- Laura Lundberg
The stands are full today in the barn as the competition is underway. The horses are brought one after the other into the arena while accompanied by not one, not two, but three riders. The horses are led on 50-foot lunge lines and on their backs are no ordinary saddles. These saddles have handles and what looks like a very small platform as the saddle-horn. This saddle isn’t the only thing out of place here. This competition isn’t an ordinary one either, it’s a unique sport called vaulting.
Vaulting is classified as an equestrian sport, rooted in circus performances. Lamely put, it is gymnastics on a moving horse. There are seven members to one vaulting team. The horse will canter (jog) around in a circle while one member of the team guides the animal with a rope. Then there are anywhere from one to three performers who ride on the horse at the same time, entering at different moments and performing a series of poses and movements atop the horse. A tricky sport in itself, it is extremely enjoyable to watch and to appreciate the technicality that goes into a vaulting performance.
“Vaulting is different. It isn’t something that’s done by an everyday person. Whenever I say that I vault people always give me a weird look as if they think I’m crazy,” explains Sandy Rogers, a vaulting professional who trains at Forward Strides in Beaverton, Oregon.
Vaulting is also used as a therapeutic tool. At Forward Strides, they use vaulting as therapy by offering, “an environment where kids develop poise, balance, strength, and creativity. Working individually or in teams, vaulting teaches students character building skills that can’t be beat: teamwork, trust, focus, and self-confidence.”
With the national competition fast approaching, Sandy and the Flying Star Vaulters team are working their best to prepare a well-choreographed routine that will combine the right amount of movements to earn high scores among the judges.
“It’s a really exciting sport, and one that I believe deserves more recognition. It isn’t just gymnastics on a horse. Vaulting is about harmony with your team as well as with the horse,” Rogers expresses.
Check out a video of the USA Team competing in the 2006 World Equestrian Games here!