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Top 10 Finish: Averill Saunders breaks
Canadian horse vaulting record at world championship

By Brittany Willsie
Staff Reporter

Averill Saunders recently broke a Canadian record for horse vaulting, placing in the top 10 at the FEI Vaulting World Championships for juniors in Le Mans, France, from July 28 to Aug. 1. 

The 17-year-old lives in the James River community, in between Caroline and Sundre, and is a Grade 12 student at Caroline School. 

This was Saunders’ second time competing at the world championships. During her first appearance in 2019, she finished in the top 20, placing higher than any other Canadian in the individual female division. 

In 2021, Saunders finished ninth overall, breaking her previous record. 

“Placing ninth was a huge deal for not only myself, but Canada in general,” she said.

 Vaulting in Canada is quite small and we often struggle at world championships to even make it into the top half of a class in a competition. It’s always been a huge goal of lots of Canadians to be able to make it to the second round and it’s just never quite happened before.” 

Saunders said she came close to making the second round in 2019, as the top 15 get to continue on. Since then, she has progressed a lot. “I did get really close in 2019. I had a few slip ups that cost me, but this year I had matured a lot. I was a lot more mentally prepared for it and was able to prevent those mistakes from happening again.” 

What is horse vaulting 

“Vaulting is often described as dance and gymnastics on a horse, not to be confused with trick riding,” Saunders explained. 

There are several things that separate vaulting from trick riding. Vaulting is an English-based sport, whereas trick riding is more western. 

Saunders added that in vaulting, horses are trained in high levels of dressage. Skills are also performed while lungeing, so another person to lunge the horse is required. 

Horse vaulting can be done individually, in a pair of two, or in teams of six where up to three people can be on the horse at one time. 

Averill’s horse vaulting journey 

Saunders first started vaulting nine years ago. 

“I got started so that I could have a bit of an escape from the troubles at school and kind of have something that was good for my mental health and was going to create a positive and motivated community for me in my life,” she explained. 

From there, Saunders soon knew that horse vaulting was something she wanted to continue pursuing. 

“I fell in love with it and felt like I was getting quite good, quite fast. I decided that that’s what I wanted to do from then on.” 

Saunders started training with vaulting teams, but became an independent vaulter in the fall of 2019. She owns three vaulting horses, but is only competitively vaulting on her horse Mac. 

Saunders is currently training on Mac for Canadian Nationals at the end of September, which will take place in Chilliwack, B.C. 

Going forward, Saunders hopes to beat her previous Canadian record at the world championships and bring home a medal. 

“I’d really like to win a medal within the next four or five years. That would be a huge feat for Canada as a whole, going from not being able to get anybody into the second round, to winning a medal at a world championship,” she explained. 

She added that there may also be an opportunity to compete at the Olympics if horse vaulting is added. 

“Currently we’re not in the Olympics. We are potentially getting in for the 2024 Olympics, so I would have the opportunity to compete at that one as a senior.”