NZ equestrian’s vaulting “underdogs” raise $86K for World Champs trip

New Zealand vaulting squad members in training.
New Zealand vaulting team members in training. © Kapiti Vaulting Club

A team of young equestrian vaulters has raised some $86,000 to follow their dream of representing New Zealand on the world stage in The Netherlands next month.

The New Zealand team of eight vaulters aged from 11 to 18 from the Kapiti Vaulting Club will leave the country on June 10 to train in Germany before the FEI Vaulting World Championships for Juniors in the Dutch city of Ermelo, from July 24-27.

Vaulting is a theatrical discipline in which athletes perform on the back of a cantering horse. As such, it demands an outstanding physical condition from the vaulter, a harmonious relationship with the horse, and first-class teamwork.

The Europe-bound New Zealand Vaulting Team.
The Europe-bound New Zealand Vaulting Team, from left at back: Summer Galway (15), Jasmyn Rodriguez (15), Lily Colette (15), Miriam Bright (18), Danielle Schwabe (16), and Matisse Bertelsen (15). At front, from left, is Tegan McCaughey (12) and Zoya Bilbert-Bukh (11). © Vaulting Club

Vaulting exercises include artistic mounts and dismounts, shoulder stands and handstands on the horse, carrying or lifting another vaulter, and kneeling and standing exercises. The horse is guided on a long rein by a lunger standing on the ground who ensures that a steady canter is maintained on a circle with a minimum diameter of 15 metres.

The discipline dates back to Greek and Roman times when soldiers – without stirrups and saddles – practised vaulting movements as part of their military training. Vaulters compete together on squads – no more than three may be on a horse at any one time – or in individual competitions which, unlike in all other equestrian disciplines, are separate for males and females. There are also pairs competitions, or pas-de-deux.

Kiwi vaulter Matisse Bertelsen competing in Australia.
Kiwi vaulter Matisse Bertelsen competing in Australia.

The Kiwi team and their families have had a year of cake stalls, car washes and other money-making ventures, to raise $86,000 for the trip. In addition to their fundraising, they’ve also maintained a grueling schedule of training as well as keeping up with their schoolwork. The girls are also coaches to the next generation of vaulters from the Kapiti Vaulting Club.

The team will certainly be the underdog at the World Championships; there are no official national or FEI vaulting competitions in New Zealand, but the squad has been endorsed by Equestrian Sports New Zealand to represent the country. Last year four members of the team went to Australia to compete and placed well in their individual and pairs classes.

New Zealand vaulter Lily Collette in action.
New Zealand vaulter Lily Collette in action.

Those who will compete for New Zealand in the pairs and squad contests have not yet been named, and there will also be an individual vying to qualify at an event in Sweden on June 27. Qualification is required for individuals, and no competition currently exists in New Zealand for this category.

The Kapiti Vaulting Club, operating in Waikanae, inspired the team to put in the work to return to the world stage, after a similar struggle to compete at the 2014 World Equestrian Games. There, with minimal competitive experience, the Kiwis came out of nowhere to take ninth place.

» More on vaulting in New Zealand

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