Kāpiti horse vaulters ready to take on the world

If you've ever been a fan of horse riding and gymnastics but never thought you could combine your two passions, you're in luck.

Horse vaulting is a team sport where participants execute routines on the back of a horse - and a small club in Kāpiti is getting ready to take on the world.

Horse vaulting is essentially acrobatics on the back of a horse a moving horse. Kāpiti Equestrian Centre team member Miriam Bright says there's a simple trick to stay on the horse: "If you look down, you fall off."

Simple enough, but it also requires fitness, agility, and perseverance - things the team in Waikanae is using to take on the world.

"You need quite a lot of strength to be a lifter, and then lots of tension to be a flyer, and flexibility," says Bright.

Participants come into it from both equestrian and gymnastics backgrounds, each bringing their own skills - but it's the team aspect that appeals most.

"Horse riding and gymnastics are lot more independent than vaulting is," says Ms Bright.

"Vaulting, you need to work as a team - it's vital for success," adds her team-mate Danielle Schwabe.

There's no heavy landings, and at the end of every routine the whole team play and bond with the horse - all done with the horse's welfare in mind.

"They have to be really calm and have a really good nature, because they can't buckle, can't be spooky when something's happening around them, so they have to be really safe," says coach Verena Fiess.

The girls, all aged between 11 and 17, train five times a week as they gear up to represent New Zealand at the World Championships in the Netherlands next July.

"You practice a lot, and you eventually get used to it, and then you move up, and practice something different, and you get better and better as you go," Ms Schwabe says.

And even though school exams are also coming up, they say the training actually boosts their concentration and focus.

"I think vaulting does give you a certain level of organisation that helps with everything else," says Ms Bright.

They'll be hoping to show the world how hard work beats big budgets; Germany has over 600 vaulting clubs, while New Zealand has just three.

"It's not very popular under the equestrian sports. We're literally like the underdogs," says Ms Fiess.

And because of that underdog status, funds are tight - so the team's set up a Givealittle page to help them get there.