More Than Riding: How Circus Lab Helps Vaulter Chelsea Wensley Train

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Chelsea Wensley is a  20 years old Equestrian vaulter. She currently trains under Blake Dahlgren representing Los Angeles Equestrian Vaulting Club in Los Angeles, California. Her goal is to qualify for the World Equestrian Games in Tyron, North Carolina of September 2018.

1. For someone who doesn’t know what vaulting is, can you explain it?

Vaulting is the combination of dance and gymnastics on the back of a moving horse, we have a lunger who controls the horse and keeps them on a nice constant circle. Vaulting is more common in Europe than in North America but it’s growing quickly over here!

2. What level of physical strength do you need to compete in vaulting, let alone on the World Equestrian Games level?

For introductory vaulting, you don’t need a ton of physical strength, but elite level vaulting you need to be fairly strong and know how to manipulate your body well, it also has a lot to do with physics and timing. Training for the World Equestrian Games requires a lot of dedication and lots of cross training so you can train all muscles not just the ones you use to vault.

3. What is your normal workout regimen? Has it changed at all as you prepare for the World Equestrian Games?

To cross train I recently started going to this place called Circus Lab in Langley, BC since I’ve been home from my training in Los Angeles, California. At Circus Lab, I do a lot of tumbling, acrobatic, and hand balancing training. I also ride to help cross train because it’s so fun and it keeps me in great shape! Working out is a great way to help too. Short 10-minute bodyweight home workouts I find really helpful. My normal workout routine when I’m in LA is I vault 5-6 days a week for about 3-4 hours a day. I typically ride 1-2 horses a day, and then I also try to do a home workout as well 2-3 times a week. Since I’ve been home it’s changed a little. I typically vault two days a week, go to Circus Lab 2 days a week, try to ride once a week, and work out at home 2-3 days a week.

4. You’re also a jumper. Is there anything different you do to make sure you’re physically fit for jumping versus vaulting?

I don’t really do anything different for jumping than I do for vaulting, I seem to find that they work really well hand in hand together with balancing each other out. For vaulting, I’ve started going to massage to help me be more flexible and I also have dry needling done in my legs to release the lactic acid build up so my muscles are less tense so it’s harder to pull a muscle.

5. Being a jumper and a vaulter is something you need to be brave to do. Is there anything you do differently to mentally prepare before a show?

Preparing for competition it’s always an adrenaline rush, and I love it tremendously! I do prepare for things differently between the two sports. Jumpers, I go over my course 100 times and my jump off just as many times. I talk to my coach and tell her my plan of action and what inside turns I am planning to make then I go in and do my thing! Vaulting though, the first thing I do is I put my headphones in and pick a playlist to block everyone out, then I run about 1km to warm my body up, then I stretch out. I run through my routine on the barrel without music twice and with music twice; keeping my headphones in, I get up on the horse and run 3 moves I’ve picked as my warm-up moves. After that, I rest against my horse and think about how I’m going to perform each move to the best that I can.

Nicole is a writer for Heels Down Media. If she's not writing or editing, she's either running, doing yoga, or at the barn working on becoming a better, stronger dressage rider.

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