When the days get short, it’s hard to find enough riding time. A mini-trampoline can be just the thing to keep you fit and improve your riding this winter.
A mini-trampoline offers suspension and give – two qualities we want in our horses and our joints when riding. These qualities change depending on what we do with our bodies, so keeping in shape during the off-season is important. A mini-trampoline will also improve the balance, rhythm and flow needed for riding while increasing your aerobic fitness. As another bonus, the mini-trampoline never gets tired or grumpy, never needs to be fed, and can live under your bed!
Finding a natural rhythm, balance and cadence
If you are older and have never been on a mini-tramp before, start with a short session and have someone spot you. Begin by gently bouncing with both feet together – move up and down while keeping both feet in contact with the trampoline at all times. The goal is to eventually go as high as possible with the least amount of effort. Allow the trampoline to send you up (receiving the motion) and then follow it back down.
Try not to push down into the trampoline when softly bouncing. Doing this will decrease the degree of oscillation. creating a much greater downward force with little upward lift. This action will make you stiff and destroy your natural springiness. Test this by stiffening different parts of your body. Feel how the trampoline goes further down than up and the amplitude decreases. Once you return to the upward receiving bounce, slow down and work with the trampoline rather than against it. It’s okay to let it do most of the work.
Simulate trot and transitions
To begin a “trot”, alternately take your feet completely off the trampoline in a trotting rhythm. Again, let the trampoline do the work. Slower is better – it will improve your ability to receive motion. Feel the ripple of energy created by each movement through your entire body and out the top of your head. Remember – any stiffness in the neck will limit how high you can go. Feel your “poll” bobbing gently with the movement.
Test out a transition from trot to walk or halt, then back to trot again. You and the trampoline should make the transition together without any “aftershocks”. Are you still bouncing after you halted? If this happens when you’re in the saddle, your horse is most likely going to stiffen and hollow his back during transitions. Practice smooth transitions.
You and the trampoline should begin and end movement together. Practice until you can halt without bracing. Again, when these smooth movements are translated to your ride, they’ll allow your horse to lift his back into the halts.
In addition to practicing different gaits and transitions on the mini-trampoline, this exercise will help you develop greater fitness. Ultimately, this will make your horses’ job easier – not to mention help you lose those five pounds of holiday cookies!