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: 12 May
Venue: Fenland Equestrian Centre, Wisbech
Details: “This unaffiliated competition features classes from clear round and 40cm up to 1.10m.”
Nervous and novice showjumping
Date: 12 May
Venue: True Fate Equestrian Centre, Doncaster
Details: “This unaffiliated competition has classes ranging between a clear round 35cm and 75cm.”
Date: 14 May
Venue: Beaver Hall, Leek
Details: “This unaffiliated competition features classes ranging between cross poles up to 85cm, starting at 6.30pm. Plus, enter two classes and get two more entries free.”
Date: 15 May
Venue: Keysoe, Bedford
Details: “This affiliated competition has classes from British Novice up to 1.40m.”
Date: 19 May
Venue: Kingston Maurward College, Dorchester
Details: “This unaffiliated competition includes classes from 55cm up to 1.05m with some second round Trailblazer qualifiers.”
Date: 19 May
Venue: Lime Kiln Farm Equestrian Centre, Fakenham
Details: “This unaffiliated competition has classes from clear round and 65cm up to 1.05m with first round Trailblazers qualifiers.”
Visit equo.co.uk for full competition and training listings