Local vaulters rise to the challenge
THE Byron Bay Vaulting Team picked up swag of prizes at the Fassifern Ribbon Day held outside Byron Bay recently.
The sport is a mix of gymnastics and dancing all atop the back of a walking or cantering horse, according to Monique Lewis, the mother of Gabrielle Orrock, a competitor in the event.
The equestrian skill can be traced back thousands of years and combines flexibility and mobility on horseback - important abilities when horses played a big part in war, Ms Lewis said.
Despite the spectacular nature of the event it was still one of the safer equestrian activities, she said.
When people start out they practice on a barrel before stepping up to a walking horse, not one that is cantering.
The horses are also quite big, allowing a bit of space for riders to work with.
Ms Lewis's daughter was attracted to the sport because she loved horses, and loved the grace of vaulting.
The event at the Byron Bay Equestrian Centre, Ewingsdale, saw the local team take on Fassifern (Queensland) and Sydney vaulting clubs.
Local blue ribbon winners included Maleka Mitchell, Mali Chapman and Gabrielle Orrock. Jerri Dixon took out second place in the individual advanced category and Olivia-Jade Greenslade collected a third place.
Tesse Ferguson took over the equestrian centre in 2012 and has been running vaulting classes since.
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The Byron Bay team now boasts 24 dedicated members.
The sport has a relatively low profile in Australia but Ms Ferguson is working to change that.
She said vaulting was much more popular in Europe, where people used it to develop their sense of balance, before moving into standard horse riding.
The sport required strength, fitness, control and musicality for the dance component.
"You also have to have balance because basically, you are dancing on the back of a horse," she said.
Ms Ferguson said she came to the sport relatively late, when she was 16 years old, but her background in circus arts helped.