Cochrane's Daniel Klotz-Dedora is in the final stages of preparing to compete at the World Cup in equestrian vaulting.

The 16-year-old St. Timothy High School student is one of eight horse vaulters worldwide who has been selected to compete in the senior age group of the Federation Equestre International Vaulting World Cup in Basel, Switzerland from Jan. 11 to 14. He's one of the youngest.

Daniel's family has a deep connection with the horse community and his journey began when his mother Gabriele enrolled him in a beginner equestrian vaulting camp.

"I wanted to learn about balance and everything, like how to fall off a horse properly, if it came down to that. I really enjoyed it, and I've been vaulting for six years since that," he says.

Equestrian vaulting is a sport that combines gymnastics and dance on horseback. It's origin dates back to Roman games, which included acrobatic displays performed on cantering horses, and is considered one of the oldest known forms of equestrian sport.

Competitors are judged on their ability to smoothly execute compulsory movements demonstrating strength, flexibility, and balance during their routines. They are also evaluated on the technical difficulty, artistic expression, and the horse’s quality and consistency of gait are scored.

The development of the skill, discipline, and athleticism required doesn't begin on the horse.

"Before training on the horse, you train on the floor, and learn how to do the skills properly before you advance to doing them on the horse," he explains.

"I really enjoyed the gymnastics part of it, the dance and the artistic expression. Vaulting is also very artistic sport. You pick a song, or a concept, and you dance as well as do gymnastics. So, I really gravitated towards it."

daniel 1Daniel at his first junior world championship in Le Mans, France. (photo supplied)

Daniel has competed regularly in North America and Europe, including the 2021 junior world championships in Le Mans, France and the 2023 championship in Flyinge, Sweden. In Sweden, he competed as both an individual and as part of Canada's first junior equestrian vaulting team.

Daniel and his coach decided he was ready for a new challenge.

daniel 4Daniel with coach Jeanine Van Der Sluijs. (photo/Steven Rice Photography)

"My coach and I wanted to try and compete in the senior age division, so we tried it and I happened to be a qualifier for that and did really well. So that's what resulted in me getting selected for the World Cup."

He's already qualified for the senior world championship in July, also in Switzerland.

Daniel trains extensively with the Meadow Creek Vaulting Club in Olds. When he's not there, he's training at home. He is assisted by coaches in both in Canada and Europe.

"They've both been such a big asset to my training and to my progress."

daniel 3Daniel with his mom Gabriele.

He's also assisted a bit by his mom, who is a professional horse trainer and coach. She says it's been exciting to watch him develop his skills over the years and is proud of how he qualified for the junior world championships at age 14, the first year of eligibility.

Daniel extends thanks to all those who helped him reach this point in his vaulting career.

"I want to thank my team, my mom, my dad, my family, my school system here. I love this school, they're all super supportive. My friends, my family, like I've mentioned family twice, but just stresses how important they are, my coach, my vaulting team, and anyone that's helped me get to where I am.

"And I also want to say that hard work pays off."