Late last month, Lucy Deslauriers and Hester doubled down on what’s fast become a hallmark of their style in the ring. After winning the $40,000 CSI3* RBC Open Welcome at the Ottawa International Horse Show in Ontario, the pair tested their mettle in the $100,000 CSI3* Grand Prix on Saturday, July 22, squaring off in a jump-off that also included 10-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar, his son Jonathan Millar, and Lucy’s father, Mario Deslauriers.

A last-minute tip from Mario saw Lucy leaving out a stride in a line they originally walked in eight, and, just like that, Lucy and Hester had yet another gutsy win under their belts in a season that’s already seen its fair share of highlights. In June, the pair were victorious in the ATCO Challenge in their first win in the International Ring at the Spruce Meadows ‘National’ Tournament; earlier this year, they also took home the Saturday night $100,000 Suncast Jumper Classic CSIO4* during Week 8 of the Winter Equestrian Festival.

When it comes to her consistently competitive jump-off performances, Lucy is quick to credit her longtime partnership with Hester, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, and the mutual trust they’ve built over time. We would also point to Lucy’s enviable sangfroid, but much of her composure, she says, comes from having a thoughtful plan in the ring.

Here, Lucy shares five things she always does to craft her strategy and set herself up for success in the second round.

1. Think about smoothness. 

“I think in terms of the fastest jump-offs—whether you’re watching McLain [Ward], Beezie [Madden] or Kent [Farrington]—it always looks effortless. Everything flows from one jump to the next, and they’re concentrating on shaving off seconds in every turn. They leave out strides, but not in a scary way. I think concentrating on smoothness and how you’ll maintain it throughout the round translates very well into having a fast jump-off.”

2. Be precise. 

“If you are going at such a face pace, you don’t really have time to change your mind about distances or debate whether to do a turn here or there. You have to be very precise in everything and go in with a very strong game plan. After that, it’s up to you to execute that plan as closely as you can.”

3. Watch a few when you can. 

“Watching others go before you in the jump-off, if you have that opportunity, is key. Sometimes you might walk a line and think that it rides in a certain way, but in the actual jump-off, it’s a whole new game. So having the chance to see what people have done before you go is really an advantage.”

4. Think outside the box.

“You have to think about how the course is riding and what plan is really going to be fastest in the end. It’s not always about leaving out all the strides, it’s about creating a strategy. For example, maybe by adding an extra stride in one place, so you can take advantage and make a tighter turn in the landing after the jump to end up with a faster time overall.”

5. Be realistic.

“It’s very easy for a competitive person like myself to get very ambitious in the jump-off. But our horses can only go so fast and we can only make them do so much. Having a well thought-out plan is important, but so is having one that’s realistic and takes into account what you and your horse can actually do in order to win the class.”

-Photography and reporting by Tori Repole.