What is Equestrian Vaulting?

Chiara Congia and Justin Van Gerven (GER) with Max - winners in the FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final - Omaha 2023 - Pas de Deux – FEI / Richard Juilliart

Equestrian vaulting is a unique and exciting sport that combines elements of gymnastics and dance on the back of a moving horse. It involves a vaulter performing various acrobatic and artistic moves on a horse, typically walking or cantering in a controlled circle.

Here’s an overview of how equestrian vaulting works:

  1. The Horse: A horse is chosen for its calm and steady temperament, making it suitable for carrying vaulters. The horse is often equipped with a special surcingle (a padded girth) to provide handholds and footholds for the vaulter.
  2. The Team: In competitive vaulting, a team consists of one vaulter and one lunger (the person responsible for guiding the horse). The lunger controls the horse’s movements, speed, and direction, allowing the vaulter to focus on their performance.
  3. The Vaulters: Vaulters are the athletes who perform acrobatic movements on the horse’s back. They work in harmony with the horse’s movements and are required to maintain balance and stability while executing various poses and manoeuvres.
  4. The Movements: Vaulting routines often include a combination of static and dynamic moves, such as handstands, cartwheels, shoulder stands, kneeling or standing exercises, and artistic poses. These movements are choreographed to music and may be performed individually, in pairs, or as a team.
  5. Levels of Competition: Equestrian vaulting is organized into different levels with varying degrees of difficulty. Beginners start with basic exercises and gradually progress to more advanced and intricate movements as they gain experience and skill.
  6. Judging: Competitions are judged based on the vaulter’s technique, form, artistic expression, and the harmony between the vaulter and the horse. Additionally, the horse’s quality of movement and behaviour are also considered.
  7. Safety: Safety is a paramount concern in equestrian vaulting. Vaulters can wear helmets and often use protective vests in training. Horses undergo rigorous training to ensure they are comfortable with the movements and are taught to respond to the lunger’s cues.

Equestrian vaulting is a sport and a form of art showcasing the athleticism and creativity of both the vaulter and the horse. It fosters a strong bond between the vaulter and the horse, as they must work together harmoniously to achieve performance success.

What are the best horse breeds for Vaulting?

The best breed of horse for vaulting can vary depending on individual preferences, skill levels, and the specific requirements of the vaulting program. However, certain horse breeds are commonly favored for their temperament, size, and movement qualities that make them well-suited for equestrian vaulting. Here are some popular breeds often used for vaulting:

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  1. Warmbloods: Warmbloods are a group of horse breeds known for their versatility, athleticism, and even temperament. They are often selected for vaulting due to their size and willingness to work with humans. Breeds such as Hanoverians, Dutch Warmbloods, and Oldenburgs are frequently seen in vaulting competitions.
  2. Haflingers: Haflingers are a smaller breed known for their gentle nature and strong build. Their steady gaits and compact size make them suitable for vaulting, especially for younger or smaller vaulters.
  3. Friesians: Friesian horses are known for their striking appearance, high-stepping gaits, and calm demeanor. Their elegant movements and willingness to work with their handlers make them popular choices for vaulting.
  4. Irish Draught: The Irish Draught breed is known for its strength, stamina, and cooperative nature. They have a good temperament and are often used for various equestrian disciplines, including vaulting.
  5. Welsh Ponies: Welsh ponies, particularly Section B and C types, can also be considered for vaulting due to their manageable size and cooperative personalities.

It’s important to note that while certain breeds may have desirable traits for vaulting, individual temperament, training, and experience are critical factors. Each horse is unique, and a well-trained, willing horse of any breed can excel in the sport of vaulting. The horse’s comfort with the movements and the ability to work in harmony with the vaulter and lunger are key considerations when selecting a horse for vaulting. Working with a knowledgeable coach or trainer can help in finding the right horse that fits the specific needs of the vaulter and the program.

How is Vaulting governed in the UK?

The governing body that regulated equestrian vaulting in the United Kingdom was the “British Equestrian Vaulting” (BEV). BEV is a member of the British Equestrian (formerly the British Equestrian Federation), which is the overall governing body for equestrian sports in the UK.

British Equestrian Vaulting oversees and promotes the sport of vaulting in the UK, sets rules and standards for competitions, organizes events, and supports the development of athletes and coaches in the discipline.

Please note that organizations and regulations may evolve over time, so it’s always a good idea to check for the most up-to-date information on equestrian vaulting in the UK from official sources or the current governing bodies.

Feature image: Chiara Congia and Justin Van Gerven (GER) with Max – winners in the FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final – Omaha 2023 – Pas de Deux – FEI / Richard Juilliart

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