PASSION - Carolyn Latimer, left, and Heather Latimer, far right, of Chinook Vaulters stand with their recreation riders and vaulting horse at their lesson at Willowdale Equine Centre. Carlie Connolly/Red Deer Express

WATCH: Chinook Vaulters offers unique program to Red Deer area

Sport of vaulting continues to grow

Chinook Vaulters is the only club in Red Deer County that offers riders the opportunity to learn vaulting.

“There’s been no club in this area and we really wanted to get a program going. There’s been lots of interest. The closest other club, and that we were involved with before, was down at Olds, and there’s one at Rocky Mountain House,” said Carolyn Latimer who runs Chinook Vaulters with her daughter Heather.

The Latimers, who reside in Bowden, started the club last December. They currently have two groups of vaulters with five kids in each group. They teach both recreational and competitive vaulting.

Their current session will be wrapping up at the end of November, with another starting in early January.

The club’s head coach is Carolyn’s daughter Heather, who has been involved in the world of horses since she was a little girl.

“I’ve been riding ever since mom could put me on a horse. My first picture I think I’m two-years-old on a horse and I’ve had a horse pretty much my entire life,” said Heather.

Carolyn has been lunging (person leading the horse in a circle) for Heather for over eight years, and also does some teaching as well.

The sport of vaulting is similar to that of gymnastics, but with horses.

“If you were to look it up in a dictionary, even though there is no dictionary definition, it would be dance gymnastics combined and in harmony on a horse,” said Heather.

She said a lot of the moves come from a gymnastics background, and the riders use bars and a beam when in their practice.

“Our compulsories really draw back to the fundamental gymnastics. The sport actually originates from war time,” said Heather.

She said in Europe vaulting originated as the beginning of riding, while in America, riding lessons are the norm.

The Latimers provide their own horses for the vaulting practices, something that’s usually done in the world of vaulting.

It’s also one of the more safer disciplines amongst other horse sports.

“We teach you the fundamentals of how to use the horse in harmony,” said Heather.

Carolyn said this is because the lunger is in control of the horse, and the horse is trained to listen to the lunger so that the vaulter can perform the skills to move in harmony with the horse and feel the movement without having to be responsible for the direction or control of the horse.

“Benefits beyond that is the fitness and conditioning that a vaulter does to train,” said Carolyn.

Heather said comparable to that of gymnastics, the riders also spend a considerable time off the horse, doing lots of conditioning, strength, flexibility and drills.

“Forty-five minutes of my lesson is devoted off the horse and 45 minutes of my lesson is devoted to the horse,” she said.

When it comes to vaulting, Carolyn said there are two components, one of them being compulsory skills.

“Every vaulter learns these compulsory skills and in a competition setting they’re performed according to the rules set out by Vault Canada,” said Carolyn.

There is also something called freestyle, which is where the individuality of the vaulter comes out.

“They can choose their music themselves with a little bit of help from the coach. And freestyle is more entertaining because you won’t see the same vaulters doing the same moves,” said Carolyn, adding they can even have a costume or theme to go with their routine, and create their own movements.

The Latimers teach both recreational and competitive riders back to back on Wednesday nights at a facility they rent called Willowdale Equine Centre, and they hope to get some riders who wish to compete next year.

Those interested in getting involved in the sport of vaulting can contact the Latimers at or visit their facebook page at Chinook Vaulters of Red Deer County.

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