Horse Training

Ever Wonder What It’s Like to Vault?

September 28, 2010

Vaulting isn’t riding. It’s dancing on the back of a moving horse. And there’s nothing else like it.

Dusti Hausman practices vaulting on her American Quarter Horse.

By Dusti Hausman in America’s Horse

Eight years ago, I was in gymnastics, and I was also showing horses. I liked both sports, but I wasn’t in love with them. They weren’t challenging enough, I guess.

My dad wanted me to take a riding lesson at a place about 15 minutes from our house. I wasn’t really excited about the lesson, but I went anyway. That’s when I discovered that the people at that barn also gave vaulting lessons. It was so cool. I even got to try vaulting that day. During my first ride, I got to kneel on a cantering horse. I was hooked.Mom wasn’t too sold on it, though, so it took me a couple of months to convince her and Dad to let me try vaulting. But once I got them convinced, I really got into it.

Combining riding and gymnastics presented more of a challenge. They say the first thing a vaulter learns is how to fall off a horse. Vaulting definitely helped me develop my balance, coordination and strength, and helped me learn to ride with my horse, not against him.

Some people compare vaulting to trick riding, but vaulting is much more graceful. In vaulting, the horse canters on a 20-meter longe line, controlled by a person in the center, while the vaulter performs his or her routine on the horse’s back.

Roll It!

The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games begin this weekend in Lexington, Kentucky. Enjoy an America’s Horse classic episode from the 2002 World Equestrian Games held in Jerez, Spain. See the pageantry and excitement as reining makes its debut in the World Equestrian Games.

After I started vaulting, I began going to some small competitions, then I moved on to larger and larger events. Today, I’m participating at the second-highest level of competition in the United States with a team called the Silver Star Vaulters. I compete as an individual, as well as a member of a seven-person team that does a four-minute freestyle routine (with as many as three people on the horse’s back at a time) and a compulsory routine.

If you want to perform like a pro, let the “Selecting and Showing Hunter Under Saddle Horses” DVD show you what the judges are looking for in hunter under saddle classes.

A vaulting competition is kind of like an ice skating competition; vaulters are judged on a set of seven technical compulsory exercises and on a one-minute freestyle routine.

The seven compulsory moves range from a seat position with the arm stretched out to swinging into a handstand and flipping over to reverse seat. Each move is designed to help your riding by learning balance, suppleness, strength and rhythm. Each move is performed to an exact standard and graded from one to 10. The freestyle allows a little more creativity. The vaulter makes up her own one-minute choreographed dance, with her own music, costumes and unique moves. Gymnastics exercises like cartwheels and handstands are balanced by the dancing and the music.

The music you choose depends on you and your horse’s cantering style. My music is remixed classical – you know, Beethoven and Mozart, with a beat. Everyone has a totally different style, and that’s what makes vaulting so interesting to watch.

You won’t see contestants at a vaulting competition wearing cowboy hats and spurs. Vaulters wear colorful one-piece leotards and soft-soled slippers. The horse is on a longe line and wears a dressage bridle with side reins and a surcingle, and what looks like a large western saddle pad.

This sport also requires that you have a forgiving, patient partner. I’ve worked with Filibird Too, an appendix Quarter Horse, for a year now. “Raleigh,” who is 17.1 hands tall, is perfect for vaulting and lets me do anything. When I started working with him, we started with ground work, then I began doing simple exercises on his back at a walk, then a trot. After about six months, I began doing exercises on his back at a canter.

If you want to perform like a pro, let the “Selecting and Showing Hunter Under Saddle Horses” DVD show you what the judges are looking for in hunter under saddle classes.

I’ve been vaulting for nine years, and my goals just keep growing. My biggest goal is to earn a medal at the vaulting “worlds,” which are sanctioned by the Federation Equestrian Internationale. They’re held every two years, and you have to be one of the top three in the country to make it. The top three vaulters who go to worlds are automatically part of the United States Equestrian Team.

Interested to check out vaulting? You’re in luck! Vaulting is one of the equine sports featured at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Watch NBC to see American Quarter Horses compete in reining and much more!

Special Event

“Out Here with Animals”

Join Tractor Supply Co. on Saturday, October 2 for special deals. This event has it all — the savings are big, and we’re throwing in coupons for select brands of dog food, cat food and livestock feed — redeemable all weekend. There may even be additional store events going on, so call your local store for details. Go online to find out if any of the TSC stores in your area are hosting an “Out Here with Animals” even and to watch videos of TSC’s series “Chewing the Cud” with Bessie the Cow.