Voltige is most often described as gymnastics and dance on horseback, which can be practiced both competitively or non-competitively. Voltige has a history as an equestrian act but its origins stretch back at least two-thousand years. It is open to both men and women, and is one of ten equestrian disciplines recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports or (Fédération Équestre Internationale or FEI).
Voltige is a form of artistry, recreation and entertainment. Students should be of an age where they are physically developed enough to support themselves on the horse. 7 years of age would be a good starting point, but it also depends on the individual. No one is too old, but should be physically able to do the exercises. The youngest athletes begin at the walk gait and progress to trot, and canter, based on strength, height, and ability to mount and performing on the horse. The horse is controlled by a lunger who sends him in a circle around them on the end of a lunge line which is attached to the bridle the horse wears on his head. The horse also wears a special surcingle around his belly which has hand grips and stirrup-like loops for the voltigeur's feet. Voltigeurs begin working in walk and progress, with training from a qualified instructor, to the canter. Voltige is used on a therapeutic level in some instances. People with disabilities can often benefit from interacting with the horse and team members, and by doing simple movements with the help of "spotters".
Voltige enthusiasts are concentrated in Europe and other parts of the Western world. It is well established in Germany and Switzerland and is growing in other western countries. In Canada, Vaulting is popular in the west as well as Ontario(Voltige) and Quebec. Vaulting was first introduced in the United States in the 1950s and 60s but was limited only to California and other areas of the west coast. More recently, it is beginning to gain popularity in the United States northeast.
Voltige has many benefits for new and experienced riders. It is a team sport and allows children to develop teamwork skills and make new friends. Voltige is physically challenging and both develops and maintains flexibility, strength, timing, balance, and coordination.
The Voltige horse must have a kind and tolerant temperament. It is specifically trained for Voltige but should also be well rounded in other disciplines such as dressage and pleasure riding. The horse should be a minimum of 5 years of age. It can take 2 years to train a Voltige horse so it is important to choose a suitable horse.
The voltige barrel allows students to practice movements before getting on to the horse. The students are able to gain confidence on the barrel before being on the moving horse. Voltigeurs can practice for longer periods of time with out tiring the horse. It can be used indoors when the weather is bad allowing voltigeurs to learn new movements, perfect exercises on the stationary barrel before trying them on the moving horse. Voltigeurs can experiment with different freestyle exercises.
At Flying Horse Farm, our horse is currently in training to become our Voltige horse. The instructor/owner of the farm is certified with the Voltiging Federation of Ontario and was the previous owner/coach of the River Haven Voltigeurs.
Please contact us if you are interested in joining our Voltige Club.
For more information about Voltige in Ontario, please see the following links: