At the end of August, I embarked on a fun trip with friends to the San Jose area. On Sunday morning, I got to do the most fun activity!! VAULTING (or yoga on horseback, as I like to call it).. And let me tell you, vaulters make this look SOOOO easy, but it really is the most strenuous, yet thrilling thing I have ever done. I did get to do this about a year and a half ago, but wanted to document it this time for this blog.
First, we stretch… (normally, the actual vaulters stretch, run and do all sorts of conditioning exercises.. but I got let off easy!)
Next, the instructor (who happens to be a great friend of mine, Laura), usually puts you on “the barrel” or “the non moving ‘horse'” to warm up. I did the barrel last year, so I definitely knew what it was about, but we went straight to the horse! He was a BIG flea bitten grey gelding and definitely a WIDE LOAD. His name was Sir James, aka Jamie. Considering I have worked with horses my whole life, being on them, handling them, etc. is very natural to me. I borrowed Laura’s slippers, which are basically like ballet slippers, mixed with my gym outfit. Jamie, on the other hand, wears a surcingle with handles, that has a pad for protection underneath.
Laura starts to lunge Jamie on a line in a circle to get him warmed up. Normally, the “vaulter” would run next to him and then spring up on him on the count of 2, it is pretty amazing! I did that last year (with assistance), but we opted to put me on this time while he was stopped. While the horse walks, we did several different “moves” to warm up. For example, jumping up to the knees, holding the handles and pushing off the back with your legs and feet hanging off the rump (called the banana), doing an “around the world” one leg at a time until you’ve turned all the way around, standing all the way up, as well as several other positions that I don’t remember what they were called, but basically it was a bunch of yoga poses with this hand up, that leg up, etc. All while Jamie is walking. However, the fun part is when you do all of these moves while cantering! Cantering is basically a slow gallop, but is the same 3 beat gait in a slower form, but same motion.
Let me tell you! It is very thrilling because you feel like you could fall off this moving train at any moment, but the concentration you have to have and stabilization of the core, and squeezing of the legs when you’re in the seated position. It is seriously so fun and so exciting, but so exhausting all at the same time. The kids that do this literally go through almost 3 hours of conditioning training several times per week before they ever even get on a horse, because you really have to be fit and flexible!
Here are some pics of my lesson:
Then, I opted to have a little fun…
With a little downward dog..
Admiring the view….
Warrior II pose…
A not-so-flexible standing split…
MOVING ON.. Aside from this being one of the most awesome experiences EVER.. if I lived in the Bay Area, I would be bothering Laura for a lesson every week (consider yourself lucky, Laura!).
Some info about the Mt Eden Vaulting Club in Saratoga, California:
Mt Eden Vaulting Club is one of the oldest, largest, and most successful vaulting clubs in the United States. Located at Garrod Farms in Saratoga, CA the club dates back to the mid 1960’s, when Jane Garrod and Hope Scherf saw vaulting for the first time at Camp Kennolyn in Santa Cruz. They both thought it would be a nice addition to their existing Garrod Farm activities and decided to give it a go. Vaulting slowly began growing in the US, and in the 1970s, the San Francisco Bay Area became the heart of the vaulting movement and still is to this day. In 1979, Mt Eden Vaulting Club hosted the first ever international vaulting competition in the USA and since then the club has been home to numerous national and international champions.
And about my awesome friend and instructor, Laura:
Laura has been vaulting since she was 8 years old which all started with a trip to Garrod Farms to try out a horse to purchase. The daughter of the person selling the horse had her weekly vaulting practice and it looked like something fun to try – gymnastics and horses…two of Laura’s favorite things! After her first “Drop In” lesson, the rest was history. She started out on the trot team and quickly moved to the canter team, working hard and moving up the levels each year. She was able to travel abroad to Germany and Denmark to train with her team and compete in international competitions – making lifelong friends along the way. In 2007, she represented the USA individually and won the CVI 1* division at CVI Saratoga – the international vaulting competition held at Garrod Farms. Although, one of the best moments in her vaulting career was being able to represent the USA in 2008 at the CHIO World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany and bringing home top honors with her team, and then in 2014 supporting team USA in Normandy, France at the World Equestrian Games. Laura took a short break from vaulting to focus on her studies at San Jose State University, but she couldn’t stay away from it for long! She came back as a coach and has coached teams and individuals of all levels. In 2015, her C Team won the AVA/USEF National Championships in Loveland, CO, and she also helped the Pas de Duex vaulters, Bodhi Hall and Michelle Guo, on their journey to ultimately winning the Gold Medal at the first ever Junior World Championships in Ermelo, Netherlands. Vaulting has opened up so many opportunities for her and she wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world!
If you would like to learn more about the Mt Eden Vaulting Club, please visit their website at www.mountedenvaulting.org or contact Laura with any questions! If you would like to find a vaulting club near you or to watch an event, visit www.americanvaulting.org.
And to see Laura in action to see some REAL vaulting:
Pretty impressive if you ask me! Again, THANK YOU, Laura! It was amazing as always and thanks for taking time out on your Sunday to let me have some exhausting fun! And thanks Juliana for documenting for me!