What is Vaulting?

Participants in equestrian vaulting perform a variety of gymnastics moves on the back of a moving horse, either recreationally or competitively. During the first lessons the most important skill that is practiced is how to safety dismount from any position on the horse. This skill and all other vaulting moves are learned on the stationary barrel before the vaulter attempts them on the horse.

In competition, each vaulter must demonstrate a set of compulsory moves specific to their level. The compulsories can be performed at the walk, trot, or canter and increase in complexity as the vaulter progresses.

A vaulting competition also requires each vaulter to have their own unique freestyle performed to their choice of music. Freestyles are performed as an individual, a suitably matched pair, or a team - consisting of seven team members including one spare. Freestyles can also be performed in competition using a stationary barrel instead of a horse. These classes are very popular and include costume classes as well as individual, pairs, and team classes.

Click here to see a video of coach Jessica Church performing the Walk B compulsories.


The Origins of Vaulting

The history of vaulting is ancient; evidence in art suggests that people have been performing gymnastics on moving horses for at least 2,000 years, and the Romans integrated a form of vaulting into their cavalry training. While the sport is well known in many European countries, vaulting is considered a developing sport in Canada, first appearing here about 30 years ago. Canada’s elite vaulters have successfully competed internationally in individual, pairs, and squad vaulting competitions.

Vaulting Today

Vaulting as a sport has numerous benefits for all ages and abilities of vaulter. Vaulting is a fun way for children to express their creativity while developing their freestyles. It is a team sport and allows children to develop teamwork skills and make new friends. Vaulting is physically challenging and both develops and maintains flexibility, strength, timing, balance, and coordination. Vaulting is an excellent training compliment to related sports such as horseback riding, gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, martial arts, and figure skating.
The financial advantage is significant; the start up cost is very low compared to most sports. Unlike other equestrian sports, the vaulter does not need to own their own horse or equipment as these are owned by the club.
Vaulting has proven to be of great therapeutic benefit for both persons with physical and mental disabilities. It helps to develop a strong, healthy body and builds confidence, along with the benefit of contact with the horses on a psychological as well as physical level. It is also a sport where the whole family can participate; as a team, up to three people will perform moves on the horse simultaneously.



Out of all equestrian competitive disciplines, vaulting is considered the safest. There are many safety guidelines, which all vaulting coaches are trained to follow. The coach should be certified by Equine Canada. The lunger, who is responsible for controlling the horse, must be at least 18 years old and properly trained. The vaulting horses are carefully selected to have the ideal temperament and character; they must be reliable, patient, and calm.
The vaulter’s correct and safe outfit includes clothes that are form fitting to allow freedom of movement. Jeans and similar materials are not suitable since they can interfere with gymnastic moves while mounted on the horse. Long hair needs to be tied back in a ponytail and jewelry needs to be taken off. The appropriate shoes for beginners are inexpensive water shoes or a soft-soled dance shoe. Competitive vaulters purchase shoes made specifically for vaulting (approx. $30). Many riders ask why we do not use helmets in vaulting. It has been found that helmet use in vaulting is unsafe and it is well explained in this link on the Vault Canada website: https://www.vaultcanada.org/helmets

Written by Jessica Church, April 2011.