Horse Gymnastics: The Equestrian Sport of Vaulting Explained

Posted by Allie Layos

If you have a love of horses and gymnastics, vaulting may be the sport for you.

Vaulting may be one of the most unique sports in existence, as it includes both dance and gymnastic movements ... performed on a moving horse.

Despite common perception, you don't need to know how to ride in order to start vaulting, and anyone can learn, from pre-schoolers to adults. According to the American Vaulting Association, it's a great way to develop balance, strength, coordination and creativity, as well as trust and teamwork.


Vaulting is not to be confused with trick riding. Unlike trick riding, vaulting is always performed in a controlled environment that includes a fully enclosed arena and soft footing. The horse, controlled by a trainer through a long rope called a lunge line, moves in a large, consistent circle while the vaulter performs a series of gymnastics and dance moves.

Vaulters can compete as a team or individually.

One of the most important parts of the vaulting equation is the horse. Breed doesn't matter as much as the horse's personality and individual characteristics. Horses need to be calm, strong, fit, and kind, with a consistent gait.


While there is always an element of danger when working with horses, vaulters have put a large emphasis on safety, with the horse controlled by the trainer at all times. Vaulters are taught to condition their bodies with stretching and strengthening exercises and use safe mounting and dismounting practices. Most exercises are learned on the stationary "vaulting barrel" before they are performed on a horse.

Vaulting may be the sport for you if you enjoy gymnastics and dance, love horses, or are looking to build your self-confidence. After all, nothing gives a bigger boost than performing an acrobatic routine aboard a cantering 1,200-pound horse.

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