By Wiola Grabowska
The first time you try to stand on the gym ball you might conclude it a mission impossible. Your joints might go all stiff, muscles all rigid and you might try to grasp for anything and anyone to grab hold of for balance.
If this sounds a bit like you when your horse is playful and fresh or when he takes off awkwardly over a jump or when you feel nervous in the saddle for whatever reason, you might want to try this exercise at home.
The ability to relax during an intense effort is something that is possible to learn. That “active relaxation” allows for a positive tension to keep muscles in a state of readiness without the negative tension creeping in and making you rigid and and stilted in your movements.
For the above exercise you’ll need:
- a gym ball (65cm should work well unless you are very tall or very short! – go for 75cm if the former or 55cm if the latter)
- a helper, someone to catch you 😉
- safe area around you
- we used a couple of poles to stabilise the ball a little and this worked well for Caitlin’s first go. You can slowly build up towards no outside help.
- a Pilates band (black one we used gives a good amount of stretch without feeling too much like pulling on a chewing gum!)
- somewhere to attach the band to (or you can have a second helper holding the band)
Benefits (if you persevere with this exercise) :
- huge dose of balance effort – it’s like learning to walk again 😉 You’ll feel like an earthquake and white water rafting happened to you at the same time!
- you’ll find muscles you never thought you had
- you’ll make discoveries about your balance that you won’t make walking on an even pavement
- you’ll learn to breathe through a state of mild panic 😉
- you’ll learn that your arms can move quietly even if your body is fighting a crazy battle to remain on top of the ball (not to unlike a calm balance required during playful bucking episodes, jumping efforts, XC etc)
- you’ll learn a different dimension of relaxation, one that perhaps you have not experienced before: relation inside an immense effort…It’s when you are able to let go of negative tension in your muscles but remain engaged and positively toned. The skill that takes riding to higher level.
- stand on the ball (simple but not easy 😉 )
- the position you are aiming for is a correct squat with your knees in line with your toes, your centre of gravity low (not up in your shoulders – feel like you drop your weight into your hips and like your shoulder blades relax down your ribs)
- you want to feel supple and loose in your shoulder joint, elbow and wrists
- your back needs to stay as neutral as possible (avoid hollowing your back or rounding your back). A nice little video about neutral spine below: