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Equestrian vaulting, or simply Vaulting, is most often described as gymnastics and dance on horseback. It can be practiced either competitively or non-competitively. Vaulting has been an equestrian act at the circus from its early days. It is open to both males and females and is one of seven equestrian disciplines recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports or FEI, along with dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, reining and jumping. Therapeutic or Interactive vaulting is also used as an activity for children and adults to improve balance, attention, gross motor skill, and confidence.

Vaulting has many enthusiasts worldwide, particularly in Europe and other parts of the Western world. It is well-established in Germany and is growing in other western countries. Vaulting was first introduced in the United States in the 1950s and 60s, but was limited only to California and other areas of the west coast. More recently, it is beginning to gain popularity in the United States northeast and Canada.

Tara first tried vaulting at a CHA Coaches Conference in Lexington, Kentucky in October 2011. She was the oldest person to try it but found that it challenged her in a way that riding did not. As a past Ukrainian dancer, Tara found the dance techniques, rhythm and balance – and the challenges those all presented – to be exhilarating! A few months later, Tara attended a Coach the Coaches clinic taught by FEI stewards, judges, competitors and coaches, in Seattle, WA. In April 2012, with the help of a coach, vaulter and president of Alberta Vaulting Association, presentations and demos were given at Horse 3.

Although Vaulting looks like a sport for the young, flexible and athletic – and those attributes do make it easier! – anyone who can sit on a horse, can do the basics of Vaulting.

A session is 1.5 hours long and consists of 15 minutes to groom and tack up. Another 15 minutes is warm up time for both vaulters and horse. Vaulters run laps and stretch before starting. In the 50 minutes of Vaulting time, each of the 6 vaulters take their turn, alternately vaulting for 3-4 minutes at a time on the horse. The rest of their time is spent practicing on the barrel and exercising to improve manuevers. Sometimes vaulters work as a pair in order to gain confidence, especially in standing up. Tara encourages males to try this as well as they often find it easier than the females because of their upper body strength. Tara charges $21/1.5 hour session/vaulter.

Tara has taught classes of similar aged youth, mature ladies and moms with daughters. She has also used it for therapy sessions. Every person who tries it, loves it! You can progress at your own pace and comfort level knowing that the lunger has control of the horse and you only need to worry about yourself. Try moves at a standstill first and then progress to a walk as you gain confidence. It is quite safe to do with most injuries happening as vaulters dismount and twist ankles or clip the horse’s feet. It is safer to vault WITHOUT a helmet as the helmet adds extra weight and gets in the way of different maneuvers.

When selecting a horse to Vault off of, choose a quiet horse that is very smooth and consistent in its gaits. Guido (Bucks Mortamer) is so smooth and stays in his gaits very easily. This is very important for the vaulter. Guido is the ideal horse for standing atop of because of his smooth gaits. Many beginners are able to stand atop Guido in their first session. Arnie (Ida Liked A Dun) is a great horse to start on because he is not scared of anything and because he has a large surface area to work off of.

More about the History and Maneuvers of Vaulting

Abbe performing Arabesque over top Erica on Guido while at Horse 3 in Brandon, April 2013.

Abigail on Arnie

Erica on Guido

Vaulting on Pete