Returning to the saddle postpartum

A question a lot of dressage riders face is “will I ride again after having a baby?”

This comes will a range of follow up questions like “how long will I have to wait to start riding?”, “how will I feel when I begin?”, “will my body be so different that it’s impossible?”, “will I even have the time to ride with a newborn at home?”, and “how will my confidence be altered when I know that someone at home is relying on me to be home and to be well?”.

Starting again in 2019 

I was in the process of getting back riding after a long term injury when I fell pregnant. I had suffered from chronic hip pain for many years until finally I had to stop riding altogether to recover properly, and I had just starting riding again slowly when I made the decision to stop again during pregnancy. A lot of women continue to ride well into pregnancy , my mother rode until she was 8 months pregnant, but given I was worried how my hip would cope with the pregnancy itself I didn’t want to add more stress on top of that. I spent 9 months worrying about my hip after a doctor told me that probably given my injuries pregnancy and labor would be a struggle that may make it “hard to walk”. However, I found both pregnancy and labor to be amazing experiences and I have never felt healthier or stronger in my hip and back. 

So of course 20 days after giving birth and I started to think about riding!

Many times over the last few years I have thought about giving up altogether, but everytime I feel a bit better for more than two days I want to go and ride my horse!

How to begin again after having a baby is tricky. First of all, waking up every two or three hours to feed leaves you feeling a bit depleted, so finding the time in between day naps and feeding and cleaning etc is a task in itself. 

Also relaxin, the hormone that loosens your joints during pregnancy, stays in your body for about a year after giving birth, making you more prone to injury, therefore it’s probably not a good idea to jump on a two year old stallion. On top of that your baby needs you, even more so if you are breastfeeding, so you are very aware that you can’t afford to get injured. 

And finally, the first time I went for a walk after giving birth I felt a bit like a newborn foal walking for the first time. It was my body but everything felt a bit wonky and sore and new. It takes time to adapt your muscles again because everything down there shifts (your butt for example in a rather dramatic downward slump) and has to gradually move back into position and regain strength. 

So once you have decided whether or not you have the time/mental and physical stamina, and confidence to get back in the saddle, how do you go about it? 

If you already have a calm horse that you trust that’s a good start. If you don’t it can be tricky. If you have been riding for a long time, on nice horses, the thought of riding a school horse is not that appealing. Typically they feel like wooden rods and I’d rather not waste my time feeling sore and frustrated! 

Secondly, for many people, myself included, riding is about the partnership, so having your own horse is important to create that bond. 

Even recovering from injury I realized that I needed a horse with experience that I could gain my confidence on, while being a horse nice enough to not feel like a wooden board. Sounds simple but as many riders will probably know finding an experienced calm horse that is relaxed and not completely “stuffed up” due to bad training methods is unbelievably hard to find! 

Once you have a horse in mind that ticks all those boxes, how and when do you begin? Typically they say 6 weeks until you can do just about anything, but of course that depends on how your pregnancy and labor were and even if they were relatively straight forward you have to start slowly, and I plan to underbid time to not just start riding but also work on the things I know need more attention. 

I think that’s something a lot of riders could use actually, the chance to start again slowly. Something I constantly come back to in my articles is the importance of working the horse at the walk, and establishing the fundamental “stop/go” buttons. It’s when the horse comes to a complete stop on the riders aid and then waits until the rider gives the lightest leg aid before again moving forward. Without this we end up seeing riders hauling their bodies back towards the horses rump with the horse constantly running into the bridle and putting weight into the reins. Without the rider’s ability to have the horse responding to light aids, and the ability to ask the horse to stop and remain still when all aids are released, the horse can never establish self carriage, using instead the rider to hold him up, and push him constantly forward. 

With this in mind I hope to begin again and work on all the things that sometimes get left behind in daily training. Also hopefully using the hormones of pregnancy to get more relaxation through my hip , something again many riders lack! 

The things we have become stuck with over time often take a drastic change or reset to overcome and correct!

Sometimes slowing down gives us the chance to focus more on those things and we can use the time to better ourselves as riders in the long run.

