The Kootenay Cinch n’ Saddle 4H Club in conjunction with the Nelson 4H Club and the Nelson equestrian vaulters, gathered for a fun weekend of exhibitions and riding clinics at the Trail Horseman Grounds.
About 25 participants attended clinics that helped local 4H members improve their skills in Western and English riding, showmanship, and equestrian vaulting, and prepared them for the club’s much bigger and busier stock show in July.
“It’s the horsey kids of the Kootenays (that are involved),” said organizer Leah Hope. “We wanted a fun clinic to start getting them thinking of a work ethic because they have to schedule their day, arrange how they look after their horses and how they get to these different (venues.)”
One of the highlights of the weekend was the equestrian vaulting exhibition and clinic. A cross between gymnastics and dance on the back of a trotting horse, a combination of strength and grace.
“It’s a performance sport for sure,” said equestrian vaulting coach Naomi Weber.
Weber coaches the Nelson Riding Club’s equestrian vaulting team that consists of 16 members including vaulters Korynn Weber, age 15, and 12-year-old Kaylee Shukin.
“If you have gymnastics experience or dance experience, and you like horses, it’s a great way of pulling it all together,” added Weber. “We do have some people that do it recreationally and build up that confidence to perform it. So we try to work on life skills through the whole discipline of vaulting, so that they come out with being able to be confident, and sure of themselves and (learn) team work.”
In competitive vaulting, vaulters compete as individuals, pairs, and teams of three. The vaulting horse is specially trained, and moves in a 15-metre circle, directed by a lunger (or “longeur”), who stands in the center of the circle.
The vaulter, horse, and lunger compete as a team with scores weighted for each performance.
“We all get scored together to get a final score, but the weight is placed more heavily on the vaulter, but we all are factored into that,” said Weber.
Beginning vaulters compete at a walk or trot and usually on smaller horses, while experienced vaulters compete at the canter on larger breeds.
Korynn Weber has been training in equestrian vaulting for seven years and Kaylee for three.
“Starting’s not that hard, it’s easier than you think. Once you get up there it gets harder and harder, you have tougher competition and everything has to be perfect,” said Korynn.
Both Korynn and Kaylee performed at the grounds, exhibiting a variety of elements including mounts, handstands, tumbling, kneeling and standing moves, and are looking forward to competing.
“You meet so many people at competitions, it’s almost more that than the actual competing part that’s fun,” she said.
Competing in pairs is even more difficult than singles, for despite the size of the horse, it does get crowded up there, added Korynn.
The dynamic duo will unveil their first pairs performance in an upcoming competition in Chilliwack next week.
The 4H Club promotes the development of youth through various activities and community events.