Vaulting is not a big sport in Nevada, but one Las Vegas teen is making a name for herself in the sport that combines gymnastics and dance on horseback. Lilly Bellinski just started high school, but when she’s not doing homework she is practicing the sport that she loves. The 14-year-old is a member of the Las Vegas-based ACE Equestrian Vaulters and practices with them three times a week. Earlier this year, Lilly competed in her first national level show, placing 11th out of 42 competitors in the bronze division at the American Vaulting Association’s annual competition. We sat down with the teen to find out about her passion for vaulting.
Q: Did you grow up around horses?
A: “For the most part. My sister always did farm camp when she was really little and then I got to go to farm camp with her once and that was when we really got into the horses. And then we started doing 4H. One of our 4H friends had lots of horses and he vaulted and that’s how I got mainly into vaulting and into horses because of them.”
Q: Did you try any other riding disciplines or did you go straight into vaulting?
A: “I went straight into vaulting, but after I started vaulting then my sister got into the other riding disciplines like mainly western, so then I started riding western with my sister. And then my sister started doing
Q: What was it about vaulting, when you first tried it, that you liked?
A: “I kinda love the fear of it. Like the getting up there and kinda being nervous but then getting done with it and being so happy and proud of yourself. I really loved that. It’s very thrilling. You’re up there and you’re in a stand and you’re just performing a freestyle and you have the music you picked and the moves you picked. It’s just so much fun because you can put so much personality into it. It’s like you work hard to put your own spin on things and be very creative with it. And that’s what I really like about it – the creativity.”
Q: Have you ever gotten hurt?
A: “I’ve for sure fallen. Like anyone in this is going to fall once in a while. I’m very clumsy on the floor but once I get on the horse it’s like I’m in motion with the horse and it just seems easy. I’ve never gotten seriously hurt, but I’ve definitely like sprained an ankle before. You always have bruises from doing stupid stuff or hitting the handle wrong.”
Q: Does riding help you be a better vaulter?
A: “Riding definitely helps with vaulting because you have a lot of seated positions. And riding you always have to keep your core up and centered and your body centered, and you have to do that in vaulting too. So I definitely think riding helps. It helps you get in the motion with the horse. And I definitely practice lots of gymnastics on the floor and lots and lots of stretching.”
Q: When did you join the local club?
A: “I joined them about two years ago. I’ve been vaulting for about five years but I was with another club before, but they were mainly more of like recreational vaulting. And I really wanted to compete vaulting and so that’s when we found ACE and started doing stuff with ACE.”
Q: Are you a competitive person by nature?
A: “Yes! I used to do track in middle school. And 4H is also very competitive. I don’t like just coming and practicing and not showing anyone what I’m doing. In competing you’re showing people and you’re meeting people that love the same thing that you love. It’s very fun.”
Q: How was it competing in your first national show?
A: “It was amazing because usually in the little competitions, especially in the region where we’re at, you don’t get to see lots of teams. And there
they wanted to vault in America. It was very, very fun and cool.”
Q: What is your goal?
A: “My goal for the next for sure year, but maybe two years, is to start competing at Juniors and maybe try going to Junior Worlds because Junior Worlds is 14 to 18, there’s like an age. If you want to go to Worlds you have to be over 18. But, for Junior
Q: And then when you turn 18?
A: “I want to do for sure Worlds. That’s definitely my goal. And I want to take a year in
Q: Would you recommend other people get into vaulting?
A: “It’s not really big at all and I would definitely like to see people get into vaulting. Little kids, big kids – vaulting is definitely not restricted to an age or anything. It’s so cute, we have one little girl in our club and she’s six! And it is so cute to watch her vault. The little drive inside of her to do things better is so awesome.”
Q: What’s the hardest part about vaulting?
A: “I don’t know because
Q: Oh that’s nice! You’re still cheering for other people.
A: “Yeah, it’s very much like everyone is everyone’s friend. Everyone’s rooting for everyone. You get out of the competition arena after doing a freestyle and if you did bad people will come up to you and be like ‘You’ve probably done better before but it was still beautiful and I’m glad you tried.’ It’s very heartwarming.”
Story by Samantha Szesciorka
Photos Courtesy of Nellana Lobdell