They fly don’t they?
Rosie Brown, Coach of Lone Star Vaulters of Austin TX

By Ingrid Edisen
Many of us have seen circus acts involving equestrian vaulting.  But did you know it is being taught as a discipline for school age children on up here in Central Texas?
 And that in early Spring, the American Vaulting Association will host its annual convention in our state? 

Coach Rosie Brown tells all in the interview below. 

(For some fabulous pictures of her work, go to www.lonestarvaulters.com )

Where are you from originally?
I was born and raised on the Central California Coast in Santa Cruz.  Not only will it always be home to me, but is also the birth place of vaulting in the US.  An accomplished California dressage rider brought the idea of vaulting over from Europe in 1956.

What other horse disciplines have you done?
I have always been an English rider and focused on the Hunter/Equitation disciplines in my teen years.  I showed on the A-circuit in California and continued riding more for fun while in College, and even now.

How many horses do you have now?  Which ones are for vaulting?
I currently own one horse, a 16.3hh 10-year-old Shire/TB mare.  Basia is a very talented jumper/dressage prospect and I bought her for vaulting.  I have begun working her mostly on the line to establish the proper gaits and balance before bringing in the kids to actually vault on her. 

How long have you done vaulting?
I have been involved with the AVA for 19 years.  I began vaulting at age 8 and competed for 5 years.  I took a break to commit to riding and showing on the hunter circuit.  After attending the World Equestrian Games in Rome in 1998, I realized how much I really missed the sport and have been coaching since. 

Who were your teachers?
My first vaulting coach was Kitchy Burdette, someone who has been involved with vaulting since the 70’s.  She has coached National Champion individual vaulters and teams.  Her dedication and enthusiasm for the sport helped give it recognition in Santa Cruz.  Enrolling your kid in vaulting is just as common as enrolling them in karate in that part of the country.  I was with Kitchy for about two years and then went on to another local coach, Nancy Stevens-Brown.  Nancy has been involved since the beginning.  She has coached reining National Champion individuals and National Champion teams.  She’s taken both to the World Equestrian Games and World Championships.   She took the first team to a Championship and brought home the Bronze medal.  It was a big step for vaulting in the US.  When I rejoined vaulting as a coach in 1998, I went to Kitchy who was more than thrilled to have me back in her life and to take over coaching her club.

Why are you involved with it?
There is no other sport I know which combines physical fitness, teamwork, horses, gymnastics, dance and pure fun.  The vaulting world is like any other:  Rivals share their horses in the competition ring and can even be on the same team working together to be the best.  To be the best vaulter in the world, you must be in top physical shape.  You must have flair and style and be a true performer.  You cannot only do every compulsory move exactly as required, but perform a freestyle routine just as powerful and attention grabbing as any New York performer in front of a crowd of thousands.

Where do you teach now?
Right now I teach out of a private facility in the Manchaca/Buda area.  My team consists of 7 horse crazy girls ranging from age 7-17 who participate in 4-H and love the new dimension vaulting adds to their list of horse back activities.  They vault on a 15hh 7-year-old Morgan gelding owned by one of my vaulters.  Poncho is very tolerant of the learning process at home and cleans up very nicely for our demos.

What is a typical vaulting lesson like?
The team meets twice a week for two hours.  One of those days is run by my oldest vaulter and is spent on conditioning and stretching.  It is important to be in top shape to be the best at any sport so the same applies for vaulting.  I run the second class of the week and we work on the barrel and horse (weather permitting).  We start the class with a brief warm up and stretch out our muscles.  Splits in at least 1 direction are a requirement, but all 3 are preferred.  The ability to perform gymnastic moves such as handstands, cartwheels and back bends are also a requirement, and front and back walkovers are preferred.  Not all of my kids come in with the ability do any one of these things, but they learn as they go.  We spend about an hour on the barrel working on techniques for the seven compulsory moves which are performed by vaulters of all levels in a competition setting to show stretch, strength and balance.  Each vaulter’s style is shown off in their individual freestyle routines.  This is where the great are separated from the good and each vaulter shines in their own light.  I encourage all of my vaulters to make up their own moves and use music that fits their personality so it will come through in their vaulting.  We then move to the horse, working at the walk and trot on both compulsory and freestyle moves.  Starting on the barrel and moving to the horse is an essential tool in building your vaulter’s knowledge so the person can focus on working with the horse after learning control of their own bodies.

Or could you describe your program?
My current program is geared towards competitive/performance vaulting.  We are all members of the American Vaulting Association (AVA) and keep up-to-date on technical changes and have clinics with other instructors as there is something to learn from everyone.  My students and their parents are very dedicated to their sport and commit a lot of time and hard work to what we love to do.  At some point I would like to offer a recreational program which would only meet once weekly for an hour and be a very streamlined class for those who aren’t as committed or serious, or as a way to introduce people to the sport.  From there they can move into the more strenuous program.

Who tends to be attracted to vaulting?
People of all types seem to take an interest in vaulting.  I would say first, those who already ride have an interest.  They either like what the sport does for their confidence and balance in a complimentary fashion, or they take it on as their primary equine activity and go on to compete.   The second group who have a great interest are gymnasts.  It is a gymnastic sport.  But I have had cheerleaders, swimmers, surfers, runners, dancers and even soccer players come vault with me.

Any comments on the national vaulting organization?
The American Vaulting Association (AVA) is a United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) affiliate.  Top-level competitions are USEF recognized and they sponsor the team and individual vaulters who are sent to represent the USA at World Championships.  USEF also conducts high performance training clinics.  Internationally, vaulting is is governed by the Federation Equestrian International (FEI).    It is one of the seven disciplines recognized at the World Equestrian Games (which are to be held at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2010).  Unfortunately it is not an Olympic sport.  The AVA has made some big steps in 2006 to promote vaulting and its uses for the rider, the competitive vaulter, the disabled rider and as entertainment.  Without informing the public and fellow equine enthusiasts of the uses of vaulting, the sport will not grow.  Even this article informs those who may not know about vaulting, what it is all about. 

What is in store for vaulting in Texas in 2007?
Great things!  For the first time the AVA (www.americanvaulting.org) will hold its Annual Conference in Dallas March 1-4.  We have been lucky enough to come across Stargate Sport Horses (www.stargatesporthorses.com) in Argyle who will be hosting our educational seminars.  We will have clinics for new interested coaches and club managers for recreational/competitive programs, as well as classes on coaching therapeutic vaulting.  And that is only part of it!  The AVA and Equest (www.equest.org) will also be holding a benefit charity event for their organizations at Stargate.  Vault Texas 2007 will showcase vaulting, and dressage and therapeutic riding will also be demonstrated.  Merchant and food vendors will also be present and a concert will end the evening.  It will be a great time!  For more information on the conference or vaulting, please contact me, Rosie Brown at rosie@americanvaulting.org or call 512-968-1561.  You can also learn more about the AVA at www.americanvaultong.org.


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