Four girls from the Kapiti Equestrian and Vaulting Centre have returned home with heavier bags, coming away with an array of medals after competing for New Zealand at the Southern Cross CVI and Australia Vaulting Championships in New South Wales.
The little known sport, perhaps the forgotten cousin of equestrian, is an incredibly challenging sport which involves not only being able to skilfully ride a horse at speed but also requires aerial gymnastics — at the same time.
As Kapiti Equestrian and Vaulting Centre coach and manager Catarina Strom puts it, "Horse vaulting is basically gymnastics on a moving horse. It required fitness, agility, courage, perseverance and grace."
The team won three first placings with Lily Collette and Zoya Gilbert-Bukh coming first in their respective age group novice categories and Zoya and Summer Galway also placing first in the pas de deux (double event).
Matisse Bertelsen placed second in her novice category and Summer placed second in CVI J1* (junior grade, one star), with Lily and Matisse also placing third in the pas de deux.
The team was 'super happy' with their results with the competition being most of the girls' first time competing in an official international competition.
"We were just going to Australia thinking no matter what the placing, no matter what happens we are just doing this for experience, to know what we are doing when it comes to the big thing next year," said Summer.
"It was basically just more for experience so getting those placings we were blown away, super stoked."
The team ranges from 11-17 years old with 11-year-old Zoya who placed well in Australia having only been vaulting for three and a half years.
Dannielle, 16, is the most experienced member having vaulted for around 10 years and was in the first New Zealand team to ever compete in the World Equestrian Games in France in 2014.
"They did awesome," said Catarina.
The preparation for the competition involved training six days a week including before and after school trainings.
The competition is just the first step for these girls as they look to compete at the Junior World Equestrian Games in the Netherlands next year.
"Some weeks trainings will be condensed to five days with a couple of trainings per day but we will be stepping it up from now until the world champs."
At this stage there is no qualification score required for team entry because the more teams, the more momentum for the sport.
"Horse vaulting is the fastest growing sport in equestrian at the moment and we really want to jump on the bandwagon and make sure that we are growing vaulting here in New Zealand."
With the whole New Zealand team training in Kāpiti including Jasmyn Rodriguez who has recently relocated to Kāpiti from Auckland to train with the team, the club will be representing New Zealand on the world stage.
Next year the team will travel to Germany for six weeks of intensive training to bond with their borrowed horses, before competing at the World championships in the Netherlands in July.
Matisse Bertelsen, Miriam Bright, Lily Collete, Summer Galway, Zoya Gilbert-Bukh, Teagan McCaughey, Jasmyn Rodriguez and Danielle Schwabe will be heading to the Netherlands with six competing in the team event and two there as reserves.
To help the team raise funds visit their Givealittle page here.