In competitive vaulting, vaulters compete as individuals, pairs (or pas-de-deux), and teams. Beginning vaulters compete at the walk or trot while experienced vaulters compete at the canter. The vaulting horse moves in a 15-metre circle and is directed by a lunger (or "longeur") who stands in the center of the circle. In competitive vaulting, the rider will first be judged on a score from 1-10. If two competitors tie, then the horse is judged.
Vaulting competitions consist of compulsory exercises and choreographed freestyle exercises done to music. There are seven compulsory exercises: mount, basic seat, flag, mill, scissors, stand and flank. Each exercise is scored on a scale from 0–10. Horses also receive a score and are judged on the quality of their movement as well as their behaviour.
Vaulters also compete in team and individual freestyles (previously known as a Kur). An individual Kur is a 1 minute freestyle and team is 4 minutes. They are both choreographed to music. The components of a freestyle vaulting routine may include mounts and dismounts, handstands, kneeling and standing and aerial moves such jumps, leaps and tumbling skills. However many of these skills are only seen in the highest levels. A typical routine for a child or beginner teen/adult will more likely contain variations on simple kneels and planks. Teams also carry, lift, or even toss another vaulter in the air. Judging is based on technique, performance, form, difficulty, balance, security, and consideration of the horse; the horse is also scored.
Vaulting horses are not saddled, but wear a surcingle (or a roller) and a thick back pad. The surcingle has special handles which aid the vaulter in performing certain moves as well as leather loops called "cossack stirrups". The horse wears a bridle and side reins. The lunge line is usually attached to the inside bit ring.
Vaulting horses typically move on the left rein (counterclockwise), but in some competitions the horse canters in the other direction. Two-phase classes of competition also work the horse to the right. While many European clubs do not compete to the right, many vaulting clubs work evenly both directions, believing this benefits the horse and the vaulter.
The premier Vaulting competitions are the biannual World and Continental Championships and the World Equestrian Games (WEG) held every four years. In many countries, vaulting associations organize and sponsor national, regional and local events every year. In 2011 there were at least twenty-four countries with such organisations.