Soaring on Horseback

Recently the Kentucky Horse Park hosted the 2009 International Vaulting Championship in the almost brand new (they’re still working on it!) indoor arena on the 3000 acre campus that serves as a living museum to all things equine. The United States Equestrian Federation in conjunction with the American Vaulting Association brought together horses and humans from all around the globe to compete in this preparatory lead-in to the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Results and additional info are available on the AVA’s official site.

The Grace is Inspiring! (Click to enlarge)

The Grace is Inspiring! (Click to enlarge)

I took the opportunity to experience this FUNtastic sport from a behind-the-scenes vantage point serving as a volunteer with the Arena Crew. With my trusty Flip Mino in pocket, though officially welcomed so I didn’t have to snatch footage surreptitiously — just in between doing my tasks — I was able to get some wonderful stuff. I was inspired by the cooperation of the wonderfully solid equine athletes and wondered at the acrobatics of the mostly scaled down human ones.

I was told fun facts – not always flattering –  about some of the players in the world of equine vaulting and was privy to glowingly expressed admiration towards certain teams from people who have been following the sport from its inception. Like any high level sport, vaulting is peopled with prima donnas, Type A overachievers, stage moms, the genuinely kind, the amazingly talented, pioneers, hangers on, fast-track stars-in-the-making and the star struck. Unlike most high level sports, vaulting is also graced with mostly large generous equines who make perfect circles in predictable cadence for time periods long past the mental endurance of lesser horses.

They call it “gymnastics and dancing on the back of a horse” though it was conceived to help train better riders by disallowing reins and stirrups and offering challenges to reorganize posture in any variety of ways while the horse was lunged in a circle at different speeds. The history of vaulting is ancient, and it may well be one of the oldest equestrian sports. Evidence in art suggests that people have been performing gymnastics on moving horses since at least 1,000 CE, and the Romans integrated a form of vaulting into their cavalry training. Equestrian vaulting continues to be practiced by modern cavalry and mounted law enforcement officers, as a way of making riders confident and secure on their horses and to create a bond between horses and riders.

It is an entertaining way to think about being with horses and as a means to think about flying on horseback you can’t do better than this!


One Response to “Soaring on Horseback”

  1. Sally Cruikshank Says:

    These are wonderful illustrations. I’ve never known quite what to make of vaulting.

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