It can often mean make or break in a showjumping class, but the question is: how do you win one?
Here we break it down for you, and fingers crossed, you will be heading the final line-up at your next competition.
A course map including the jump-off course is nearly always available before the class begins. If you are confident that you will reach the jump-off, it can pay dividends to walk your jump-off lines while walking your first-round course.
Pace vs. route
Jump-offs don’t = fast. While whizzing around at the lower levels might work, if you are galloping flat out to a sizeable fence, it probably won’t result in a clear round as your horse won’t have his hocks underneath him to push up off the floor with sufficient power and balance.
Look for fences that you can cut inside in the jump-off that you would ordinarily go around. Riding tight lines as opposed to riding fast, wide, sweeping turns is far more likely to see you clinch a quicker time.
Use your weight
A rider’s reactions need to be razor sharp while riding, but even more so in a jump-off. Try to avoid collapsing in your body when you land after a fence. Instead, be strong through your core and looking to your next fence while mid-air. This will help you to ride fast lines, in good balance.
Ultimately your horse should be tuned into your weight shifts. By this, we mean changing the position of your weight over a fence so that your horse knows where you are heading next, to make an efficient turn.
When to take risks
Try to save risk taking until later in the jump-off. If you start taking strides out, riding acute angles or riding too fast too early, you may unsettle your horse and find yourself in a worse situation than if you were to ride for a safe clear.
It is recommended that you aim to have three straight strides prior to each fence while in a jump-off. This will give both you and your horse the best chance to see the fence and jump it well. You can reduce this number of strides if you know that your horse is capable of coping with it, but remember, it is better to have the three straight strides previous to the fence so that you can land in balance and make quicker turns after it, saving valuable seconds.
If there is a related distance with six or more strides, you may be able to take one stride out with your horse, but only if you feel confident in both of your capabilities. If there are fewer than six strides, taking one out can be very risky due to there being less room for adjustment.
Why not work on your jump-off technique this month at some upcoming showjumping events?