Are you looking to be ultra-competitive while out showjumping? Here, Kirstie Leightley (pictured), an international showjumper who is based with top rider Guy Williams in France, shares her top tips on how to be unbeatable in a jump-off…
1. Know your horse — Not all horses are the same, in fact, far from it. When considering your lines and distances in a jump-off you must do so with your horse in mind. Some horses are easy to open up and lengthen on a wider line, whereas others have a shorter stride so can take the tighter lines but may need to add a stride to a distance. If you get the chance, watch competitors before you jump — try watching a horse that rides in a similar way to yours so that you can mirror and perfect their round.
2. Rhythm — Often riders make the mistake of stepping up the pace in the jump-off and then slow down when making tight turns, before pushing on again and so on. This way of riding actually slows you up in the long term. Ring craft is key and something that develops through experience and learning from the masters of our sport. When you watch the fastest riders in the world, they set off at a pace they can maintain; keeping smooth and looking effortless.
3. Know your plan — This is key before you enter the ring. Once you’ve jumped the initial round, you need to study the jump-off plan carefully. Guy always takes me into the ring to go through the plan so that we can look at the lines and see the distances we take. When we do this, we are always bearing in mind whether we’re turning up to a wide oxer that needs room, or to a vertical with a tighter line needed to set up the next fence. Decisions you make about your routes should be determined from how your initial round rode.
4. Control — Jump-offs are designed to test this — roll backs and options to take strides out mean you need to be in control and in harmony with your horse. Although you will be riding at an increased pace, you need to be able to adjust this dependent on the type of fence. In the ring you wouldn’t want to ride to a plank the same as you ride an oxer. While keeping it smooth you must respect each fence and adjust to them all, keeping in perfect balance to give your horse the best chance of jumping it. Training at home is essential, using the same aids you want to use in the ring.
5. Build for the future — Often as a young rider you can get carried away with always wanting to win. While winning is the ultimate goal, sometimes you have to consider which classes will suit your horse and whether the horse is going in the ring to build experience for the future. Top riders will plan their year and competitions to suit the horse. Many will take the first day as training to increase their chances of performing at their best for the class their horse is aimed at. Sometimes the right decision can be not to compete in a jump-off — if it doesn’t benefit the horse’s jumping then it can be wise to save them for another day.
Now you’ve got that advice in mind, take a look at these showjumping competitions available to enter where you can show off what you’ve learnt…
Date: 22 December
Venue: Keysoe, Bedfordshire
Details: “This affiliated competition features classes from clear round and British Novice up to 1.30m.”
Saturday afternoon unaffiliated Showjumping
Date: 22 December
Venue: Beaver Hall, Leek
Details: “This unaffiliated competition is open to everyone with a dress code of smart casual. It will not start before 12.45pm and if you enter two classes, you get two more entries free.”
Christmas unaffiliated showjumping
Date: 23 December
Venue: Oaklands College, St Albans
Details: “This unaffiliated competition features classes ranging between 60cm and 80cm. All classes are qualifiers for GB Rider Championships and class one will start at 1.30pm prompt”
Date: 27 December
Venue: Leamside Equestrian, Houghton Le Spring
Details: “This is Leamside’s annual showjumping series with super prizes for leading junior and senior riders plus awards for the riders jumping the most double clears. We also have a super-special Christmas offer — jump three classes for £30 at any unaffiliated event (same day and pony/horse/rider combination). There are separate prizes for both junior and senior riders plus second and third places in leagues. We have the highest prize money in the area for unaffiliated jumping. The cafe will be open as usual and don’t forget you can trade your rosette in for a hot drink. Classes range from clear round and 50cm up to 1m.”
Date: 29 December
Venue: Dorset Showground, Gillingham
Details: “This affiliated competition includes classes from clear round and British Novice up to 1.30m.”
Jump and go
Date: 29 December
Venue: High Plains Equestrian Centre, Riding Mill
Details: “This very popular fun event is a great way to experience showjumping, without having to wait around hours for different classes. It is a cross between a lesson and a competition as help and guidance is given by BHS accredited professional coach Julie Howard. Each session lasts approximately 1.5hours. Competitors warm up in groups of between four and six riders, then jump the first course and jump-off if clear, then the course is raised and the same thing happens at the next height. The results are calculated at the end of the day when all groups have finished and rosettes are posted out. These rounds also act as qualifiers for the 2019 UK Riders series. Heights range from 55-65cm up to 85-95cm.”
Visit equo.co.uk for full competition and training listings