Top Tips for Jump Off Success
You can have the most careful horse in the world, but if you’re going to get placed and be in the money consistently when out showjumping, you’re going to have to take a few risks.
But riding a successful jump off requires a lot more than just going flat out, and when even half a second can have a huge difference, it’s worth preparing yourself properly. Check out our top tips for jump off success.
Make a Plan
Before you enter the ring, you should know how you are planning on riding the course. Of course, if you have a pole early you might want to steady up to ensure you jump the rest clear, but having a plan will allow you to always be thinking ahead while you are riding – essential when the fences are coming up fast!
If you have a chance to watch others, see how the course rides but try not to make any drastic changes to your own plan based on what they do – just because they take a stride out doesn’t mean you have to! You have different horses and you may be able to shave off seconds elsewhere.
Practise Tight Turns and Angles at Home
If you’re planning on being competitive in jump offs, it’s important you practise at home. This will help you get to know your horse better and understand how he responds to certain questions. Jumping on an angle can shave a few seconds off your jump off time, and can set you up for a better turn to the next fence. Set up a fence at home and practise jumping it on an angle, increasing the degree as your horse begins to understand what you are asking. Keep the same rhythm and make sure you practise off both reins.
You can also practise much tighter turns at home, starting with smaller jumps and building up. There will almost always be at least one opportunity to turn inside a fence during a jump off, and this can be easily practised. Practise making quick turns both before and after a fence, keeping your horse balanced, back on his hocks and in a good rhythm. You might find it easier to set cones or jump wings out to practise turning inside.
Know your Horse
Knowing your horse’s strengths is essential when it comes to tackling jump offs, and with enough practise you’ll know where you can take risks and where in the course you need to be more careful.
If your horse tends to get on the forehand and flat, you’ll want to take tighter turns and inside lines. These will keep him up and together, helping him to ping over the jumps where too long a run up might make him go flat and have a pole.
On the other hand, if your horse is big, with a long stride and struggles doing tighter turns, your best option might be to take a stride out down a related distance, as turning too tight might cause him to struggle and knock a fence.
Knowing your competition is important, and remember to look at the bigger picture. Racing your horse around every jump off faster than you are both comfortable with may lead to a stop or a loss of confidence, and sometimes going slower but clear is the best tactic.
If you are in a jump off with a large number of competitors, you will have to commit to a fast jump off to win. If your horse is younger or less confident, or perhaps it’s your first time competing at this height, a steady clear round might be a better option. You’ll be unlikely to be in the money but you won’t knock your horse’s confidence, meaning the next time you go out you can be more competitive.
On the other hand, if you’re in a jump off with just a few competitors, you can get away with going a little steadier. If you’re drawn last to go, find out how many clears there have been so you can decide whether to play it a little safer.
Keep a Rhythm
Finally, it’s essential that you keep a good rhythm for the entire round. You can even shave off time as you go through the timers at both the start and the end of the course, so make sure you start with a positive and powerful canter. Keep your rhythm around turns and try not to make any huge adjustments to your horse’s stride.