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What’s My Workout: Ester Cobb

In a world of infinite workout options, Ester Cobb likes to keep it simple. “Horseback riding keeps me in the best shape of my life,” says the physician, who specializes in family and preventative medicine and lives with her husband, an emergency M.D., in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Pregnant with her first child, a girl due in late January 2015, Cobb is trained in prenatal care and has delivered numerous babies. But when it’s time for fitness, she focuses on lessons in dressage and jumping. Here, she talks with us about staying in the saddle and how she fared in a competition this fall—at 20 weeks along.

Q: What were your go-to workouts before you got pregnant?

A: My sole workout since buying my first horse six years ago has been riding. No time for anything else and no need for it either. I get results I never got from running and working out in a gym. Imagine doing your entire workout on a balance ball for an hour plus—that’s what being on a moving animal does for your core.

Q: And your routine now?

A: My typical workout since becoming pregnant is the same as it was before I became pregnant: Riding for about an hour three times a week, dividing those sessions between dressage lessons and jumping lessons with my respective coaches and on my two horses, Greystone and Caesar.

Q: Has anything surprised you?

A: As the pregnancy progressed my anxiety, especially regarding jumping, reared its ugly head. I should point out that a certain level of anxiety regarding personal injury exists even when I am not pregnant! But what if I fall off? What if the baby gets hurt? I stuck with it, did what I felt comfortable with and my anxiety decreased as I realized I was still capable of performing and my horse was comfortable with my new weight and center of balance.

Q: When will you hang up the reins for a bit?

A:I plan on riding as long as I am capable of mounting and dismounting unassisted. I figure if I have enough strength to do that, then I can support my own weight while on the horse.

Q: You rode in a United States Eventing Association–recognized competition in September. What goes on at one of those?

A: The sport of eventing encompasses three distinct phases: a dressage test that is a pattern executed in an enclosed ring; stadium jumping, which is a short and fast-paced jump course of adjustable jumps in an enclosed arena; and cross-country jumping, an extended course of fixed obstacles over an open course.

Q: And how did you feel? You were 20 weeks pregnant!

A: I approached the competition with the attitude that I was participating solely for the sense of accomplishment it would bring—and as a personal fitness goal—and not to get too hung up on placing. This attitude served me well when, after jump three of 16 on the cross-country phase, I realized that I was already winded! Within minutes of leaving the start box I was faced with thoughts of, “Hey—I have a baby in here. Am I going to be able to do this safely? Should I pull up and quit?” But, thankfully, my inner voice said just slow down and do what you can. So we trotted most of the course, picked off the jumps and finished safely and dead last.

Q: That is memorable.

A: My sweet husband saw me breathing hard and struggling over the last few jumps and knew that I was having to dig deep, so after he cheered us over the finish line, we celebrated like I had won the division and fawned all over my horse for carrying mom and baby safely around the course. I was proud of what we had accomplished as a team and a family—all four of us!

Q: How do you think your family will change when the new addition arrives?

A: Continuing to ride while pregnant helped me to come to terms with the idea that while my life will be different as a parent, it doesn’t have to be a completely foreign lifestyle. I am looking forward to introducing my daughter to the horse that she rode while in utero and teaching her to ride him in his twilight years.

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