How to use the wooden horse in gymnastics



Every one likes the exercises on the wooden horse. The apparatus is easily made. It only requires a piece of the trunk of a tree, barked and smoothed, firmly fixed on four posts, or legs, so that it cannot be easily pushed over. It should be the height of the gymnast's nose. A little nearer one end than the other, a rough, stout saddle should be placed, with the wooden pommels covered with common leather. The hind pommel should be rather higher than the other. On the offside of the horse, a sawdust bed, some four feet square, should be made, on which the gymnast may alight after he jumps. On the near side a spring board is desirable, but not essential a slight covering of sand on the near side is, however, absolutely necessary to avoid slips in taking the leaps.

Exercise 56. - Commence by standing on the near side of the horse with one hand on each pommel. Spring up, bring the arms straight, until the body is supported by the hands, and the knees rest against the body of the horse. Spring lightly down on the toes, and continue to practice this until it becomes easy and natural. Then jump a little higher, throw the right leg over the saddle, removing the hand, and you are mounted. Practice mounting both ways. To dismount, place the left hand on the fore pommel, and the right hand on the saddle. A slight raising of the body, and you can throw yourself off easily. Endeavor also to sustain the body by the hands and arms, whilst the feet are off the ground, by throwing yourself a little way form the horse, so as to prepare yourself against the restiveness of a real nag.

Exercise 57. - Now then for the knees. Place your hands on the pommels, leap up and place the right knee on the saddle. Down again, and up with the left knee on the saddle, when you can do it well and quickly by both knees, but beware of going over. To avoid this by no means uncommon occurrence, practice leaping with both knees on to the saddle, and then lean forward, make a spring and clear the legs from the saddle, and come to the ground. Your motto in this, as in many other feats, should be "dare and do."

Exercise 58. - Mount and seat yourself behind the saddle. Place the left hand on the fore pommel and the right hand on the hurdle. Swing the body completely round, so as to seat yourself before the saddle. Change hands, and bring yourself into the position from which you started. You may vary this as follows: When mounted, place both hands on the front pommel. Swing yourself as high in the air as you can. Cross both legs whilst doing so, and twist the body so as to seat yourself again on the saddle, but looking in the opposite direction. Try the reverse action, and resume your original position. This is more astonishing than useful. Other feats are performed on the horse, - as vaulting, leaping on to the saddle with one hand on the pommels, and turning somersaults over the saddle, jumping through the arms leaping on to the horse as if it had a side saddle on but these do not require any special directions.

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