depends on each woman and the number of hours spent in the saddle. If you choose sanitary menstrual pads, we recommend using them only for short rides as they may cause UTI (Urinary Tract Infection). Tampons are a better choice for equestrians, as long as you can place them correctly so that they don’t cause discomfort while riding.
Another solution is the menstrual cup. Efficient, eco-friendly, economical and again, if correctly placed (which may take practice, but is definitely worth it), fairly comfortable. The last two methods work well with padded underwear as you will be able to move freely with no friction or risk of getting an infection. Accidental blood remains will be absorbed by the pad. After use, we recommend a quick cold-water handwash or soaking before tossing your riding underwear into the washing machine.
Keep in mind that the above are all drug-store-available menstrual control methods. There are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives available on the market and, for the sake of our planet, we encourage you to explore them more.
Birth control pills (ONLY under professional supervision)
Your gynecologist may prescribe hormonal birth control pills or patches if you suffer from painful menstrual cramps. The medication may help regulate the menstrual cycle and reduce painful cramps. Make sure your doctor knows your entire health history and is well informed about all of your medical conditions. There are many different pills available on the market and not every one of them is appropriate for you. This type of birth control stops ovulation and prevents the lining of the uterus to become as thick as it normally would during a regular cycle. Many women who are on the pill experience periods that are much lighter than usual or don't experience menstrual bleeding at all. If you are a professional rider about to take part in an important competition, your doctor may advise you on how to take your pills in the way that bleeding would not occur at all.
Remember that the above method has a rather significant impact on your body, and we do not recommend it unless absolutely necessary (birth control, pre-existing health conditions, etc.).
Period? No problem!
As you can see, there are many ways you can make your period less uncomfortable so that you can still enjoy horseriding. Remember that menstruation is a completely normal and healthy process your body is going through and there is absolutely no shame in it. There is no point in getting angry or fighting against it. Listen to your body and do what feels best for you. Learn to work together in harmony, just as you work with your horse. Even if you are not able to ride, you can take this time and use it as a bonding excuse. Take your horse for a walk, try out some horse DIYs and have fun with your furry friend.