Start a Vaulting Program
Start a Club FAQ | Clinicians | Safe Horsemanship | Selecting/Training a Horse | Non-Profit Status

Thinking about taking the plunge and starting your own vaulting club? This information will help you get started. And if you have additional questions or would like to be paired with an AVA mentor, please email AVA National Office Manager Craig Coburn.

This chapter is an excerpt from the AVA's Camps and Clubs Manual, written in 2004 specifically for beginning coaches and clubs. If you are an AVA member, you may download the complete Camps and Club Manual, found in the Resources section of the Members Only AVA website. 1.1 Personnel
  1. Instructor / Coach
    1. As with any athletic endeavor, the instructor is responsible for the safety of the children in the class and for teaching them the skills required to become proficient in their chosen sport.
    2. The qualifications of an applicant for camp or club vaulting instructor, like those for any teaching job, should be carefully reviewed by the Personnel Director or whoever is in charge of hiring teachers.
    3. The following qualifications are suggested for a camp or club vaulting instructor:
      1. The instructor should be a responsible, mature person.
      2. The instructor should relate well to children.
        1. If the children are to enjoy an introduction to vaulting during their short time at camp, it is imperative that they have an understanding, effective instructor.
        2. The instructor must be enthusiastic and supportive, as well as firm and disciplined.
      3. The instructor should have some previous vaulting experience such as a junior leader or assistant coach with a 4-H club, United States Pony Club, or vaulting club.
      4. The instructor should have some experience with horses.
        1. A basic knowledge of longeing is helpful to the non-longeing instructor. A basic knowledge is essential to the instructor who must also longe during the vaulting training.
        2. A knowledge of safe and humane horsemanship practices is required, especially the ability to recognize when a horse is fatigued, sore, or unsuitable for use as a vaulting horse.
      5. The instructor need have only an elementary, common sense knowledge of gymnastics, though a more thorough knowledge is certainly advantageous.
      6. The instructor should have a basic knowledge of First Aid for sporting events. The Red Cross offers excellent courses for this purpose.

  2. Lunger
    1. It is important for the vaulters' safety to always have a competent and mature lunger work with the horse.
    2. The longeur must be able to effectively control the horse on the longe line.
      1. He should know how to keep the horse from cutting in, turning back, stopping without cue, going too fast, and so forth.
      2. He should be sufficiently skillful with the whip to be able to maintain a 13 meter circle and, at the same time, to signal the vaulters to approach the horse.
    3. Since the lunger is usually responsible for a daily checking of the equipment, he must know the fit, adjustment, and condition of that equipment intimately. (See Chapter 3, 3.2 Use and Adjustment of the Equipment.)

  3. Coach-Lunger
    1. It is possible for the job of coach and lunger to be performed by one person. However, it is not recommended that this division of attention be required of one person unless both he and the horse are very experienced, and the class is smaller than eight vaulters.
    2. For a class of beginners it is especially advantageous to have two people to supervise the activity.

  4. Spotters
    1. These assistants are a necessary addition to the teaching staff as they help to maintain the vaulters' safety.
    2. Spotters may be older vaulters who are capable of accepting the responsibility or parents who are capable of running with the horse.
    3. It is suggested that spotters be used whenever vaulters are performing a new exercise.
    4. For detailed information on the use of spotters, refer to Chapter 4, 4.3 Vaulting on the Horse.

  5. The Horse
    (See Chapter 3, Selecting and Training the Vaulting Horse.)
1.2 Facilities
  1. Level Area
    1. A level area with a suitable surface is a must for both horse and vaulters.
    2. This area must be large enough for the vaulting circle.
      1. The vaulting arena should not be smaller than 20 meters (66 feet) in diameter, thereby providing enough room for both horse and vaulters.
      2. Working the horse on a 15 meter longe circle allows for the best control and safety.
        1. Too large a circle lessens control.
        2. Too small a circle is very fatiguing for the horse and can cause him to stumble.
        3. The area used for vaulting does not need to be fenced. However, if it is fenced, it must be of hazard-free material. Maintain the longeing circle a safe distance from any fencing.

