By Jessica Schley

Contributing Writer

Vaulting is one of the longest-standing equestrian sports in the Santa Ynez and Lompoc valleys, begun by Jeannie Beattie in the Lompoc Valley in 1976.

However, very few people know that the Lompoc Vaulting team of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s won multiple regional and national titles and even traveled to Europe to compete.

Melissa Salas hugs the team’s beloved vaulting horse, Bella, at a recent competition.

In vaulting, young gymnasts leap onto a horse that is cantering around in a circle and perform balancing acts, often as a team of up to six, in costumes, to music.

Peggy Van Hook, the club director for the past 10-plus years, has shepherded the group through many regional and national competitions and individual medals as well. Her daughter Linda, now a young adult and club instructor, grew up vaulting, and competed many times at the vaulting nationals. She now holds her American Vaulting Association silver medal and has hopes to earn her gold in the next few years.

The club moved in November to Rancho San Antonio in Buellton, owned and run by Bobbi McGee, and since then the club has seen lots of fresh interest. Its affordable lesson plan is a big attractor, as is the relative affordability of the sport compared to other equestrian disciplines.

The new location, behind the trailer lot off Highway 101 north of Buellton, features plenty of parking and a huge arena, which allows the club to host competitions and clinics.

When the club hosted its first competition at the new location on May 27, five teams came from Poway, Diamond Bar, Norco and Orange County. Some 22 vaulters competed at various levels as individuals and as teams.

Beattie handed out ribbons at the event and was honored for her role as the club’s founder.

“We are going to hold a one-day clinic in August, right before school starts up again, for anyone interested in trying out the sport. We like to do that each summer to help promote the club and encourage new members to sign up,” Van Hook said. “It’s such a great sport because it teaches horsemanship, sportsmanship and teamwork all in one.”

With a new name, Barefoot Vaulters, the club sent a team to regionals in Huntington Beach in July. They also planned to attend the national vaulting competition Aug. 2-5 in Gilroy.

The American Vaulting Association is celebrating its 50th anniversary year, and the local club is one of its oldest chapters. For more information, email