Gymnastics on a horse

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 February, 2010, 12:00am

The Jockey Club has always been keen to promote equestrianism in Hong Kong, but vaulting, which is gymnastics on horseback, is a new sport to the city. Three-time world equestrian vaulting champion Christoph Lensing shares his passion and insight.

Riding is popular in Germany, so it was not unusual for Lensing to start learning at the age of eight. 'Many riders start with vaulting before they become a rider, to build up their fundamentals,' he says. 'Vaulting can let riders learn to have a feeling for the horse and to balance on horseback.'

Lensing loves vaulting. He won three world champions before retiring aged 27. After that he focused on coaching.

Lensing points out that vaulting demands supreme body control and balance. 'If you are not balanced, the horse will panic and may not let you ride on it,' he says. 'Vaulters need to have very strong leg muscles to perform moves on a [galloping] horse. Men do have a little advantage as they have stronger leg muscles to perform the jumping.'

Like other kinds of equestrianism, vaulting requires flawless co-operation between the rider and the horse. 'Educating the horse is a very important aspect in vaulting,' he says.

If you do something on horseback that the horse has never seen before, it may panic and throw you off or even lash out.

Vaulters can compete as individuals, pairs and teams. Lensing says it is exciting to see pairs and teams moving and co-operating with each other on horseback. 'It is like a circus, when you see the vaulters jumping up and down, holding each other and doing somersaults.'

Vaulting is not yet popular in Hong Kong or other parts of Asia, but Lensing sees a promising future. 'Asians by nature are more flexible and less bulky, which makes them perfect for the sport,' he says. 'With proper coaching I think there will be vaulting champions from Asia in future.'

The Jockey Club will host an Equine Fun Fest at Penfold Park in Sha Tin, on February 19 and 20. Lensing and members of the Hong Kong equestrian team will perform dazzling moves on horseback to entertain the crowd.