What Are The Differences Between Vaulting In The U.S. And Europe?

Over the past couple of decades, vaulting has made leaps and bounds in terms of becoming a truly international sport. What was at one time primarily restricted to Europe is now found in almost every continent in the world. For a North American vaulter, making the transition to an international competition stage can be just as daunting as it is exciting: what are the differences between European competitions and, say, a national competition in the United States? We had a word with Emily Rose, a gold division vaulter from the US and the current freestyle choreographer for Pacific Coast Vaulting to find how competitions back home compare to the larger ones in Europe.

In the US, where there are many small clubs that don’t have enough members of the same skill levels to make up entire teams, there are many who compete exclusively at the individual level. “I think the biggest difference I notice is the emphasis on team vaulting,” Emily says. “In the US we don’t really do so many teams, especially in the lower levels. Here they have so many teams at all levels; as one girl said, ‘team is the heart of vaulting here.’”

Related to team composition there is another difference, and it concerns what is arguably the most important part of the team: the horse. “At pretty much any competition in the US you will find several large draft breeds, but I have yet to see one draft horse in competition here,” Emily says. In the US, the draft breeds are a popular choice for vaulting clubs because of their versatility, size, gentle dispositions and ready availability. For the clubs that do have teams, the drafts are large enough to support a team and also the individual vaulters, which makes them an economical choice for the clubs that don’t have the funding to support a full barn of vaulting horses.

The European competitions themselves are quite different from the ones that take place in the States in a several ways. Among them is the scoring. “There is quite a big difference in scoring between US competitions and European CVIs,” Emily states. “The CVIs here generally score much lower than in the US.” Another thing that sets the European stage apart from the American one is the attendees. “At home, we generally won’t have much of an audience, but here at the CVIs I have seen a pretty good turnout of people coming to watch the vaulting competitions. I hope someday we can gain that popularity for the sport in the US!”


The quality of European vaulters is quite high, especially compared to their overseas counterparts. “A friend’s mom, who has been around vaulting in the US for her whole life, came to watch Pezinok and she said it was like watching a whole group of Mary McCormicks,” says Emily. “We do have high level vaulting in the US, but not nearly in the numbers they have here!”

Finally, there are the aesthetic differences of the hair, makeup, and uniforms worn by European competitors. “It seems that the Europeans like to go all out on the artistic side of things, from coloring their hair to full face makeup and crazy hairstyles which you wouldn’t see at most competitions at home. Personally, I prefer the way they do it here.”

As we watch our sport evolve in regions that are still relatively new to competitive vaulting, it’s interesting to see the similarities and differences come out between these areas and Europe. It will be even more interesting to see where we are in ten years’ time, and to re-compare the differences then. But for now, would you like to tell us about your country?

Congratulations to Emily, who just got the notification that she will represent her country at the World Championships 2016!

Margaret Swearingen

I am a former vaulter and lifetime rider/lover of all things horses located in Landrum, South Carolina, USA. Though it's been a while since I've vaulted, I stay as active as I can in this wonderful community and enjoy staying connected to the sport through writing. I am an accountant and I have two horses, Jake and Bob, and a German Shepherd named Gyra, and I am happiest when I'm outside in the fresh air with them and my other loved ones.