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What is Equestrian Vaulting?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Equestrian vaulting is an equestrian sport which combines dance, gymnastics, and horsemanship. Participants in equestrian vaulting perform a variety of gymnastics moves on the back of a moving horse, either individually or in teams. Vaulting, as it is sometimes called, is practiced all over the world, with German vaulting teams being particularly famous, and a wide variety of horse breeds are used in vaulting.

The history of vaulting is ancient, and it may well be one of the oldest equestrian sports. Evidence in art suggests that people have been performing gymnastics on moving horses since at least 1,000 CE, and the Romans integrated a form of vaulting into their cavalry training. Equestrian vaulting continues to be practiced by modern cavalry and mounted law enforcement officers, as a way of making riders confident and secure on their horses and to create a bond between horses and riders.

In vaulting, the horse is controlled by a longeur, a person who stands in the middle of the ring holding a long line known as a longe line. The athlete performs a variety of moves, including mounts and dismounts, on the back of the horse as the horse walks, trots, or canters around the longeur. In addition to being a good horseman, the human athlete must also be extremely flexible and strong, able to perform challenging gymnastics moves while on a moving object. Vaulting gets even more complex when a team of riders is involved.

The competitive vaulting circuit showcases some of the best equestrian vaulters, and demonstration vaulting is commonly featured at parades, circuses, and other events, as the sport is quite visually interesting in addition to being physically challenging. Some riders like to practice equestrian vaulting recreationally, both because they find it enjoyable and because they believe that it is beneficial to a training regimen for rider and horse.

In addition to being used for entertainment, equestrian vaulting is also a vital part of some equine-assisted therapy programs. The sport encourages the development of strength, flexibility, and confidence, all traits which equine-assisted therapy aim to promote, and patients in physical and behavioral therapy often benefit from contact with animals such as horses on a psychological as well as physical level. Therapeutic vaulting is less physically demanding than some other forms, but it can still be a very good workout, challenging the rider to his or her limits and encouraging the development of a strong, healthy body.

Sports n' Hobbies is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Sports n' Hobbies researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By jmc88 — On Oct 12, 2011

One question I have concerning equestrian riding is how popular is this sport in the United States? I do not hear much about competitions around where I live in the Midwest and wonder whether or not this is more of something that is popular internationally say in Europe than it is in the United States.

By Izzy78 — On Oct 11, 2011

I have always been interested in the moves that are performed in equestrian vaulting. It requires a good amount of athleticism and flair as well as simply being an expert rider.

For anyone that has every ridden a horse, they will know that it is not the easiest thing to accomplish and that is why people that ride horses quite often tend to appreciate equestrian vaulting more than someone who is not around horse riding or has little experience doing so.

What I have to wonder about equestrian riding is how much training someone has to go through in order to be able to perform all the basic moves involved with the sport and how someone can get involved in such a venture.

By TreeMan — On Oct 10, 2011

@stl156 - I believe what you were watching was in fact equestrian vaulting, but was not a particularly good competition to watch. In the competitions I have seen it is quite a sight to see the athleticism of the horses as well as the horseman. In equestrian vaulting it is as much about flair as it is ridesmanship as in order to win the competition the horseman must be able to give something a little more than simple riding or vaulting. You may have not seen a particularly good competition, but give it another try and you may change your mind.

By stl156 — On Oct 09, 2011

I was watching equestrian vaulting one day and to be honest I could not get too much into it. What I was seeing was simply the horse jumping over things similar to pole vaults and there was little show and flair involved with what I was watching. My question is that was I watching equestrian vaulting or was I watching something that was completely different? I guess there is a possibility I was watching equestrian vaulting and it just was not a particularly good competition that I was watching.

By sunshined — On Oct 09, 2011

I have never seen equestrian vaulting when it comes to a competition, but have seen this done at a rodeo a couple of different times.

I have been to some big rodeos where they bring in some very interesting entertainment, which includes some equestrian vaulting.

They have no trouble keeping the attention of the crowd as they show all the moves they can do on the back of a horse.

I can see something like equine vaulting being very challenging, and think you would need to have a really good bond with your horse in order for this to really work.

By SarahSon — On Oct 08, 2011

I was doing some channel surfing one night and came across a show that was on equestrian vaulting. This was the first time I had seen a competition like this.

I was fascinated with the combination of dance and gymnastic moves that were being done on the back of these horses as they were moving around the ring.

I like to ride horses, but that is as long as the saddle is tight, the stirrups are the right length and I know the saddle horn is within easy reach. I can't imagine how they can do all of this on a moving horse.

I was so fascinated by this that I ended up watching the entire competition. I wonder how many hours of equestrian training was involved for each horse that participated. I would think it would be just as important to train the horse as it would the riders.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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