Described as gymnastics and dance on horseback, and like these disciplines, it is an art and not a competitive sport. It is open to males and females. It is one of ten competitive equestrian events recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports.
It is believed by some that the origins of vaulting could be traced to the ancient Roman games, where acrobats usually displayed their skills on cantering horses. Others, however, believe that vaulting originated in ancient Crete, where bull-leaping was prevalent. In either case, people have been performing acrobatic and dance-like movements on (or over) the backs of moving horses/animals for more than 2,000 years. Renaissance and Middle Ages history include numerous references to vaulting or similar activities. The present name of the sport/art comes from the French "la voltige," which it acquired during the Renaissance, when it was a form of riding drill and agility exercise for cavalry riders. Modern vaulting developed in post-war Germany as an initiative to introduce children to equestrian sports. In 1983, vaulting became one of the disciplines recognized by the FEI. European championships were first held in Ebreichsdorf, Austria in 1984, and the first FEI World Vaulting Championship was held in Bulle, Switzerland in 1986. Vaulting was included in the World Equestrian Games in Stockholm in 1990 and in all subsequent editions of the games. It was demonstrated as an art during the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games events. It has been included in the Inter-Africa Cup since 2006. The first World Cup Vaulting competition was held in Leipzig on 29–30 April 2011.