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Vaulting is a competitive discipline where both dynamic and static gymnastic elements are combined and performed on a cantering horse. It requires outstanding physical condition from the vaulter. A harmonious relationship with the horse is imperative if a display of strength, coordination, rhythm, suppleness and balance is to be achieved. Vaulting was recognized as an FEI discipline in 1983.

Vaulters begin working in walk and progress, with training from a qualified instructor, to be able to execute fantastic freestyle performances in the canter. Vaulters learn to have the agility and athleticism of gymnasts, the grace and expression of dancers and the balance and feel of equestrians. Vaulting exercises include artistic mounts and dismounts, shoulder stands and handstands on the horse, carrying or lifting another vaulter, kneeling and standing exercises. Judging is based on technique, form, difficulty, balance, security and consideration of the horse. Today, horse, lunger and vaulter are considered a competitive unit and the performance of each is reflected in the final score.

The horse is guided on a long rein by a longeur standing on the ground who ensures that a steady canter is maintained on a circle with a minimum diameter of 15m. The horse also wears a special surcingle around his belly which has hand grips and stirrup-like loops for the vaulter’s feet.

All vaulting competitions are held over two rounds composed of either one or two tests. During Compulsory Tests vaulters must perform a number of specific exercises. Freestyle tests, performed to music, allow vaulters the artistic freedom of building both dynamic and static exercises around the Compulsory exercises.

Vaulters compete as individuals, pairs (called pas-de-deux) and teams.

  • Individual events: Individual competitions are made up of two rounds. Vaulters perform the Compulsary and Free Tests in the first round in order to qualify for the final/second round. In CVI1* competitions these two tests are repeated in the second round. In CVI 2* the second round is made up of a Technical Test and a Freestyle Test. Individual vaulters have only one minute for their Freestyle performances. At Championships, men and women compete separately.
  • Pairs (pas-de-deux): Two vaulters, a male and a female, perform a freestyle programme held over one or two rounds.
  • Team events: A vaulting team consists of a lunger, horse, six vaulters (male and female) plus one alternate vaulter (optional) who must enter and line up with the team. Team competitions are made up of two rounds. During the first round, teams perform a six-minute Compulsory and a four-minute Freestyle Test in an attempt to qualify for the second round where they perform a single Free Test. An exercise will only be scored if two vaulters are in contact with the horse as it is carried out. No more than three vaulters may be on the horse at any one time.

To learn more about vaulting go to Vault Canada’s web site: www.vaultcanada.org.