So I am seeing this as a positive step towards hopefully enjoying riding again, and starting each day with a more patient and relaxed approach to training. 

Motherhood…pregnancy, labor, recovery!!

I never thought about being a mother. I admire women who grow up knowing that that is their path but for me it wasn’t something I thought a lot about. I don’t gush over babies and before 5 days ago I had never held a newborn baby, or any baby for that matter.

I have the most gorgeous nieces and nephews, truly brilliant independent and fun kids, but still I never thought I would be a good mother.

I spent my life worrying and taking care of other people, trying to take care of mum at 11 years of age even though she is the strongest and most independent woman I know and of course didn’t actually need taking care of. I was so horrible to myself for so long for something that wasn’t my fault.
I worried that because of this lack of natural maternal sentiment that I shouldn’t be a mother, or wouldn’t be a good one.

But four years ago, like you read or see in movies but never believe, I fell in love with a man when I saw him. That comes with a lot of expectations, but somehow , even in my wildest imaginary and perfect version of this man and how he would be, he turned out to be even better!

Still I told him I  never thought about having kids, and he said that he thought that part of his life had past and we were ok with that.

The week we moved in together my breasts started leaking. You can’t fight nature, and we both laughed but something very strong said to me that perhaps I shouldn’t overlook the possibility of kids.

A year later and the urge was now a force and I announced very clearly one day that I actually did want to have kids, and right now would be a good time. This man, a little taken back, knew that once I decide something it’s hard to convince me otherwise, and so we decided to try.

Pregnancy for me was the most amazing experience of my life, that was up until 5 days ago when I met our daughter Madalena.

I felt so strong and calm during pregnancy, and I am usually a person who can get effected by little things and take too much on board.

I have the most amazing support team from my Pilates instructor and perhaps best friend Ana Luís Martims , who is one of the most profound women I have ever met. And I also have my fisio Jorge Pereira who is truly gifted and just a truly great person right to his core.

I was worried after the broken hips when I was young and the sacrolite dysfunction and chronic pubic pain for years, that pregnancy would be very hard on me. A dr hinted that possibly after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy I’d need a brace and it would be hard to walk.

Turns out I felt better during pregnancy than I have in years, and the morning I gave birth I was in the gym training. Sitting on the exercise bike wondering if maybe I had very bad gas lol!!

We headed to the hospital when the gas turned out to be labour and I was able to achieve my dream of giving birth naturally.

I know that I was truly lucky, and that many women have awful birthing stories, and I am so grateful for all the help and support I received.

It was honestly the most liberating experience of my whole life, and after ten minutes in the birthing room and 6 pushes the best thing that has ever happened to me arrived in mine and my husbands lives. And all my worries about being a terrible mother were erased as I found it to be the most natural thing in the world for me. The nurses asked how many kids I have because they assumed I was not a first time mother. And my husband, when he looks at our beautiful daughter , well it’s the greatest thing I have ever seen, equaled only by the way he looks at me.

Madalena Warne Furtado

I know it won’t be easy. This is the beginning and there will be many challenges to come. I have a rather big tear and all the aches and pains, but for the first time in my life I am giving myself a break. I am proud of myself and my body. I  don’t feel the need to put pressure on myself. I love everything about the whole process, and I feel like the pain of labor is needed otherwise it would feel like it didn’t make sense. It needs to be profound to mark it, to give it the importance it deserves. And compared to broken hips and pubic pain and a life time of horse riding injuries it’s a lot better than I expected!

All this to say that after 9 months of being fed horror stories from every direction I felt like pregnancy and childbirth was the most profound and now rewarding experience of my life, and that just because you aren’t the stereotypical mum type, doesn’t mean you won’t embrace your new identity, love being a mother more than you could imagine, and want to absorb and remember every second of it!!

Now to get back riding 😊😊

Pregnancy…Horseriding, hormones, homesick

I always knew that pregnancy changes a woman. I learnt this because a lot of women I knew who rode before pregnancy stopped riding once they had kids, or rode in a very different way. I was told it was because the body changes and also that they have someone else they put ahead of themselves and they needed to be more careful.

How did pregnancy change your attitude towards riding?

