Vaulting is a youthful, theatrical discipline in which athletes perform on the back of a cantering horse. As such, it demands an outstanding physical condition from the vaulter, a harmonious relationship with the horse, and first-class teamwork.
Vaulting exercises include artistic mounts and dismounts, shoulder stands and handstands on the horse, carrying or lifting another vaulter, and kneeling and standing exercises. The horse is guided on a long rein by a lunger standing on the ground who ensures that a steady canter is maintained on a circle with a minimum diameter of 15 metres.
The discipline dates back to Greek and Roman times when soldiers – without stirrups and saddles – practised vaulting movements as part of their military training. Vaulters compete together on teams – no more than three may be on a horse at any one time – or in individual competitions which, unlike in all other equestrian disciplines, are separate for males and females. There are also pairs competitions, or pas-de-deux.
Vaulting made a fleeting appearance at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium as ‘Artistic Riding’ but the premier Vaulting competitions today are staged at the FEI World Equestrian Games™, the FEI World Cup™ Vaulting series and continental Championships.