Equestrian Vaulting

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Do you like gymnastics but need a little more challenge? As though gymnasts don't get enough of a physical workout, equestrian vaulters have taken it one step further and perform gymnastics while on a moving horse!

According to the American Vaulting Association, vaulting requires the teamwork of the vaulter, horse and longeur. The longeur is the person who controls the horse in a circle. Vaulters may compete as individuals, in pairs, or as a team.

Vaulting is done at ranches, training barns, rental stables, private stables, backyards or anywhere where there are horses and space for about a 75-foot diameter arena.

Marianne Rose is a vaulting coach and the managing editor of Vaulting World magazine. She says the arena has to be level and be made of soft and springy material. That's usually a mixture of sand and wood shavings or well-worked stable sweepings or fiber.

Vaulting clubs can be found at many private stables, colleges or universities. Some 4-H clubs also offer equestrian vaulting.

Equestrian vaulters developed exercises that were the formation of modern gymnastics, says the American Vaulting Association's Web site.

Vaulting is one of the oldest known sports. During Roman times, the annual games consisted of chariot and horse racing, as well as acrobatic displays on cantering horses.

But modern vaulting was first developed in Germany in the late 1940s. It wasn't until 1964 that the official rules came out and the first world championships were only held in 1986. Even more recently, in 1990, the sport was included in the World Equestrian Games.

The American Vaulting Association (AVA) was founded in 1969.

"There are approximately 90 clubs and approximately 1,000 individual members of the American Vaulting Association," says Rose. "An educated guess would be that there are between 1,500 and 2,000 people -- mostly children -- practicing the sport of vaulting today in the United States."

Getting Started

Rose lists what you need to get into this sport. "The first thing you need is a willing and good-hearted horse, she says.

"After that, a facility with an arena is necessary. The cost can vary widely. Many of our horses are backyard horses or mixed breeds and are not pricey animals. Most clubs have donated horses. The cost still depends on how much the facility and horse owners charge. Some owners donate their horses or facility to the program, [while] others must make vaulting pay the bills."

She lists the necessities to become a vaulter. "After finding the appropriate horse and facility, you'll need a coach. Some coaches donate their time. Some need to be paid. Vaulters pay between $50 and $150 per month to vault. That would only cover horse upkeep, facility and coaching and any competition costs or travel expenses would be above that.

"A practice barrel is an important element," Rose adds.

Someone can make these with welding equipment. Or the barrel can be purchased for $100 to $250. Other equipment and costs are: gymnastic mats, vaulting shoes (approximately $25 per pair) and team uniforms (usually leotards).

Training a vaulting horse to be able to carry upper-level canter vaulters takes a lot of time. In general, an upper-level canter horse will take about two years to train to perfection. On the other hand, you can vault at walk or trot on just about any quiet, well-mannered backyard horse, he says.

Vaulting requires teamwork, says vaulter Colin Schmidt.

"If a single person vaulted for an hour straight with no breaks, that person would probably die from exhaustion! With one horse and one or two practice barrels, I'd say the ideal number of vaulters in a class would be four. But due to [a] limited number of horses, there are usually six to eight vaulters per class."


American Vaulting Association
642 Alford Place
Bainbridge Island , WA   98110


United States Equestrian Team
With online schedules

International Vaulting Club
Lists equestrian vaulters throughout the world

Freedom Rider
Features a catalog where physically challenged riders can find special products

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