The Newbie’s Intro to Vaulting

Photo by Rhonda Lane

Photo by Rhonda Lane at KY Horse Park

Is this a trendy new yoga class?

I took that photo in May 2008 during the Kentucky Horse Park’s “Parade of Breeds.”

The Horse Park is getting a jump on showing the public an equestrian sport that they’ve no doubt seen, but didn’t know what it was called.

Of the eight equestrian sports to be presented at the Horse Park during World Equestrian Games in 2010, probably the most unfamiliar to Americans is vaulting.

What is Vaulting?

A bottom-line, quick definition of equestrian vaulting is gynmastics and dance on top of a moving horse.

Here’s vaulting performed at the Arabian Nights dinner theater in Orlando, Florida.

Vaulters at Arabian Nights/Photo by Rhonda lane

Vaulters at Arabian Nights/Photo by Rhonda Lane

And here’s a taste of what will be seen in competition in Kentucky at the WEG.

This 2002 German Vaulting Team gives you an idea of what the vaulting freestyle (with music) is like.

If video is too much for your computer or your server, these still photos of the British Equestrian Vaulting team will give you an idea of competitive vaulting.

You see “people stack” formations worthy of an energetic college varsity cheerleading squad. All done on the back of a moving horse.

Sounds scary, right? It’s a mighty long way to fall. From — need I say it again? — the back of a moving horse. And usually a draft horse.

Safety first

Believe it or not, vaulting is considered the safest of the equestrian sports. According to the American Vaulting Association, three points of vaulting safety keep the human competitors safe.

  • The environment is strictly controlled in an arena with special soft footing.
  • A handler controls the horse via a longe line.
  • The horse is specially trained and matched to the rider, so no one is over-mounted.
  • Plus, the riders train on barrels before they even get on a horse.

Vaulting is safe enough that it is used for therapeutic riding.

Instead of a saddle, the horse is fitted with a surcingle, a wide band that encircles the horse’s barrel. A vaulting surcingle has two high handles on each side.

The photo below does not show a therapeutic riding horse but gives you an idea of what a vaulting surcingle looks like.

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

Photo from Wikipedia Commons

During my brief stint as a therapeutic riding volunteer, I put a vaulting surcingle and a bareback pad underneath it on a horse for the first time (and probably my last.)

As you can imagine, the rider we worked with that day didn’t perform any of the acrobatic positions that you see in the photos above.

Vaulting demo/Kentucky Horse Park/Photo by Rhonda Lane

Vaulting demo/Kentucky Horse Park/Photo by Rhonda Lane

An interesting tidbit about vaulting

Also, as was demonstrated at the Horse Park, vaulting horses are trained to stop with a sound that is not a “whoa.”

That way, if some one even just makes an impressed comment from the stands — like, “Whoa, dude,” the horse won’t stop because he heard a “whoa.”

For more about vaulting see Jackie’s post explaining how to watch vaulting at “Regarding Horses”

6 Comments
  • Jackie
    January 21, 2009

    Wow. That just completely amazes me. Of course, I would be amazed if they did some of that stuff standing still on the ground. I’d crack my head open there.

    The therapeutic riding facility where I volunteer also offers vaulting. The kids don’t do anything this fancy, but it still impresses me what they accomplish. It’s definitely a great way to develop motor skills.

  • rhond7
    January 21, 2009

    And balance, too, I bet. Then, there’s the comforting energy from the horse.

    I think the vaulting competitions will be exciting at the WEG.

  • rabin
    April 29, 2009

    hello i did a basic and advance equation course from india rvc centre and college and posses a good grading also i am well trained to train the old as well as new horses i am from nepal i am 26 years old and seeking for any gorse related job to your place thank you….bye and i am an army officer….if any requirement mail me i will sent my biodata all.and ur web site is very good…..

    • rhond7
      April 30, 2009

      Thanks for stopping by, Rabin, and I’m glad you’re enjoying the site. But, as of this writing, we/I don’t have any paid positions here to offer. Good luck and good wishes for you, though, in your equestrian career.

  • nur
    November 10, 2010

    hi, i am searching for a surcingle that also has foot loops…i am not from the US, although i have someone who can shop for me there, and i just stambled into your website and was hoping that maybe you can recommend placs to buy..

    • Rhonda Lane
      November 10, 2010

      Hi, thanks for stopping by. Now, all I know about vaulting is what I’ve seen as a spectator, but I found a link for you for vaulting surcingles. http://www.pvsupply.net/surcingles.html I’m not sure if that’s what you want, but it’ll get you started. Also, you might want to use your favorite search engine to look for the term “vaulting surcingle.” There may be other stores out there that I don’t know about. Good luck!

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