Photo credits: FEI/Christophe Tanière
First introduced in the USA, vaulting is a fun combination of horseback dance and gymnastics. Competitors perform a series of different routines while their horse is lunged on a 15m circle. The sequences are judged on a scale of one to 10, with extra marks awarded for the horse’s movement and behaviour. Competitions often take place over a number of days, as riders can compete as individuals, pairs and teams.
Did you know? Vaulting can be traced back as far as the Greek and Roman times when soldiers practised vaulting exercises as part of their military training.
Kur – freestyle competition
Pas-de-deux – pairs competition
Vault on – mounting
Scissors – handstand
Swing off – dismount
The low-down on horse vaulting
Vaulting aims to test the rider’s balance, co-ordination, strength and creativity, as well as their relationship with teammates and their horse. Vaulters have to complete a compulsory routine, riding in either walk, trot or canter. The difficulty and pace of this performance depend on the competition level. After completing the required sequence of exercises, riders showcase their freestyle routine, which gives them a chance to show off their creative side!
Did you know? Vaulting routines are nearly always performed on the left rein but at home vaulters practise in both directions to stay even and balanced.
Unlike other equestrian events, vaulting horses don’t wear a saddle. Instead, the riders perform using a thick back pad and surcingle, which has handles to help perform certain moves, as well as leather loops called cossack stirrups for extra stability. The horses also wear a regular bridle and side reins to help keep a consistent circle.
Did you know? Vaulting is the only horsey sport where men and women are separated in individual competitions.
Every few years the FEI releases new regulations for competition dress codes. Vaulters generally wear very tight-fitting uniforms so they don’t get caught while they’re performing. Most competitors wear super-snazzy, brightly coloured unitards!
Vaulting is an official FEI discipline, and it featured in the 1924 Olympics. The main international vaulting competitions are the FEI World Equestrian Games, which are held every four years, and the annual FEI World Cup.
Vaulting is an increasingly popular equestrian sport, with more than 25 clubs around the UK. Lots of groups offer trial days, so why not find a nearby club and get involved?
You can see horse vaulting in person at PONY Mag’s Big Day Out, check out how you can get tickets here.