Whatever the reason I knew that women were not the same after having kids, and because my life revolved around horses I learnt this in relation to riding.

07A07DE2-C343-4129-A745-ADEA4D15CE965 months into pregnancy and I am learning a lot about myself. I feel like pregnancy pushes up parts of you or your character  that perhaps you need to work on. Or it’s just that you have less tolerance and feel more aware of your basic needs…or at least other people are made more aware of your basics needs 😉 

Also I guess because there are so many changes going on all the time, you are more emotional.3CC8CB01-9F95-4CAD-B109-2F58E84C09A5

I feel homesick which is not something I usually feel, but I think it’s more that I feel different everyday so I guess I am searching for familiarity.

I have lived ten years on the other side of the world and I absolutely love it here. But home isn’t something I associate with a place, but with a feeling. I guess during pregnancy you search for comfort because your body is sending out so many different highs and lows. I left Australia not really sure of who I was and Portugal helped me find it. My family came out this year for my wedding and I realized that I still fit with them and how much I just love them and how important they are to who I am. Home for me is being with people who know you and you can be yourself around, even when you are moody or hangry (hungry/angry), and they love you anyway. Home is the feeling I used to get being on my horse alone away from the world, cantering out on open paddocks. Home is when I am with my husband and he looks at me, pregnant with his child, and I feel closer to anyone than I ever have. Home is when the baby kicks me and I know I will never be alone, or the same, ever again.

I have learnt a lot in the last few months. I have learnt that I need to keep that connection to Australia as it’s a huge part of who I am, and while my home is Portugal, I am Australian and I will make sure to visit my family more often.

I know that if my body recovers from pregnancy and I can one day ride without pain then I will. It’s a part of me and I miss my relationship and the freedom I feel with my horse!

B9D3A71C-7138-4A25-8E46-D222E7509E0DI also have a new perspective on my own childhood. My father was not much older than me and my husband when he committed suicide. An 11 year old girl sees her father as having it all figured out but as I sit here typing this I know that no one ever really does. We are all just older versions of our younger selves, still searching for ways to better ourselves, and still facing the same challenges that life presents. He was just a person, and his death was not related to what I, for many years convinced myself, must have been lacking in me.

Another thing I have learnt is that just because you weren’t always the “mothering” type doesn’t make you any less capable of assuming it. I feel more sure and comfortable with myself and my future than I ever have. I was never one to gush over babies and I never asked to hold them. However, I find myself overwhelmingly excited and happy, getting butterflies at the thought of the  toys or tiny shoes which my daughter will wear, which is extremely unlike me and something I certainly wasn’t expecting. It’s a really nice feeling though.

I realize though that being pregnant with your first child allows a sort of romantic idea of how it will go, and while everyone tells me how hard it really is and how you will never be more tired, I am going to enjoy being pregnant and understand that life is full of challenges, but that’s what makes it interesting!


It’s been an interesting year for me so far, and It’s given me a new perspective on a lot of things. I had gradually started riding again after finding the right saddle (erreplus),  but I still felt a bit lost. I have always been someone who sets something in her mind and goes after it only this time I wasn’t quite sure what I was going after.

They say dressage is a beautiful sport and it’s best it is, perhaps I just don’t love it enough. I used to watch videos of Nuno Oliveira with mum when I was little and I knew I was watching something special.

I am not one of those “critiques” or bullies, like so many dressage followers are these days. Yet when I watch the tests of Reiner Klimke and Klaus Balkenhol I feel a sort of sadness in the reflection of what has been before. That’s not to say there are not great riders today, perhaps more that the judging, breeding, and expectation has changed so much that the dressage of the past has been lost a little amongst the flash and fling ding trots. But that’s what is expected these days right?

I got married and I am now 5 months pregnant and no I am not riding during pregnancy. Pregnancy is a time in a women’s life when she gets all sorts of unsolicited advice/ horror stories/ judgment, and while I admire women who do keep riding I am taking a break. It’s been good for me, and for whatever reason…maybe it’s that I stopped putting pressure on myself or my body is changing, or that I am so completely truly content and happy and in love with a man I admire and adore, but I have had the most pain free brilliant months of my life.




