Why horses bring us the best gift of all
I hope everyone had a great, relaxing Christmas of indulgence. 2017 is upon us and now the hard work starts. I am really lucky to be going into 2017 with five great horses at my club. They have allowed my club mates and I to have so many amazing opportunities and it has been an honour to be with them through every stage of their vaulting journey. They have provided so many young equestrians confidence in horses, whether they have gone on in the vaulting world or in another discipline.
I’m sure you’ll all agree that it is hard to find the words to describe how special our four-legged friends are – they are all different, all unique and each with their own characteristics and quirks. They continue to provide us so many unforgettable memories whether that’s in the small things like Jack who has to bite his head collar every time you go to put it on, or Billy who can’t contain his excitement at dinner time. Then there are those incredible moments like running into the final round of the World Equestrian Games with our horse Henry who gave his all to allow us to win medals – it is not just those once in a lifetime moments but it is the way they shape our everyday lives.
Taking time to train
It can be a long journey to train a vaulting horse and I think it is important in all disciplines to take time to train and allow the horse to work at their own pace. Every horse is different and comes on in their own time. The horses that we have just now have all come from the UK and had no previous vaulting experience, so it has been an incredible journey seeing them develop in the sport and creating a special relationship with them that relies on so much mutual trust. Together we have been through all the ups and downs.
Things you may not know about a vaulting horse:
There is a common misconception that vaulting horses are just supposed to go round on a circle with a canter that lacks impulsion or pace to make it as easy for the vaulter as possible. This is entirely false for a number of reasons. First off, the horse score makes up 25% of the overall mark in vaulting and has the power to completely dictate the final standings. Therefore, we want a quality canter with good suspension and suppleness.
Secondly, as a vaulter, it can be more difficult to vault on a slower, four time canter, as it is harder to catch the rhythm and do moves like jumps and bounces where you rely on impulsion. It takes a lot of work and patience to train a vaulting horse and once trained we continue to work on achieving a quality canter.
Meet the team
W.H.Bentley (Henry) – our most successful horse at Wee County Vaulters.
He was part of our HOYS demonstration in 2014 and 2015 and he continually amazes me. We were able to get him by chance, as being a Dales pony x Warmblood he wasn’t expected to reach 17hh – which he did – and he outgrew the owners who had him at the time. When we went to see him, the main consideration was actually whether or not he was big enough for us. We got him when he was five years old and he is 23 now. He has been to every major World or European Championship since 2002 and always gives 110%. He was the horse that allowed us to set up our own vaulting club in 2001 and set us on our way in the Equestrian world – the first British horse to win an FEI medal in vaulting.
Baroque (Brock) – the horse who everyone learns to vault on.
He gives everyone the confidence they need as they set off on their vaulting journey. Now aged 22 years old we got Baroque in 2003. Previously he had done a lot of hunting and I remember going to see him for the first time. Luckily we stopped off in York to see him on our way home after flying back to London from a rare family holiday in Venice. I don’t really remember training him as he came on so fast in the sport. It was like he was born to do it. We took Baroque down to be part of our HOYS demonstration in 2015. He hadn’t performed on such a big stage for a while and he absolutely loved it – he gave those performances everything.
Tylers Kernel (Tyke) – the most intelligent horse I have ever met.
He took longer to train partly because he loves to cause mischief. When we first got him in 2007 he just loved jumping out of the field – which isn’t ideal when you live on a busy road – he would find trouble wherever he could. But that only makes me love him more and makes everything he has achieved mean more. You can never entirely predict what type of mood he will be in day to day but he has bundles of character and loves affection. Tyke by name, Tyke by nature. He took our club member Andrew McLachlan to win two individual bronze medals at successive Junior championships, and Andrew alongside club member Rebecca Norval became the first ever Junior European Pairs Champions together on Tyke. We had Tyke at HOYS in 2014 and 2015, Tyke performs better at a big event with huge audiences and lights. He believes he deserves the big stage. I guess you could say he is a diva – actually he is a massive diva!
Glaxtown Billy (Billy) – my lovely little pony – even though he stands at 17hands!
I was slightly older when we got Billy and while I was involved as a vaulter in training our horses before him, I feel like with him I was involved as both a vaulter and more actively as a lunger and because of that I feel we have always had a special bond where we just understand each other. Billy is quite confident under saddle but as a vaulting horse can sometimes get a little nervous in competition but he always gives his all.
Jack – the giant – standing at 18’2 Jack is our tallest and youngest horse.
He came on in the sport incredibly quickly, going to his first competition just three months after he came to our club. Vaulting is a sport he just naturally understands. He has a big canter which can be slightly more difficult to vault on, but nothing phases him, he has great impulsion and keeps constant contact on the lunge. He is our horse of the future and it is great to watch our vaulters and Jack grow together. He is an absolute gentle giant who loves bananas and takes care of whoever is on his back. The only thing he is not so keen on is when the cows chase him down to the field. But that’s understandable – isn’t it?
I had a great Christmas period getting to spend more time with my horses, and I am really looking forward to taking on 2017 with them. They are the heart of my vaulting club and my family and I am indebted to them for the unforgettable experiences and friendship they have provided me. They are certainly the best gift of all!