The Cambodian Equestrian Federation has scored a unique first in Southeast Asia by introducing vaulting, which equates to gymnastics on a horse’s bareback performed by individuals or teams and is one of the 10 disciplines recognised by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI).
Vaulting, the origins of which date back thousands of years to acrobatic entertainment at circuses, owes its present polished and modernised version to postwar Germany.
It is a happy coincidence that the new technical director, Rainer Greiss, is German. The CEF appointed him a month after former national coach Kathy Lovatt left early this year.
Greiss is the one who has added this exciting novelty to the existing activities, such as jumping, dressage, pony care, stable hygiene and recreational riding.
Modern vaulting shaped up as an initiative to introduce children to a horse park and activities that would help them get over the initial fear of horses and give them a better feel and balance when they are up on a horse’s back.
“This is precisely what we want to do. It is pure basics. We are not looking for instant success – it takes years to master these vaulting routines,” Greiss told the Post. “But vaulting has so many complimentary skills. It helps balance, it helps control, confidence.”
Some of his wards performed a few vaulting tricks for the gathered media at the Cambodian Country Club horse park on Sunday.
Greiss had a successful career in telecommunications. His last corporate gig was as the head of the product marketing for data services for one of Germany’s biggest mobile phone operators, Vodafone. But once he bid goodbye after 10 years in that job in 2001, it has been horses and nothing but horses.
Quickly making a mark as a trainer in the equestrian business, he acquired a second highest degree from the German Equestrian Federation, adding a few more academic qualifications in show jumping. He jumped when he got the offer from the CEF and could not wait long enough to discuss the possible introduction of vaulting with the Federation’s secretary-general, Tep Mona, herself an accomplished show jumping rider.
“We are not looking for anything spectacular. We will go slow and steady. We have identified a few riders as our vaulting team who are learning basic lessons. We expect two or three schools to join us. Probably, we will have a better picture to present in a year’s time,” the German trainer said.
“We need at least half a dozen horses more, the big ones, to the 23 we have here. Our focus will continue to be show jumping and dressage, strengthening our national team, making our mark in regional competitions.
“We have some exciting prospects in the wings and overall I am very optimistic about Cambodia’s future,” added Greiss.
Mona told the Post: “From the federation’s perspective, we are delighted that Greiss introduced this novelty. It is beneficial on so many fronts. Competitively we may be years away, but its positive impact on other equestrian skills is priceless.
“We keep talking about riders, skills and competitions. But what about the poor horses who serve us for so long and so faithfully. One of the biggest and most rewarding advantages from vaulting is that we can give retired horses a second life.”
Meanwhile, the CEF has opened its new Pony Club at the CCC stables to inculcate in young riders the value of pony care.
Around 20 youngsters who are now part of this club will have to take care of the ponies they ride on a day-to-day basis. In Mona’s words, it creates a better bond between the rider and pony for which tenderly care is so vital.
Vaulting competitions consist of compulsory and choreographed freestyle exercises in tune with music.
The compulsory ones are mount, basic seat, flag, mill, scissors, stand and flank. Each exercise is scored on a scale from 0 to 10. Horses also receive a score and are judged on the quality of their movement and behaviour.
Vaulting – the basics
Vaulters compete in team and individual freestyles (previously known as a Kur). An individual Kur is a one-minute freestyle and team is of four minutes. They are both choreographed to music.
A typical routine for a child or begginner teenager or adult will more likely contain variations on simple kneels and planks. Teams also carry, lift, or even toss another vaulter in the air.
Judging is based on technique, performance, form, difficulty, balance, security and consideration of the horse, which is also scored.
Vaulting horses are not saddled, but wear a surcingle (or a roller) and a thick back pad. The surcingle has special handles that aid the vaulter in performing certain moves as well as leather loops called “Cossack stirrups”. The horse wears a bridle and side reins.
The lunge line is usually attached to the inside bit ring.