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365 Days in Horse Country – Equestrian Vaulting

Blog by Michael Stuart Webb | December 9th, 2013

365 Days in Horse Country – Equestrian Vaulting


Vaulting is not a typical equine sport, but it is one that is slowly growing in popularity.  Essentially gymnastics on horseback, vaulting requires a well-trained horse and a flexible and energetic equestrian.

In vaulting, the horse canters on a lunge line while a vaulter performs a series of acrobatic maneuvers on the horse’s back.  Similar to the type of riding often seen in circuses, vaulters are judged alone and in teams, where they perform required maneuvers or freestyle arrangements, just like in horseless gymnastic competitions.

To be successful in vaulting, a competitor must be extremely athletic.  In fact, a background in gymnastics is a huge assets.  Horses used for vaulting must be specifically trained and be quiet, steady animals who will keep their cool regardless of what is going on around them and on them.

Equestrian valuting consists of many different moves that require considerable skill;

  • Flag – The vaulter moves from sitting on the horse to his or her knees and extends the right leg straight out behind, holding it slightly above his or her head so the leg is parallel to the horse’s back.  The left arm is stretched straight forward, at a height nearly that of the right leg.  The right foot is arched and the sole facing upward.
  • Mill – The vaulter moves from sitting on the hrose to bringing the right leg over the horse’s neck.  He or she then brings the left leg to a full arc over the horse’s hips.  The right leg follows it, and the left leg moves over the neck to complete a full turn.
  • Scissors -  The valter moves from sitting on the horse and swings into a handstand.  The vaulter then turns to face the inside of the circle that the horse is moving in, crossing the outer leg over.  The vaulter then comes down and lands so that he or she is facing backward on the horse.  The maneuver is then reversed.
  • Stand – The vaulter moves from sitting on the horse onto his or her shins and onto both feet.  He or she lets go of the grips and straightens up with both knees bent.  The vaulter must hold the position for four full strides.