I also have a lot of help from two people , Jorge Pereira and Ana Luís Martins, who truly want to help me and whom I lo

ve and above all I trust which is the major requirement in any sort of treatment! 

Will I get back riding? I would love to…will I go back to dressage? I doubt it.

I love training the horse and I love the partnership but I was never really made for dressage. I love riding out in the countryside and just being free. I would love to explore working equitation as I think it’s a sport where the horse has a lot of fun and the rider also. But who knows. For now I am helping people find and import their own lusitanos as I still feel that the breed deserves to be shared and celebrated around the world. (Once you have a Lusitano you can’t go back ;))

Batialo is in Australia with my mum and slowly getting back into shape with the correct training and a huge paddock to play in. Although he is completely in charge and has become a huge fan of the Australian Lucerne (tantrums when not given sufficient amounts) , it makes me so happy to hear mum talk about him. He is a special horse and one that changed my life.

I am working on keeping fit and strong and seeing how the changes over the following months will impact me.

I can say that I never imagined where my life would lead…but I am so truly grateful for never giving up on the most important thing…my own happiness!

Stretching the Horse Effectively…not just letting him get Long

Stretching is a vital element to the training of dressage. It is the reward to the horse, it loosens the horse’s body and it allows the energy to flow naturally through the horse, while confirming and testing every aspect of the training. However, there is often big confusion between a beneficial, positive, rewarding, engaged, elastic, “through” stretch; as opposed to a long, flat, out-the-back, running, “drink of water” stretch. The focus falls on the horse’s ability to stretch out his neck and while this is a key element, it is just ONE of many key elements inherent in an effective stretch.

Iota just beginning to stretch…the amount you can allow a horse to stretch depends on his balance and strength

My trainer Miguel Ralao says that the most important thing to remember as we let the horse stretch, is not to loose the roundness and engagement of the gait, and while length in the neck is important, the stretch is actually a test of whether the horse’s energy is being driven by the hindlegs, through the horse and into an elastic contact.

Miguel Ralao and Xenofonte…

“It is important to remember not to let the horse get long through the body in the stretch. Length in the neck is not length in the body and we must think that the horse stays round through the stretch and that the power is driven from the back to the front,” miguel explained. “If we simply let the reins out long, the horse might open his neck angle, but without engagement and the energy channeling through from behind, we will loose the power out the back and the horse will become longer (his hindlegs going further out behind him.”

Nuno Oliviera used to say that “relaxation is not lack of energy”, meaning that when we relax our horse, we must ensure that we maintain the activity and impulsion so that we can test if our horse is working correctly over his back.

How many times have we seen a rider that is holding the horse up in a collected frame and because they have not established correct impulsion and lightness, when they let the reins out to stretch the horse, the horse goes “plop” on the forehand, his hind legs go out behind him like a duck, his back gets flat and long, and his trot goes, “piddle piddle piddle, run run run!” His neck is longer, sure, but what else has the rider missed in the mean time?

If a rider has their horse engaged into the contact, “through”, with the energy coming from the back of the horse, when they gently let the reins out, they will at the same time lift and engage the horse so that as his neck lengthens, he will lift slightly across his top line, creating a lovely curve up over his back and the length will thus be seen only in his top line and not in the flat pancake across his back. I call it the “bold” stretch, as it feels as if my horse is on a gliding mission!

For the rest of the article click this link to go to Eurodressage….

If you are looking to buy your dream Lusitano contact me at

The horse is not ready for extension!

The horse is not ready! Seems simple enough, but this is often a phrase we don’t hear enough or we hear in the wrong circumstances.

Can we be critical enough as riders to understand if we aren’t good enough riders to teach the horse or if he just isn’t ready to do it? There is a lot to that question! 

Nuno Oliveira said that “Horses are often forced too soon to extend the trot, gesticulating with the front legs with no thought for the necessary thrusting forward of the hind legs, leading to a concave Back.”

This we see a lot, and not necessarily just with young horses. A horse that has never learnt to stretch into the contact will never be able to extend nor will a horse that has not established proper engaged collection.

