By Aimee Tatnall

For those of you who don't know what Vaulting is I will explain. Vaulting is a sport that is not very common, and it is gymnastics done on horseback.

In this picture I am sitting on the barrel holding Anne up into a shoulder-stand on the neck.

My name is Aimee Tatnall and I live in Massachusetts. I am lucky enough to live in a state that has ONE vaulting group in it that I know of.

Vaulting is a great sport for people who like horses and can do gymnastics. That is why I got started.

Some people want to know which is better: "To be an experienced rider, or a good gymnast?" And you really want to be better at gymnastics than riding. (Again that is me.) The moves are all based on gymnastics and you need to be fairly flexible, but you are on top of a horse and so you do need to be able to stay on.

When you are just starting vaulting you don't start on a horse right away; you start on something that is called "The Practice Barrel". The Practice Barrel is simply a barrel with handles on it, legs out the bottom, and carpeting all over it so that it is more comfortable for the student. The handles are two metal bars in an arch shape. There is one bar on either side of the barrel at the front. Sometimes vaulters wrap vet rap around the handles to make it easier on their hands.

When you start vaulting the first thing that you will learn is the "Compulsories". There are seven compulsories that you will learn.

The first one is the Mount. The mount is a certain way that you will get on the barrel or horse. You will put your left hand on the left handle and right hand on the right handle. (If you are mounting a horse he will be wearing a little girth-like band with handles on it called a surcingle.) Then, you will start to swing your right leg – forward, high into the air, then backward, with enough swing that your left leg leaves the ground like a hop. You do this swinging three times and then on the third swing you swing your right leg back and over the rump of the horse and pull your body up.

The girl in the air's name is Macaela; she is one of our flyers for the team. Rose is another base with me. We are holding Macaela up into a handstand on our shoulders.

Next is the Basic Seat. The basic seat is just sitting on the horse's back with one leg on either side of his body with your arms out.

After that is Flag. Flag is when you swing both legs backward and up, landing gently into a kneeling position with your knees together. Then you lift your right leg up and stretch it straight out in back of you while also lifting up your left arm to stretch out in front of you and you hold this position.

Then there is Mill. Mill is when you lift your right leg straight over the neck of the horse to join your left leg in Side Saddle. Next, you lift your left leg over the backside of the horse so that you are riding backwards. Then, you bring your right leg over so that you are in Side Saddle again, only on the other side. Finally, you bring your left leg over the neck so that you are in basic seat again.

After that is Touch. Touch is when you lean your upper body forward to the neck and swing your legs out behind you up into the air and you lightly touch them together and then return back to Basic Seat position.

Next is Stand. Stand is when you just stand up on the horse's back and stretch your hands out to the side. Also you want to bend your knees a little bit and lean back a little.

Finally, the Dismount. The Dismount is when you go into Touch and instead of returning to Basic Seat you put both of your legs on the right side and spring off the horse.

Once you have mastered the Compulsories you will start on Kur Routines. Kur Routines are 1-minute routines done to music on the horse's back. In Vaulting you are allowed to make up your own moves and snaz up some of the compulsories to use in your routine. You perform your Kur Routine in front of judges and they judge you on how well you did your routine and the moves. Kur Routines are not always done alone; in fact they are usually done with other people (but can be done alone).

Me on the Competition Barrel in Rhode Island warming up my kur (routine) for the competition

Once you get better at vaulting you get moved to different teams. When you are just starting and you are a beginner you just work on the barrel and are not really on a team yet. Then when you get a little better you move to the horse and start doing your moves while the horse is walking. That is the Walk Team. Then you move to the Trot Team were the horse is trotting around. There is a Canter Team and more! Morning classes are responsible for tacking up the horse and the last classes are responsible for untacking the horse.




About the author:
Aimee Tatnall is a young author and a beginning vaulter who is looking forward to being on the Trot Team. She has a horse named Perfect, a dog name Elvis, a cat named K.C. (Kitty Cat), and a snake named Goliath.

For more information:
American Vaulting Association
7060 Fairfield Business Drive
Fairfield, OH 45014-5480
Fax 513-874-3229