If I am honest, I was somewhat sceptical about the use of these little air filled balls in improving my ridden posture. The thought of using them on horseback filled me with nervous anticipation to say the least, I wondered whether I would be able to sit on it? Whether I’d fall off? Whether it would make my horse spook? And what would happen if it ‘popped’ out from under me whilst trotting?!!
I started with the Franklin Mini Roll, the light blue air filed cushion. This is used by positioning it centrally in the saddle, beneath the seat. You have to position this one carefully. Too far back and you will tip forward, too far forward and you will be pushed back. At first the whole sensation is rather odd; I felt disconnected from the horse and lifted off my saddle. I ride in a shallow seated jumping saddle so was rather worried the mini roll would ‘roll’ off on its own but it didn’t. After a short time I became used to sitting on it. Interestingly when I started my mare was not happy, she was reluctant to go forward as I wobbled about! Watching the video of others, it seems this is not unusual. After a few laps I felt more secure and gradually as I relaxed so did Alli, coming into a relaxed, soft and natural outline.
The magic comes in removing the roll after having a walk, trot and canter (if you are feeling brave!) I was not prepared for the difference I found (as I said I was sceptical that I would notice any difference). Once the roll was removed and I sat back in the saddle I felt more centred and connected. My saddle felt deep, my seat secure like I was sitting in an armchair, not my shallow seated jumping saddle! Moving on into trot, I sat much more securely and the same in canter. However, the best bit was that my horse started to relax down into a softer, more natural outline. Pretty impressive results for a little air filled cushion.
There are two green Franklin Original Balls. These are also air filled and have dimples in the surface. This ball is used by placing one under the left or right seat bone and then ride on, alternating it several times. It stimulates the kinaesthetic system making the rider aware of crookedness. It acts on acupressure points in the seat bones creating natural straightness and posture. Experiencing the contrast improved unilateral and bilateral weight aids helping me to be more effective in the saddle. I found that it was particularly helpful in improving my ability to use my seat to influence my horse moving away from my leg.
There are also two red Franklin Universal Balls. These are 7cm in diameter and are air filled. You can use these under the left and right arm to refine rein aids and to relax the shoulders. They are also used under the left and right thigh at different heights to stimulate the adductors. The result is more relaxed legs and improved shock absorbing in the heels. The adductors also correspond to the shoulder areas so you gain benefits in posture and breathing also. I found it quite awkward riding with these under my arms and legs but again the real difference was felt once the balls were taken away and I could ride with more awareness of the freedom of movement in my shoulders and better weight in my heels.
I was concerned the balls might mark my saddle – they did not, the light brown leather of the seat of my saddle showed no marks from the use of any of the balls.
I will definitely recommend this product to others. The Franklin Balls are a very different product for the equestrian market but it is not so far away from the old whip behind your back to open your shoulders trick some of us might have grown up with! You need to be open minded and give it a go, then just have fun and let the movement change your mind!