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I would love to start vaulting with my horse but I don't think that he would make a good vaulting horse. As well, I'm not sure that I have the trust that you would need to be on a vaulting team.

- J. P.

Want to know a secret? There's a sport that hardly anybody knows about. It's equestrian vaulting, and it offers you a far better shot at a medal than just about any other event! Where tens of thousands of young people compete in track and field, skating, and dozens of other sports, there are only a few hundred serious vaulting competitors. And while it looks dangerous, it's actually safer than most other sports events (such as football, soccer, or even cross-country track). In competition, judges will even dock you points if they consider your routine to be overly risky.

And here's some more good news: it doesn't matter how good your horse is, because you'll almost certainly be using someone else's horse. Just two or three horses may serve an entire club. The horse's owner is often the one who works the longe line for you.

Your equipment cost is also fairly low. A unitard and some gymnastics slippers will be your biggest investment - probably at a price lower than a single pair of high-quality figure skates. The club buys the vaulting surcingles.

You say you lack confidence in your ability to do gymnastics on a moving horse? No problem. Beginning work can be done on a rig made of padded 55-gallon drums. During winter or inclement weather, even top-level vaulters will practice on the barrels. What if you never get up the courage to try your routine on a real horse? Simply compete on the barrel. There are regular competitions of vaulting entirely on the practice barrel.

Your biggest problem will be making the connection with a vaulting club near you. Check with the American Vaulting Association to see if there's a vaulting group near you. If there isn't one, consider starting one, perhaps as a 4-H club. In the meantime, find a friendly welder to build a barrel for you. (You can make the covering yourself.) Talk to your local high school gymnastics coach for pointers on things like correct dismount and falling techniques. You'll have a one-member club... but don't be surprised if others want to join you as the word gets around!

Susan MacIsaac on Murphy
Susan MacIsaac performs her 
Bronze Kur on Murphy.
(c) 1998 RHH. Used by permission of
Topaz Vaulters 4-H.
Topaz Vaulters at a barrel competition
Topaz Vaulters demonstrate their
skills at a barrel competition.
Photo copyright (c) 1999 Topaz Vaulters 4-H.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Happy Vaulting!

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