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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-968-1561. You can also learn
more about the AVA at www.americanvaultong.org.