Vaulting with athletes flying in the air

Jul 27th 2022

Vaulting is a youthful discipline in which athletes perform on the back of a cantering horse. It requires a unique physical condition of the vaulter and a harmonious relationship with the horse and first-class teamwork between the vaulter, horse, and longueur.

Vaulting is a niche discipline in equestrian sports, but it is incredibly audience-friendly because even a non-equestrian can see what a good sport is. You can almost feel it when music and exercises and the horse's movements combine in a unit and become a beautiful choreography. Vaulting is gymnastics on horseback and at this level, tough elite sport. It takes agility, strength, balance, and musicality to make a routine look playfully easy when standing three vaulters on a cantering horse.

How is vaulting assessed?

The vaulters must go through the compulsory exercises, which can be equated with riding a Grand Prix in dressage. They must show 6  exercises that make their performance directly comparable.

In the free programs - both technical and freestyle - it is important to use "the whole horse". In other words, show exercises where the vaulter is both on the neck of the horse, touches the ground, turns forwards and backward and has his head down and uses the horses back. The exercises must be constantly connected and are both dynamic and static. In the technical freestyle, the vaulters must show 5 predetermined exercises, the technical exercises that they themselves must incorporate into a free program. However, there should be beautiful transitions or sequences between the exercises that should fit the music.

In Freestyle the athletes are free to play, and here the vaulters really show their strengths. The exercises have different levels of difficulty, which are exchanged for points, and points are given for technical and artistic quality.

Vaulting is not a money sport

The only competition with cash prizes, in addition to international championships, is during the CHIO Aachen, Germany. This results in a very special team spirit across nations, where you are happy to lend your horses - even to the closest competitors. If it is not possible for them to get their horses flown into the competitions, or they are suddenly faced with an injured horse.

It's not unusual for the entire vaulting world to step in and lend out their horses when possible.


The horse score can be crucial

The horse score makes up 25% of the total score, and it is not uncommon for the horse score to ultimately determine the outcome of the competition. Which is very appropriate now that it's a horse discipline. The assessment of the horse includes: The general quality of the horse's gait and training level as shown during the performance. The horse's behavior and performance during the performance, and the quality of the lunging, and the communication between the longueur and the horse, including greeting, and trotting round.

Although vaulting is not a big sport, there are usually relatively many nations represented at the World Championships, covering the globe from Australia to Argentina, in addition to the broad European representation. One of the most special elements in vaulting is the entrance and run-out. Here, vaulters, the longueur and horse run in to the arena with accompanied music, and the audience cheers, claps, and stomps - both before and after the performance. In fact, the audience made so much noise at the WEG in Aachen in 2006 that the dressage riders complained.


Favorite nations in 2022

The Germans always tend to be strong - both in the individual men and women competitions, teams, and Pas de deux, as well as in the national competition. But this year, Italian Lorenzo Lupacchini may well be an upcoming medal favourite after taking the victory at the World Cup final ahead of reigning world champion Frenchman Lambert Leclezio, who otherwise tends to sweep all competition off the field with his agile and exciting programs. Lupacchini won gold in Pas-de-deux at WEG in Tryon in 2018 together with Silvia Stopazzini, but is now back in great shape as a single vaulter (by the way, one of the most beautiful Pas-de-deux ever. See it here: https: / /


Germanys Jannick Heiland, who finished 3rd in the World Cup final, was on a foreign horse when his own did not go through vet-check. If he starts on his accustomed horse, he can easily woo to the podium.

In Pas-de-deux, the reigning world champions Janika Derks and Johannes Kay have put the volti-shoes on the shelf, so here it will be exciting who will fight for medals. German Chiara Congia and Justin Van Gerven are definitely favorites if they can get the collaboration with the horse to play, and some of the exercises they include in their program are pure art.

On the women's side, if all goes well, it could well turn into a Danish medal for Sheena Bendixen from Voltigeklubben Thommysminde. She is strong in the mandatory program and has the potential to deliver a winning freestyle. For example, she won the first round at WEG in Tryon in 2018 with an amazing performance that put her competitors to the wall.

Otherwise, Frenchman Manon Moutinho is the big favourite after some excellent rounds in the World Cup final, which she also won. A joker for the medals this year could well be American Kimberly Palmer. We usually know her as a skilled Pas-de-deux participant, where she has started several times in the World Cups with her sister. She has really used the corona break to refine her form as a single vaulter and may well make a name for herself when the medals are to be awarded in Herning in August.

In the squad competition, it is still very open, but the Germans tend to come strong. They are reigning world champions, and also won the team competition at WEG in 2018, but they must tighten the jersey, because France and Switzerland are on a medal hunt.

The Danish squad finished fourth at the World Championship in 2021 and could well be a joker for a podium place if everything goes well. Austrians also tend to come strong when medals are at stake.

So, all in all, a very open competition in the royal discipline of vaulting.

Medal ceremonies at Herning2022

At the World Championships in vaulting, a total of 5 sets of medals will be awarded:



Squad with 6 vaulters, a longueur and a horse, the competition takes place over 2 rounds: The first round is compulsory exercises, where all 6 vaulters perform 6 compulsory exercises: mount, flag, mill, scissors, stand, and flank (Time limit: 6 min.). The second round (Final) is freestyle with music and up to three vaulters on the horse at the same time (time limit: 4 min.). The total score is found by adding the points for the compulsory exercises together with the points for the freestyle. Then divide by 2 and round to 3 decimal. The group with the highest score wins gold. 1 squad from each nation can participate.

Saturday 6 August: Compulsory exercises (1st round)

Monday, August 7: Freestyle finals


Individual vaulting

Individual vaulting is conducted for women and men, respectively. They compete in 3 different programs: Compulsories, Technical Program, and Freestyle. In the Compulsory exercises: Mount, flag, mill, scissors, stand and flank, there is no time limit. In the technical program, the vaulter has choreographed a 1 min. long freestyle with music, in which the 5 technical elements must be included: forward knee stand to backward stand, cartwheel from neck to back, jump to shoulder stand, elbow stand and backwards needle. The last program is freestyle to music (time limit: 1 min.) The points from the three programs are added together and divided by three to get the final score - the highest score gives gold. 3 women and 3 men from each nation can participate

Saturday, August 6: Compulsory

Sunday, August 7: technical program

Monday, August 8: freestyle finals


Pas de Deux

In Pas de Deux the competitions run over 2 rounds in freestyle. A Pas de Deux consists of two vaulters of the same or different gender. The freestyle must last 2 minutes and the top 15 from the 1st round qualify for the final freestyle.

Sunday, August 7: 1st round

Wednesday, August 10: freestyle final


The Nations Cup

The Nations Cup (aka the team competition or FEI's Official team competition) is relatively new in the World Championship context. Medals were awarded for the first time at WEG in Tryon 2018. The championship's 8 best nations will qualify for the final. Each nation participate with a team consisting of one squad and 2 individual vaulters. The competition consists of the two individual vaulters and the squad showing their freestyle. The points from the three freestyles are added together and divided by 3. The nation with the highest score wins gold.

Wednesday, August 10: Team Competition final


There are various schools in the field of vaulting, where the German style is very stylish, powerful, and synchronous. Unlike the French, which is far more dynamic and playful and at times hectic to keep up with - especially when watching the teams' free programs.

For some of the loungers, for example, Danish Lasse Kristensen, who has many foreign vaulters on his horses, it is important to keep your tongue straight and remember to change the tie when he goes from, for example, a Danish vaulter to an American or Dutch one.



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