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Disciplines - Vaulting

Equestrian vaulting is most often described as gymnastics and dance on horseback, and like these disciplines, it is an art and not a competitive sport. It is one of ten competitive equestrian events recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, along with: dressage, combined driving, endurance riding, eventing, horseball, paraequestrian, reining, and show jumping, and tent pegging.

Vaulting has many enthusiasts worldwide, but particularly in Germany, where it is often practiced as part of basic equestrian training. The German vaulting squads are highly ranked and very competitive on the world stage. Vaulting is also especially well established in France (where it is known as Voltige), Sweden, the UK, and the Netherlands. Enthusiasm for the sport is also growing in Brazil, Australia, and in the United States. American vaulters have been successful competing internationally and the US has produced several world champions and highly ranked vaulting teams.

A vaulting horse, which has been carefully trained, moves in a 15-metre circle and is controlled by a longeur (or lunger).

Vaulting competitions are comprised of compulsory exercises and choreographed freestyle exercises done to music. There are six compulsories exercises—the mount, basic seat, flag, mill, scissors, stand, flank and dismount. Each exercise is scored on a scale from 0-10. Horses also receive a score and are judged on the quality of their gait.

Vaulters also compete in freestyle (previously known as Kur). The components of a freestyle vaulting routine MAY include mounts and dismounts, handstands, kneeling and standing and aerial moves such flips. Teams will also carry, lifting, and even toss another vaulter in the air. Judging is based on technique, performance, form, difficulty, balance, security, and consideration of the horse—the horse as well as the vaulter earns a score.

Vaulting horses are not saddled, but they do wear a surcingle (or a roller) and a thick back pad. The surcingle has special handles which aid the vaulter in performing certain moves as well as leather loops called cossack stirrups. The horse wears a bridle and side reins. The lunge line is usually attached to the inside bit ring.

Compulsory Exercises
Vaulters perform various movements on the back of the horse. There are seven compulsory exercises in the individual competition that must be performed without dismounting:

  • Basic Seat: An astride position (the vaulter sits on the horse as a rider would), with the arms held to the side and the hands raised to ear level. Hands should be held with closed fingers and palms facing downward, with the fingers arching slightly upward. Legs are wrapped around the horse's barrel, soles facing rearward, with toes down and feet arched. Vaulter holds this position for four full strides.
  • Flag: From the astride position, the vaulter hops to her knees and extends her right leg straight out behind, holding it slightly above her head so the leg is parallel to the horse's spine. The other leg should have pressure distributed through the shin and foot, most weight should be on the back of the ankle, to avoid digging the knee into the horse's back. The left arm is then stretched straight forward, at a height nearly that of the right leg. The hand should be held as it is in basic seat (palm down, fingers together). The right foot should be arched and the sole should face skyward. This movement should be held for four full strides after the arm and leg are raised.
  • Mill: From the astride position, the vaulter brings the right leg over the horse's neck. The grips must be ungrasped and retaken as the leg is brought over. The left leg is then brought in a full arc over the croup, again with a change of grips, before the right leg follows it, and the left leg moves over the neck to complete the full turn of the vaulter. The vaulter performs each leg movement in four strides each, completing the Mill movement in sixteen full strides. During the leg passes, the legs should be held perfectly straight, with the toes pointed. When the legs are on the same side of the horse, they should be pressed together.
  • Scissors: From the astride position, the vaulter swings into a handstand. At the apex, the vaulter's body should be turned to the longeur and the inner leg should be crossed over the outer leg. The vaulter than comes down and lands so that she is facing backward on the horse, toward the tail. The return scissors is then performed, so that the vaulter swings up with the outside leg over the inside leg, and lands facing forward once again. If the vaulter lands hard on the horse's back, they are severely penalized. Scissors is judged on the elevation of the movement.
  • Stand: The vaulter moves from the astride position onto the shins and immediately onto both feet, and releases the grips. The vaulter then straightens up with both knees bent, the buttocks tucked forward, and the hands held as they are in basic seat. The vaulter must hold the position for four full strides.
  • Flank: From the astride position, the legs are swung forward to create momentum, before swinging backward, and rolling onto the stomach in an arch, with a full extension of the legs so that the vaulter nearly reaches a handstand. At the apex, the vaulter jackknifes her body and turns the body to the inside, before sliding down into a side seat. The vaulter moves from the side seat with a straighten of the legs, keeping the legs together, bringing her body over the horse's back, and pushes off the handgrips, landing to the outside of the circle facing forward. The vaulter is judged on form, landing, and elevation. You need to be able to eventually swing your entire body over the horse.

The compulsories are performed in succession in the above order, without pause or dismounts. In addition, the mount onto the horse is also scored. At the walk, the Ground Jump is omitted.

In the team competition, each vaulter performs the required movements, one following the other. Each team member will do the first three moves and then dismount, and after everyone has done the first three, the team will get back on one by one and finish out the last three moves.

Please visit the American Vaulting Association for more information


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