We all know that vaulting is a special form of dance that amplifies the connection between horse and vaulter and it is up to us to make sure that this connection is expressed to the audience. We can all appreciate how tough this is, and to continue to express through the music whilst trying to focus on maintaining strength and harmony is no doubt the most difficult part of vaulting. With the scoring system making the artistic element increasingly important, maintaining expression is paramount along with having a great variety of moves. Here we will show you how the judges score you to help to further understand the artistic scoring system, as well as give you hints and tips on how to improve your artistic score.

A judge begins scoring your artistic score the moment that you touch the horse until the time limit ends. If you are looking at this from an individual’s perspective, this means you have a whole minute to show good Structure and Choreography that will allow you to show expression and ultimately show the harmony that you have with the music and horse. The artistic score is now 25% of your entire score and has many different elements that you must achieve to gain a good score.

As mentioned in the FEI Vaulting Rules “every test receives four scores with equal value according to the special demands of the test”. For the Technical Test, the scored are balanced the same way, the only difference in that the Technique Score in replaced by the Exercices’ scores. The Technical Exercises are the essence of this test: 50 % of the score will evaluate their execution.


The structure is split into two parts, Variety of Exercises and Variety of Positions. There must be an even ratio of static and dynamic exercises and the selection of exercises must be from different structure groups (Sitting, Kneeling, Standing, Bench and Scale, Supported, Hanging, Lying, Flying, Jumping, Swinging, Turns, Cartwheels, Rolls, Handsprings, Somersaults & Shoot-up).

The Variety of the Positions must be in relation to the Horse and the direction of the movement:

  • Forward: the vaulter is facing in same direction as the horse
  • Backward: the vaulter is facing in the opposite direction as the horse
  • Sideways (inside): in the vaulter is facing toward the centre of the circle
  • Sideways (outside): out the vaulter is facing toward the outside of the circle

A balanced use of space is ideal for example to use the Horse’s neck, back and croup as well as the inside and outside of the horse but not forgetting any aerial moves.


Choreography has three parts:

  • Unity of Composition
  • Musical Interpretation
  • Creativity & Originality

Smooth transitions and movements that demonstrate connection and fluidity are a must to pair with the selection of elements and sequences to be in harmony with the horse. You must have the ability to transfer the character of the music by using the power of expression. There are many ways that you and your teammates can practice this: you can do anything from improvised dancing to or changing your freestyle music and improvising on the barrel. Using the character of movements and gestures will help you to achieve this and obviously to be dressed to match the musical interpretation will not only help the score itself but also help you get into the mood of your character. However, a character can be hard to find so you could turn your music on and dance in front of a mirror and experiment with different movements and facial expressions. Finally what will be the difference of being noticable and incredible is the use of unique elements and highlights within your routine that have individuality.

Squads should pay attention to the Variety of Exercises and to the Variety of Position in particular in their Freestyle.

The Variety of Exercises also means here the ratio between single-, double and triple- exercises. The Variety of Position for Squads includes an element: the participation of all vaulters must be equal.

For Individuals 2* and 3*, the priority is given to the Unity of Composition & Complexity:

  • Selection of elements and sequences to be in Harmony with the Horse
  • Smooth transitions and movements demonstrating connection and fluidity
  • High complexity of elements, sequences, transitions, positions and combinations of exercises
  • Capacity to control and link movements and positions in unstable
    equilibrium & freedom of movement

Here, 40 % of the score is about “Selection of Elements/Sequences/Transitions” as we can expect.

What the judges mainly expect here is the Unity of Composition too, just like 2* and 3* levels, but without any required Complexity.

The interaction between movements of the Horse and the perfect Performance of the vaulter with optimal effectiveness is to be scored too, obviously. The judge is going to evaluate the mechanics, the continuity & flow of movements, your scope (elevation, extension, width, amplitude of movements). This also involves making sure your movements are correct and exact in order to obtain security and balance of all elements of exercises. A large part of maintaining performance is also the form and body control with a good posture & stretch of your body as without this there is no way of showing to the judges your pride for this sport and at the end of the day showing off is what vaulters do.

Consideration of the Horse is also extremely important: you can lose all the way up to 10 points for a collapse of an exercise but the major condition of this is that it would “affect the comfort of the horse”. Harmony, a word that is widely used in vaulting as you will know and it is for good reason as it can be found in every single part of the judges guidelines. This is in order to keep the horses well being as the first priority and have vaulters that will look like they are part of the horses movement rather than just using it.

Last but not least, remember to finish your freestyle on time: If dismounts or other exercises are commenced after the bell, you will get a 1-point deduction from the Artistic Score!

We hope that could learn from this and improve your way of looking at your artistic score. Are you interested in more articles like that? Tell us!

Mhairi Hume

Sources: FEI Vaulting Guidelines 2019 / FEI Vaulting Rules / FEI Vaulting Code of Points (2017 update)