Riding a horse with stirrups and a saddle is hard enough, but imagine standing upright on a horse's back, on one foot, balancing on someone's shoulders, or even being turned upside down.
Welcome to the acrobatic and sometimes precarious world of equestrian vaulting, one of several sports involving horses and daring riders.
Vaulting is most simply described as gymnastics and dance on horseback. It’s most recognisable as a circus act and has been entwined in circus performances for years. It is a precise, beautiful exhibitionist’s art and takes very brave, fit and agile athletes to work with the Horses to produce a spectacle within the arena. Vaulting is open to males and females and is one of seven equestrian disciplines recognized by the FEI along with dressage, driving, endurance, eventing, reining and jumping. In 1983, vaulting became one of the disciplines recognized.
It is believed that the origins of vaulting could be traced to the ancient Roman games, where acrobats usually displayed their skills on cantering horses. Renaissance and Middle Ages history include numerous references to vaulting or similar activities. The present name of the sport comes from the French "La Voltige," which it acquired during the Renaissance, when it was a form of riding drill and agility exercise for knights and noblemen, and also used as a symbol of status.
In competitive vaulting, vaulters compete as individuals, pairs and teams. The vaulting horse moves in a 15-metre circle and is directed by a lunger who stands in the center of the circle. The rider will first be judged on a score from 1-10, just like in Gymnastics, the first World Championships was held in 1986 in Bulle, Switzerland.
Vaulting is also used on a therapeutic level in some instances. People with disabilities can often benefit from interacting with the horse and team members, and by doing simple movements with the help of "spotters."Vaulting is a unique and growing sport and a wonderful way to develop coordination, balance, strength, and creativity while working in harmony with the horse.