Local vaulters, gymnasts who perform their moves on the back of a cantering horse, will soon be in Normandy, France, representing the United States in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games after winning national titles at a recent competition.
The Woodside Vaulters team will compete at the world games. Its members are Tessa Divita, 16, and Rachel Polati, 17, of Emerald Hills; Siddartha Kreaden, 16, of Sunnyvale; Audrey Kiernan, 11, and Kristen Kuhn, 12, of San Mateo; and Miki Yang, 10, of Los Altos Hills.
Patrick Stevens of Martinez will compete in the individual men's competition.
The Woodside Vaulters team placed first in the nation in its division at the national championships in Eugene, Oregon, which ran July 31 to Aug. 3. The team has a routine in which members dress as characters from the "Wizard of Oz" and perform to music from the movie.
Three vaulters from Pacific Coast Vaulting, also based in Woodside, will also be vaulting in France. They are Mary McCormick of Woodside, Kristian Roberts of Moss Beach, and Mary Garrett of Mountain View.
In Oregon, members of the two Woodside teams swept the three of the first four places in the nation in the individual women's division: McCormick was first; Garrett was second; Elizabeth Ioannou, of the Mt. Eden Vaulters and from Satatoga, was third; and Alicen Divita, of the Woodside Vaulters and from Redwood City, was fourth.
Roberts and Garrett were first in the open Pas de Deux (pairs) division. Roberts also won first in the individual men's division, while Stevens was second.
The trip to Europe will be the second within weeks for the local vaulters. In July they competed in a prestigious international equestrian event in Aachen, Germany, where the Woodside Vaulters team placed fourth overall. In Germany McCormick came in seventh overall in the individual female division, Ioannou was eighth and Garrett was 19th. Roberts and Garrett came in fourth overall in the Pas de Deux division and Roberts was 17th in the individual male division.
Susie Bors of Woodside, a member of the board of directors of the Woodside Vaulters, says that while vaulting may not be a well-known sport in the U.S., it is much more common in Europe. "I am very proud of our team for doing as well as it does internationally," she said. "Vaulting is pretty huge in Europe with almost every riding club -- and there are lots -- having a team."
The vaulters' horses are part of their team, and usually travel with them. The Woodside Vaulters will take a horse named Stanford, a 17-hand (or 5-feet 6-inches tall at the shoulder), 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding, owned by the team. Stanford flew to Germany on a KLM flight with his handler, Julie Divita.
Julie Divita, who is from Emerald Hills, is also a big part of the vaulting team. In competitions, she guides Stanford as he canters around the ring on a long lunge line while the vaulters perform on his back.
For his trip to Germany, Stanford was first taken by trailer to Los Angeles, to a facility called Jet Pet, where he spent the night. He was then loaded into a container and shipped on an afternoon KLM flight to Amsterdam from the Los Angeles International Airport. Julie Divita was allowed to travel on the plane with Stanford.
The Pacific Coast Vaulting Club's horse, Palatine, a 16-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Sydney Frankel of Woodside, traveled along with Stanford, but he remained in Europe for the upcoming competition.
Stanford and the Woodside Vaulters team will leave in about two weeks for France, where they will practice in Le Mans until the time of the competition, Bors said.
The vaulting competition at the World Equestrian Games will feature competitors from 74 national federations and as many as 223 nominated athletes (16 pas-de-deux of 2 vaulters; 20 squads of 6 vaulters; 46 individual females and 25 individual males) and 165 horses.
The World Equestrian games also features jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, reining and para-dressage in addition to vaulting, along with polo and horse ball exhibitions. A total of 74 nations and more than 2,000 horses were nominated to compete.