This is a product review for the exercise machine, the iGallop™.
My first introduction to this particular piece of exercise equipment came about one day when I was visiting my daughter. I noticed this apparatus in a corner with her saddle perched on the seat. Intrigued I sat in the saddle and located the on/off switch, then hit the trot button. Almost immediately, the saddle flew off the back end and I bailed off the side. After fifteen years of riding “Sir-Spooks-A-Lot”, it was refreshing to know that I still had my self-preservation skills intact. Feeling a little foolish, I immediately checked my surroundings. Thank goodness, no one had witnessed this rather amusing dismount or I would never have heard the end of it.
Apparently, my daughter had recently bought this exercise machine from www.brookstone.com to help get fit for riding before the spring. It boasts being a core and abs exerciser. Surprisingly enough, most reviewers, horse people included, really like this machine. Some customers even use the iGallop for their autistic or handicapped children who cannot take more than one lesson a week with horses. They use it to keep the children’s muscles in shape and for balance.
The DVD that is included has a range of warm–up exercises--beginner and advanced—that you can do while riding this machine. The exercises are designed to promote balance and flexibility while tightening your core muscle groups. I have done the warm-up and beginner sets and can attest to the fact they are not easy; I can see how they would strengthen your core while improving balance and flexibility. The hardest exercise, I find, is bending your knee and pulling it up to your chest. The scissor exercise is also a little tricky. Don’t forget, you’re doing this while the machine is doing a “trot” and you must keep your balance. These are exactly the kind of exercises the classical riding schools used to put students through as part of their weekly regimen. For those of us who don’t have the benefit of good old-fashioned longe lessons in which these kinds of exercises are used, this can be a practical alternative.
While the iGallop™ labels the different settings with the names of horse gaits, it does not accurately duplicate the gaits of a real horse. Below are how the gaits feel to me, you can be your own judge. If you are interested in this piece of equipment, try it out at your nearest Brookstone stores, which are located in most malls.
The Trot – This unbelievably feels like a good, active walk on a real horse
The Gallop – This is nowhere near what a real gallop or canter feels like, especially on one of my horses. I would compare it to an active sitting trot on a horse. One reviewer felt it was like a pace.
The Race – feels like the Gallop, only a little faster.
The Circuit - which incorporates all of the above at intervals, which is a bit like hacking over varied terrain, and is a nice change of pace.
The Stop – (Ok, this isn’t an actual setting, but the machine shuts off automatically after fifteen minutes, and if you don’t know this is coming, it can feel just like a real horse stopping for no apparent reason. This nifty feature allows you to practice staying on when your horse refuses a fence or slams on the brakes in front of a puddle, etc. It can also provide some entertainment for anyone who may be observing you.)
(Note: if you happen to lose your balance, you may want to avoid grabbing the handle on the front of the machine, as this is where all of the buttons for changing the settings are, and it’s all too easy to accidentally hit the “go faster” button at the least opportune moment. I speak from experience… It’s a little like losing your balance on your horse and simultaneously poking him with your spur!)
There is a similar machine that is available from, Hammacher Schlemmer, www.hammacherschlemmer.com , called The Mechanical Core Muscle Trainer. It actually has a saddle shaped seat and stirrups, but it is pricey at $1,500. I have owned horses that cost less than that. The iGallop is on sale right now for $299. Below is the actual ad from the Brookstone site:
Zero-impact, tri-axial action
Your body automatically responds to multidirectional movements to maintain balance. This constant balancing engages muscle groups in your abs, back, hips, seat and legs—and may help improve balance, coordination and posture.
Three levels of speed and intensity
Choose the Trot program to warm up, Gallop for extended toning and shaping, or Race for a truly invigorating workout.
Switches between the three speeds at random intervals, enhancing the shaping and toning effects of iGallop™ as muscle groups respond to continual changes in motion.
iGallop™ is built to last—and its attractive contemporary design looks good in any room of your home.
Any individual who may be pregnant or who has preexisting medical conditions that could be negatively impacted by the rocking motion associated with horseback riding should consult with their physician prior to using iGallop. Anyone who has suffered a neck or back injury or who suffers from chronic neck or back pain should avoid using the product.
Some reviewers have said they put their saddle on the machine, sometimes over a saddle pad, both with and without stirrups, to get the feel of riding. I have tried this and it does make a difference. In addition to strengthening your core, it works your inner thighs and helps you practice good posture for riding. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits is that you can work on improving your “following seat” both at the walk (the machine’s “trot” setting) and at a sitting trot (the machine’s “gallop” setting) without subjecting your horse to any unnecessary agony. Unlike a horse, there really isn’t anything to grip onto on this machine, so it is impossible to balance on the reins or grip with your knees, etc. – you have no choice but to relax and learn to balance and follow the motion or you are in for a seriously uncomfortable ride. The one advantage of the machine over a live horse is that you can work all of this out in our own time without the worrying about trying your horse’s patience or possibly getting bucked off for doing it wrong! And, of course, there is always the added bonus of being able to “ride” while watching TV.
Being very versatile, the iGallop™ can be personalized to fit your particular needs. Nothing is as satisfying as being on a real horse, but this could help to get you in shape for riding when you are otherwise not able to ride. The fact that the iGallop™ exercise system accommodates bad knees and other conditions with a low impact exercise is a plus for some of us.
Overall, it’s a good machine and, while it can never replace the benefits gained by actual riding, it can help get you in shape during those hours you are not able to ride. The only thing I might suggest if you decide to give the iGallop a ride, is to avoid using it in front of a window. Taken out of context, it can look a little freaky to bystanders, and you could wind up being the talk of the neighborhood…
Until next time
Quote for Today
A horse is an animal not a machine, and is only as good as it's rider.