On Mothering, Matrescence & Horses

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The word ‘mother’ covers many situations and complexities. We can be a mother to biological children. We can be mother to children not born to us. We can mother, never having given birth nor lived with a child. We can mother in the face of loss, or within a framework that was very different to the one that we may have once imagined, or perhaps hoped for.

To go through a pregnancy and birth is inherently a transformative experience, and one that our culture and society does not hold well. Despite the advances in so many areas of health care, pregnancy, and early motherhood- I would argue even well beyond that- is a vulnerable time for women’s health and wellbeing.

During pregnancy, I would look up the different stages that my body was going through only to have the period of gestation compared to a piece of fruit.

This week, your baby is a grape.

This week, a kiwi fruit.

Now, they are an orange.

There was little to no information about the true nature of the physical changes my body was going through, let alone the mental, the psychic and the spiritual. My body experienced pregnancy like an earthquake, a hurricane, a spitting volcano. Nowhere was this discussed or really mentioned.

I did not want to hear of bowls of fruit.

Statistics also show that women are poorly informed about the true nature of giving birth, which can result in a whole myriad of problems for our future physical wellbeing and leave us uninformed to make decisions about the process of giving birth. Our bodies are amazing, yes. But there is much to be said about the role of religion and a patriarchal culture that has placed much of the reality of what women face in the transition towards and within ‘mother’ behind a curtain of invisibility, isolation, and shame.

Especially when it comes to discussing parts of the body which might now be painful or experiencing dysfunction when they occur in places whose names we have been conditioned to not say out loud.

Why am I talking about this? The overwhelming majority of those I work with are women. If we were to break into groups the number of people in the equestrian community who are mothers, the numbers would be big. Huge in fact. And I know many of those women have not had an easy time.

Their bodies have undergone changes that make the transition back to riding and horsing hard, and because of everything I have mentioned above, embarrassing to talk about. I read that it’s ‘normal’ to tear in childbirth, to be stitched up. I can assure you, if you are one of those people, it being ‘normal’ does not ease the pain and difficulty of the actual event.

Of all the women in my antenatal group, I was the only one not to have a c-section. The only one.

None of this is a judgement- quite the opposite. Instead, it’s a call to recognise that an empathy and understanding for what women go through during pregnancy, childbirth and early motherhood is essential if we are to support mother’s back into the process of riding and getting back into the saddle, should that be the desire.

Physiologically, but also mentally and emotionally.

Matrescence brings a complete reconfiguration of identity.

For me, horses were a lifeline that I refused to give up. I was lucky to be supported in that. I know that many women aren’t. And while some are fortunate to ease into motherhood as a smooth transition, many more find it hard- for all the reasons and so much more that I haven’t mentioned or described.

This book that I have pictured, Matrescence, is brilliant. I highly recommend it.

And as trainers, male or female, I also recommend you add it to your list. This is not a female issue. It’s a human one. And we need bigger, wider conversations for both humans and horses that speak to the fullness of our real, lived, experience.


❤️ Jane

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