Extension is about lengthening the frame of the horse, however the prerequisite is that the carrying power from the engagement obtained from collection is released into more pushing power without loss of balance and without restriction in front!

How often do we see this? 

Here are two photos. Which is good and which is bad? 


What a ridiculous way to analyze dressage. Good and bad! Truth is there are good and bad elements to both, but typically we are trained to see one as bad and one as better.

In the top photo Batialo is not quite engaged enough from the collection. We see that the front legs are reaching out but the back legs are not pushing under and so we see a slight hollowing of the back. However in the top photo his head and neck are in a better position. My arms are also making a straight line to the bit . In the Second photo at the bottom Batialo is a year older and is stronger with better engagement. However he could be more open in the gullet . His nose is behind the vertical line down from the forehead and the highest point of his neck looks almost in the middle compared to top photo. 

Plus, I look more like I am holding him up, (see the broken line to the bit).

That being said though we have to take into account the overall tendency, and that is very uphill and expressive.

What can we learn from this? For me it means that in the first photo Batialo wasn’t ready to do extended trot. However in the second photo he was ready but I wasn’t capable of riding it correctly as I didn’t have enough experience riding him, or horses with that sort of power. 

This is how we as the dressage community should learn to discuss riders and horses, instead of just pointing out what is good or bad. Even the greatest combinations are constantly searching for perfection. It isn’t static, which is why we must learn to encourage understanding, and congratulate those you seek to find it!

To contact me about articles, or if you want help finding a Lusitano in Portugal, you can write to me at






Horse Buying-Not for the Faint Hearted!


We all have a horse buying story! Either we heard one or we lived one or we are still experiencing one….horse buying is tough! 

Mum and I have been buying or searching for horses for as long as I can remember. 

And we look back and laugh at some of the interesting things we have seen and experienced that at the time weren’t that funny.

I still remember the day when I was three circles around on a young horse and the guy tells mum that it’s the third time the horse has ever been ridden.

Or when you go off to see a horse and you say it’s not what you are after, so they bring out a better horse, and it turns out they had about 6 for sale and they wanted to start you at the bottom and see where they ended up!

Over the last eight years we have learnt a few things about how to limit the possibility of ending up with a donkey/psychopath in your paddock…and I am sure others can add to this list…

Firstly…be suspicious…if they say the horse competed in 2016 and then again in 2019 when he won the championship…don’t go “oh wow he won the championship “, ask what the hell happened in 2017 and 2018?? 

Get an independent vet…not the vet who usually treats the horse.

Find one person you trust who knows someone who knows someone who might be able to tell you more about the horse.

If you found out he went to so and so for three months last year ask so and so about the horse…did they send him back and if so why? 

Ask to ride the horse somewhere else, and see it come off the float at the new place. If the horse has white foam from ear to ear, be worried! 

Don’t trust videos. I have seen people chase horses around and try for an hour with legs pressed on to get medium trot to pass it off as collected trot and make the horse seem “active”!

Don’t get on a horse if you don’t feel comfortable! Who cares what they think it’s not their body getting tossed around.

The word “calm” has many different interpretations…just because they say he is calm, doesn’t mean he is your idea of calm!

Don’t be too picky with stuff that isn’t important…if he has a white stripe that you don’t really like but besides that he is perfect…buy some horse makeup and paint it if you have to! 

Ask to see the horse before they saddle him up…see if he is already hot…have they already lunged him for two hours just to present him as “calm”.

I really really enjoy searching for horses, particularly lusitanos as I have come to love and appreciate the breed so much. I always have people contacting me in search of their dream horse and I feel honored that people trust my opinion and I have very gradually over the last ten years here built up a short list of people I trust who actually tell me “ this horse is not for a women” or “he needs a lot of lunging” or “ his price is lower because he has problems” etc etc.

GP rider Jody Hartstone and the Lusitano I found for her in Portugal Ali Baba

My mum has taken two lusitanos to Australia and while it’s a long haul it is worth it, but just make sure you ask around, and be smart and overly cautious…

If you have any questions or are interested in finding a Lusitano please feel free to write to me at ..and please comment your funny horse buying story below! 😊