Vaulting often is referred to as gymnastics on horseback because competitors are judged on specific movements performed to music on a moving horse. Vaulting requires coordination between the vaulter, the horse and the "lunger," who controls the horse's path using a whip and a longe line attached to the horse's bit. Individuals, pairs and teams compete in separate categories, performing both compulsory and freestyle exercises much like in figure skating.
H ow it ' s s c ored
Each exercise is scored on a scale from 0-10. Competitors are judged on the smoothness of their moves, degree of difficulty and height above the horse as well as the vaulter's harmony with the horse. Horses also receive a score and are judged on the quality of their gait.
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W h at to watch
There are six compulsory exercises — basic seat, flag, mill, scissors, stand and flank — in addition to the mount and dismount. Vaulting horses typically move counterclockwise in a 15-meter (49-foot) circle, but in certain kinds of competitions the horse will canter in the other direction. In the team freestyle competition, all eight team members compete but no more than three vaulters must be on the horse at the same time.
Spectat o r etiquette
Vaulting is one of the more spectator-friendly disciplines. Much like in gymnastics and figure skating, routines are set to music. Fans are not to cheer until after a routine.
■ Some trace vaulting's origins to the Roman Olympics, but modern vaulting was developed in the early 1900s in Germany as a way to improve riders' skills on horseback.
■ Vaulting horses are not saddled, but they do wear a surcingle, a strap or belt equipped with special handles to aid the competitors in certain moves.
■ Horses of any breed may be used for vaulting but must be at least 6 years old.
■ Although the sport looks dangerous, Kerith Lemon, a nine-time U.S. national women's champion, defended its safety in an interview with the Herald-Leader last year. "It's the safest sport by statistics," she said. "More than even soccer on the playground. The lunger is fully in control of the horse. It is not like a circus. We get very defensive when you say that. We train as hard as Olympic athletes, as do our horses. This is not death-defying."
Countries competing (based on preliminary nominations): 13 countries have vaulting teams; 19 countries will be represented by individuals.
Individuals competing: 190 athletes have been nominated to compete.
Awards: Medals and trophies will be presented to the top teams, the top individual females and the top individual males.
ALICIA WINCZE, firstname.lastname@example.org
Compulsory, team, round 1, 8:30 a.m.
Compulsory, individual male/female, round 1, 12:30 p.m.
Freestyle, individual male/female, 1 p.m.
Compulsory, individual male/female tech, 12:30 p.m.
Freestyle, team, 4 p.m.
Freestyle, individual male/female finals, 2:30 p.m.
Freestyle, team finals, 11 a.m.