  2. Footing
    1. Proper footing is of paramount importance for the safety of the vaulters and the soundness of the horse.
    2. Footing on the vaulting circle should be soft and sufficiently springy to cushion the shock of landing without being slick or deep.
    3. The area should be checked to make sure the footing is completely free of rocks, sticks, glass, wire, or other dangerous objects, and free of holes.
    4. Shavings, sand, rice hulls, or a mixture of these mediums are all suitable footing materials.
1.3 The Vaulting Barrel
  1. Uses of a Vaulting Barrel
    1. It can serve as a surrogate horse for groups starting without a horse.
    2. It can save the horse from over-use by providing another means for vaulters to practice.
    3. It can save time as vaulters continue their lesson on the barrel during the horse's warm-up and rest periods, and during other vaulters' turns on the horse.
    4. It can help vaulters gain confidence since they can master the exercises on a stationary object before trying them on a moving horse.
    5. It can be used indoors during bad weather so that the vaulting lessons need not be canceled when the horse cannot be worked.
    6. It can be used by vaulters who are composing freestyles (kYrs) and want to experiment with different combinations of exercises.

  2. Construction of Barrel
    1. A vaulting barrel can be constructed from two 55-gallon oil drums mounted on legs. (See Appendix for diagrams of construction. Information is also available on the AVA website at Barrels may also be designed from plywood and one-by-fours.
    2. The barrel must be solid enough so that it will not tip over when vaulters pull on the handles.
    3. The barrel must be well padded and the handles wrapped with tape. Sharp edges, rough spots, or protruding barrel legs are a danger to the vaulters and must be avoided.

      Barrel Plans

  3. Footing around Barrel
    1. The footing around the barrel is as important as that in the vaulting circle.
    2. Gymnastic mats, foam rubber, old mattresses, carpeting remnants, etc. all provide for good landings.
    3. The same types of footing (turf, sand, shavings, etc.) as used in the vaulting circle are also suitable for use around the barrel, especially if it is located in the same general area.
1.4 Attire
  1. Shoes
    1. Beginners should always wear canvas-type shoes with soft soles (not running shoes) which offer protection and support.
    2. Hard shoes are unsuitable as they will damage the horse's back.
    3. Never allow barefooted or sockfooted vaulting!
    4. When a vaulter can jump down from a stand on the horse comfortably and land properly, he is probably ready to graduate to vaulting shoes. (See list of suppliers in Appendix.)
      1. Vaulting shoes do not give the vaulter much protection or support.
      2. However, because they are lightweight and have good traction, they make it easier to perform the exercises.
      3. If ankle support is needed, use tape or an elastic bandage.

  2. Clothes
    1. Vaulters should wear clothes that allow them to stretch easily and yet are not so loose as to catch on the surcingle or on another vaulter.
    2. Gymnastic unitards are most often worn by vaulters because they are functional and comfortable.
    3. Other possibilities include shorts, sweat pants which are tight around the ankles, leotards or riding breeches made of a stretch fabric. Tops must be long enough to tuck into pants.
    4. No jewelry should be worn while vaulting. Hair should be tied back.

  3. Uniforms
    1. Only if a team is formed and wants to compete or give demonstrations are uniforms a necessity.
    2. If the team wants to have matching unitards, they can be ordered from suppliers. (See Appendix.) The beginning team may consider dance or exercise wear available at any sporting goods store or most department store chains. The combination of a simple leotard with lycra exercise pants will provide the uniformity desired.
    3. Uniforms for teams have also been made very nicely from fabrics with three-way stretch and the efforts of willing parents.

© American Vaulting Association 2004
Published by the American Vaulting Association
© American Vaulting Association 2004

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The American Vaulting Association disclaims all warranties, express or implied. It is your responsibility to evaluate the accuracy and completeness of all information, opinions, and other material in this book. First Edition, 1981 Revised Edition, 2004

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