I’ve been promoted recently in Pilates, to the exercise ball. Well, I like to think of it as a promotion, but really it’s just special treatment.

Pilates is really good for your core muscles, so along with yoga is highly recommended for pregnant women. As I already went to a weekly Equestrian Pilates, I just told my instructor on the quiet and we just carried on as normal until sixteen weeks. She told me to go steady and listen to my body if and when I felt tired … well we all know how good I am at doing that!

From sixteen weeks pregnant you aren’t supposed to lie on your back. Which is easier said than done as I keep waking up in the night flat on my back. So I had to be propped up on a beanbag for any exercises involving lying on your back. Luckily I still have the bean bag my Granny gave me when I was ten, so I dug that out and got some funny looks when I first turned up to Pilates looking like Santa Claus. As well as the fact that I don’t look pregnant.

On the positive side, I’m now excused from balancing on the roller and doing various leg lifting and arm waving exercises. My friend is very jealous! But I need new challenges.

I’m fine to do all exercises on my side, well all the easy exercises. I haven’t made up my mind if I mind being excused from the tougher ones!

Obviously you also can’t lie on your front whilst pregnant, so I get alternative exercises for this section. Usually on all fours, they are exercises which flex your spine, check your core stability and or those which work your gluteals – the “dog on a lamppost” exercise is particularly embarrassing. Especially when no one else is doing it!

My instructor has had her work cut out thinking of different exercises for me, which are physically easier but still challenge me. She’s already given me some arm weights so I can tone the baby carrying muscles.

Last week she produced an exercise ball for me, and I have to say that I think all riders should have a go on them.

Even just sitting on the exercise ball makes you aware of your core muscles and your balance. Which is so important because if you load one seat bone more than the other on the ball you will wobble off, and we know how much rider crookedness can affect a horse’s way of going.

Exercises such as pelvic tilts feel very different on a wobbly ball. I also did hip circles in both directions, which are really useful for anyone needing to improve their canter seat. You get a similar workout to hula-hooping, which I’m sure I’ve told you before, is a useful way of suppling the hips to sit to the canter.

I also did leg lifts, which are a good test of balance on a wobbly ball. Moving very slowly is the key to not losing your balance, and I’ve been threatened with pain of death if I fall off. And there’s also this exercise where I had to push my knees forward alternately, which simulates the movement of your pelvis whilst trotting.

The hardest exercise I had to do, by far, was squats against the exercise ball. Place the ball between your back and the wall, then place your feet hip width apart and prepare for some pain! As a harder exercise, you can hover in the squatting position and raise your heels alternatively. I only managed ten lifts on each heel before feeling exhausted. If anyone has a ball to hand, give it a go – I dare you!

I’ve put an exercise ball on my Christmas list (hopefully I only get one!) but beware clients, I may be getting you to sit on it to develop your awareness of your seat and to improve your hip flexibility so that you can sit deeper in the saddle and absorb every movement.

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