Me competing in the AVA Nationals 2016 in Tennessee (upper level)
First off let me start by answering one question... What is equestrian vaulting? The answer is simple. Equestrian vaulting is a combination of dance and gymnastics on the back of a moving horse. This is one of the safest equestrian sports out there. With different elements, vaulting can be used as different therapy techniques. The basic ridding seat can help a rider with core strength and balance while doing the most basic skill. The mill is when the rider turns around in a full 360 while sitting of the horse. This skill will also help with balance as well as flexibility. These moves as well as others are important to develop motor skills, understanding instructions, and learning control.
For people who lack certain skills, vaulting can be essential to their routine. Equestrian vaulting is similar to therapeutic riding, the difference is that with vaulting riders have more freedom. In vaulting, riders can get sidewalkers for assistance just like in therapeutic riding. While being on the horse, riders understand how to do their moves with the movement of the horse and also learn spatial awareness while being on the horse. It also allows riders to move at their own pace so their skills can develop without getting overwhelmed. Riders form bonds with their horses and they learn to trust these big animals. With vaulting, the riders aren't the ones controlling the horses making it easier to focus on their own tasks. There are a few clubs in the American Vaulting Association who are made up of adults and kids with special needs. They don't let their disabilities stop them and they compete in AVA competitions. They put their hearts into the sport, and it shows that they have a good time.
For me vaulting was more of emotional therapy. With the stress from school, social life, and expectations I often found myself constantly overwhelmed. When I vaulted I was able to set challenges for myself and when I reached them I was relieved. By vaulting I could forget about the world around me and focus on what the horse and I were trying to accomplish during practice. I would look forward to practices where I can get my "aromatherapy" of horse smell and focus on the task at hand.
Therapy comes in many forms. Equestrian vaulting is one of the few that can be personalized to meet a wide variety of needs. While the challenges vary per rider the feeling of accomplishment and the relief from the therapy is a feeling that everyone can relate to. Vaulting is unique in the way that there are a wide variety of organizations. To find a competitive vaulting club near you visit https://www.americanvaulting.org/findclub/