Vaulting exhibition held at Blue Star

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In order to become the best, it’s a huge help to learn from the best. All last week, a group of youngsters from around Suffolk learned horseback vaulting from the world’s finest.

Nine-time (no other lady has done it so many times in a row) women’s national champion Kerith Lemon and two-time men’s world champion Matthias Lang visited Blue Star Farm off Whaleyville Boulevard to teach the children the art of gymnastics on horseback.

For the first few days, the kids worked out at the farm’s full-service gym. They learned some dance routines. Then they took their knowledge atop the equines. On Saturday afternoon, the group showed their families and friends what they’d learned.

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&uot;This is a great way for kids to learn together,&uot; Lemon told the audience. &uot;They learn to ride without their hands, which is amazing. The horse is their number one teammate; if it doesn’t do well, it’s absolutely our fault.&uot;

As the routines got going, farm owner Nicole D’Auriol led the horse in a circle as the acrobats showed their stuff, flipping, handstanding and jumping around the large animals.

&uot;I thought it would be fun to have such an event,&uot; said D’Auriol, whose daughter Sarah, a student at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, finished in the top 10 in vaulting in national competition last year and hopes to do so again in August. &uot;It’s not often we can have a world champion and a nine-time champion. Vaulting is not a well-known sport in America, and it’s more popular on the west coast than on the east coast. It’s great to have the children vault before riding, because they can have a better feeling with the horse and be in harmony with the horse.&uot;

A native of Tennessee, Cate Thomas performed one of the most eye-catching tricks of the show; after performing alone on the horse, she and two teammates stepped atop the animals, and Thomas was lifted above the two, as though she were on the top of a cheerleading pyramid.

&uot;It’s like freedom,&uot; Thomas said of being high in the air. &uot;It’s like I’m flying. You have to stay really tight and trust the person who’s holding you. You’ll fall if you don’t pay attention.&uot;

How to fall was the first thing the students learned, Lemon said.

&uot;You go with the momentum and you pull in all your appendages,&uot; said Lemon, who said that vaulting has one of the lowest injury rates in all of horseback riding activities. &uot;We’ve had drills where they jumped off the horse. There’s no pressure to try anything that you’re not 100 percent sure of.&uot;