By Your Horse

Try something new

14 May 2012 17:00

If you’ve got a penchant for Lycra and the bendiness of a small child
you’ll love the gymnastic world of vaulting...

There was a time when gymnastics was confined to school halls and floor mats – but all that changed when some bendy types decided to try their gymnastic moves out on horseback. 

Now a rapidly growing sport with hoardes of followers, a high-flying British team and more European and World Championship competitions to its name than you can shake a leotard at, vaulting’s a fully fledged equestrian discipline in its own right and recognised by the FEI.

While the basic premise is simple – riders perform gymnastic moves on a moving horse while he’s lunged in a 15m circle – it’s not quite as daunting as it may sound. While most exercises are performed at canter, newcomers to the sport (and the less flexible) can try a fun class, done at walk. Many clubs also have a static vaulting barrel so you can practise your moves without having to worry about the horse.

Gear-wise, you can start in a close-fitting gym kit – though you will need to invest in a pair of gym shoes. You don’t need to wear a hat to vault, although beginners can if they prefer. Once you start performing the more advanced gymnastic moves, working in formation with other vaulters, a hat actually becomes a hazard as it could hurt your team mates as you work two or three up on horseback.

Most clubs vault on horseback over the summer, switching to village halls during winter, using a vaulting barrel. When spring arrives you’ll have your moves sorted and be ready to try them out on the real thing.