Vaulting is most often described as gymnastics and dance on horseback, which can be practiced both competitively or non-competitively. Vaulting has a history as an equestrian act, but its origins stretch back at least two-thousand years. It is open to both men and women, and is one of ten equestrian disciplines recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.
Vaulting is used as an activity for children and adults who may need help with balance, attention, gross motor skill, or social skills.
Vaulting & Autism
Equestrian vaulting is a wonderful activity for children on the autism spectrum as it incorporates specific repeated gymnastic movements on the moving horse that promote improved coordination, physical fitness, strength and balance. Equestrian vaulting is a team activity in which participants perform individually, in pairs or in triples. Movements consist of balanced poses on top of the horse as it travels in a circle at the walk, trot or canter. Adaptive vaulting lessons are structured to improve physical abilities, and facilitate positive social interaction and friendships between students, volunteers and instructors.
The vaulting session consists of warm-up exercises on the mats and some agility training, practice of movements on the barrel and work with the horse. Ground Exercises are the essential starting points for each lesson, and are designed to warm up the body in preparation for the work required on the practice barrel and horse. Work on the practice barrel allows movements to be practiced on a stationary surface improving the vaulter’s form, and is an effective way to practice quality body mechanics and transitioning movements of the compulsory exercises and freestyle movements. Each exercise or movement is performed as independently as possible within each student’s abilities. Good form improves the vaulter’s stability on the horse, and helps reduce accidental bumps which can interfere with the horse’s movement. All movements must be learned on the barrel first, both for the vaulters safety and the horses’ comfort. Volunteers participate in the vaulting sessions as helpers and spotters.
Vaulting & At risk youth
Equestrian vaulting is an excellent tool for teaching confidence, teamwork, safety, balance, creativity, strength and flexibility. Interactive Vaulting is proving to be a successful treatment for at risk or disadvantaged youth. Studies have shown that spending time with horses can reduce levels of stress and hyper-arousal. In our vaulting program our riders are taught to be focused and intentional producing positive results.
Interactive vaulting is proving to be effective methods for helping teens overcome defiance, anger, low self-esteem and mood disorders. Also various activities with “disadvantaged” horses can foster new patterns of empathy and compassion almost instantaneously. Horses have a way of breaking down a student’s barriers and defense mechanisms. Teens who struggle with relationships and authority will often accept the horse’s presence and feedback more readily and develop that relationship based on respect, trust and patience which then equips the students with skills to form and uphold healthy relationships with people. Horses are excellent experiential teachers in that working with a 1000 pound animal who doesn’t talk can be frustrating – teens are naturally rewarded when they exercise patience, creativity and resilience, and quickly find out that they are unsuccessful when angry, aggressive or frustrated.
Horses illustrate the law of cause and effect perfectly. One learns their behaviors and actions trigger responses and that if they modify or reassess their communication methods, body language or behavior – then the horse will give them a different outcome, just as is true with human interactions. Success can be seen or felt immediately when the horse begins to respond to the individual, and this quickly builds self-esteem, teamwork, self-leadership and a sense of personal control. Horses also are able to illustrate respect for others and authority figures simply by the nature of their size and strength. In many cases the “toughest kid on the block” is actually experiencing feelings of insecurity and fear, in this instance the horse’s size and strength alone can help the teen to realize that they can get along with others well by building their confidence and self-esteem, rather than with intimidation techniques.