You’ve jumped that all-important clear round so now it’s time to go into the jump-off and complete the course in the fastest time – all in the pursuit of that red rosette. While speed is a key consideration, really it’s an intricate balancing act between pace and rhythm. After all, you need to leave the jumps standing, and riding at a rate of knots puts you at risk of over-shooting turns or knocking poles. By keeping everything simple, you really can improve your odds of getting that coveted clear.
The need for speed
One of the most obvious ways to avoid clocking up time penalties in a jump-off is to go fast. However, there are good and bad ways to do this. For example, I don’t agree with riders who gallop, then pull up in front of the fence – this disjointed nature of pushing on and bringing back can fry your horse’s brain and he won’t fully understand what you’re asking him to do. Plus, a poor experience in the jump-off may lead to a really unsettled performance the next time you’re in the ring.
Of course speed is important, but it isn’t everything. Rhythm is paramount, so aim to go through the start gates a few gears faster than during your first round, and maintain that.
Fast not furious
For a horse to be quick in the jump-off, he doesn’t necessarily need to be galloping flat out, but he does need to be quick-thinking, fast to turn and very focused. Remember, the best riders don’t necessarily look like they’re going the fastest, but they’re tactical with their lines and where they place their horse.
Make every second count
The basic theory behind a good jump-off round is the fewer strides you take between fences, the better your time. On average, each stride your horse makes takes about half a second, which means that, wherever possible, it’s best to devise your jump-off plan around the shortest route. While this may sound like obvious advice, if you’re deciding between a line that looks faster but covers a longer distance and places you wider on the next line, you’ll be adding at least a few unnecessary seconds onto your time.
For more of Trevor Breen’s top advice on training for jump-offs, pick up a copy of November Horse&Rider, on sale 19 September.