The vaulting discipline involves human acrobatic movement on a longed horse's back. As the sports gains popularity, and as vaulters' movements become more complex, the continued welfare of the vaulting horse is becoming an important issue for international governing body of equestrian sports. And recently, the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) proposed some rule changes to help ensure vaulting horse welfare.

In particular, back pads must be capable of supporting the impact of the vaulter’s body on the horse, and other pieces of equipment particular to the discipline—surcingles and handles (or grips), for example—should evolve to ensure the welfare of the horse, an FEI representative said.

“The FEI constantly monitors horse welfare across the disciplines it governs,” explained Bettina de Rham, FEI director of vaulting, driving, and reining. “As vaulting grows, the equipment is changing to allow for more technical performances. We are currently in discussions with our national federations on proposed updates to the current vaulting rules on equipment, to allow for its evolution while ensuring it is comfortable and safe for horses and vaulters.”

At the FEI Sports Forum, held June 10 in Lausanne, Switzerland, attendees of the vaulting round table discussion agreed it was necessary to update the current guidelines for vaulting back pads. Currently, article 719.2 of the FEI vaulting guidelines states that a back pad is required, that it must be made of an “elastic/springy material,” that it can be accompanied by a gel pad. The article also gives specific size requirements for l