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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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”