If you thought riding a horse was difficult enough, equestrian vaulting will seem like an impossible feat. Still, it’s practiced worldwide, and it’s even an event at the World Equestrian Games.
Equestrian vaulting is best described as gymnastics and dancing on horseback. Its origins are pretty unclear, with some saying it originated in ancient Rome, and other claiming it came from he island of Crete. One thing is for certain – horseback vaulting has been around for over 2,000 years, and it’s still a entertaining and exciting sport. Vaulting is particularly popular in countries like Germany and France, but it’s gaining a lot of followers in other parts of the world, like Brazil Australia or the United States.
In competitive equestrian vaulting athletes compete by themselves or in teams of two or more. Both the vaulters and the horse are judged according to their performances and receive scores from 0 to 10. Beginners perform their routine during the horse’s walk, while experienced vaulters perform on the horse at a canter. Horses used for vaulting are trained especially for this kind of events, and they are controlled by a lunger who keeps them moving in 15-meter circles.
The components of a vaulting exercise include a mount and dismount, as well as various maneuvers like kneeling, standing, handstands, flips, and tossing teammates into the air. While the vaulting horse is not saddled, it does wear a surcingle fitted with special handles that help vaulters.
The latest vaulting exhibition took place at the World Equestrian Games 2010, and was won by the US team. You can see an entire vaulting routine, in the video at the bottom.