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
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.
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
Please visit the American
Vaulting Association for more information