Press Play - to see Quinlyn, age 10, Competing in Equestrian Vaulting
At Pony Pros we use vaulting as an inexpensive, fun, safe intro to horses. Vaulting is a fantastic way to get your balance and confidence on the horse as well as make wonderful friends.
Vaulting Class Example Daily Rhythm:
3-3:15pm Group Conditioning
3:15-3:30 Barrel Drills
3:30-4 Compulsories on Horseback
4-4:50 Freestyle Routines on Horseback
4:50-5:00 Group Game
As much as possible we love to see riders be both on our equestrian vaulting team AND on our jumping team. Riding tends to limit your flexibility over time and vaulting counter act that. Vaulting also is 100% fun and vaulters are the nicest group of people you will ever meet. It is a very inclusive, non-judgmental, low pressure, high-creativity sport. It's like dance or gymnastics but without the drama.
For the first 6 years we ran our riding school, we had no knowledge of vaulting. In 2010, we started teaching our riders to vault recreationally and it was the missing link in our program. We will never go back to teaching riders to ride without vaulting. There is too much fun and too much confidence to be had. Despite how common vaulting is in European riding schools, are the only program in Central Oregon that offers vaulting as a start to riding. We are proud to be able to offer our riders vaulting as an outstanding foundation to riding as well as a wholesome athletic pursuit in and of itself.
Vaulting is a Group Activity
Vaulting is a group activity. Vaulters take turns riding and the horse is controlled by a professional at all times. When vaulters are not on the horse, they practice on a stationary barrel. The barrel allows them to practice tricks they might not yet be skilled enough to do on the horse. Many kids thrive in this environment where they can mix barrel and horse time. Vaulters love creating awesome Pairs routines with their friends, working together to choreograph a routine to a song they both love.
We receive a lot of calls from parents who are looking to start their kids riding in a group where everyone has their own horse. Groups where everyone has their own horse are dangerous until riders reach a certain skill level. For that reason, at Pony Pros, we start riders with vaulting if they are looking for a social experience. That way we are able to limit falls but keep the friendship factor high!
Freestyle Routines and Vaulting Competitions
Vaulters choreograph their own routines. Kids love this creative endeavor - the process of picking and song and building a routine. Routines are 60 seconds long. For competitions, routines must include certain movements. For example, the vaulter must show that she can face all the directions on the horse - inside the circle, outside the circle, towards the front of the horse, towards the back of the horse, and at higher levels even upside down! Vaulters also need to show that they can do tricks on all parts of the horse, including the horse's neck and rump.
Vaulting competitions are very accessible. At competitions, you can compete on a barrel, borrow a horse to use at the competition, or bring a horse. Generally a team brings 1 horse and all the vaulters share.
Barrel Practice and Barrel Competitions
Vaulting is an Olympic-level sport. In order to progress up the levels, vaulters begin by learning tricks on a stationary barrel. Next, they take their skills onto the horse. Vaulters are animal-lovers so it is very important in vaulting that we show kindness and gratitude to the horses. For that reason, we get our tricks going well on the barrel before asking the horse to perform with us.
At all levels, the horse is being lunged by a professional who is in control of the horse. The vaulter's goal is to dance in a way that does not interrupt the movement of the horse.
Initially riders do their tricks at a walk, riding solo. At the highest level, there are 6 riders on the team who cycle onto and off of the horse over an approximately five minute period. The effect is like a ballet of riders surfing the horse. It's very beautiful.
Compulsory routines are the same all around the world. At each level, vaulters have a pattern they have to do. The elements of the pattern highlight the skills that are super useful for progressing through the levels. They might not look that exciting but a solid foundation is gold! By having both compulsory and freestyle routines at competitions, vaulters can be judged both on their ability to excel at the basics and really perfect the building blocks of the sport (compulsories) and on their ability to bring their own style and flair to the arena (freestyle).
Historical Significance and Global Relevance
You might think, "Who on earth came up with this sport?" but vaulting has been a natural part of riding for millennia across the world. Countries like Russia, China, Tibet, Hungary, France, the US, and more all have historical acrobatic riding cultures. For the last 100 years, vaulting has mainly taken after German cavalry training where vaulting was a regular and necessary part of teaching riders balance and confidence on horseback.