This week's Practical Horseman Podcast features the dynamic husband-and-wife duo of Dominic (who typically goes by Dom) and Jimmie Schramm, who are quickly becoming some of the top rising stars in the sport of eventing.
Dom and Jimmie are favorites of many eventing enthusiasts—and for good reason. They are passionate about the sport and their horses and their tenacious, hardworking mindsets are inspirational. Both are well-known for their positive teaching styles, and Dom is a popular clinician, traveling all around the country sharing his knowledge with fellow eventers. They've developed a bit of a fan club over the past few years, beginning perhaps with their popular Youtube channel Evention, which covers an array of horsemanship topics, among other things—I definitely recommend checking it out because it’s informative… and hilarious.
As you’ll be able to tell from his accent, Dom grew up in a small outback town in Australia—half a world away from Jimmie who began eventing in Texas. Dom was lucky to train with top international riders and his passion for eventing took him all over Australia, England, Germany and ultimately to the United States, where he made his home in 2010. Jimmie also worked with some of the most respected trainers in the U.S., helping her gain the experience needed for her debut at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event a few years ago.
I’d wanted to chat with this pair for awhile and I finally got the chance to pin them down at the Aiken Eventing Showcase earlier this spring. At the time, Dom was gearing up for his first trip to a five-star event with his top horse Bolytair B as well as juggling a busy teaching schedule. Dom and Jimmie are truly a team—it was a stressful, whirlwind weekend for them, with Dom being focused on his competition and Jimmie driving hours through the night to pick up one of their star young horses (Quadrocana) who was recovering from a colic scare at a vet clinic (fortunately, the horse turned out to be completely fine). With everything going on, I was so appreciative that they took the time out of their hectic day for this interview… but that’s just the type of people that they are.
During our interview, Dom mentions that he was looking forward to Kentucky… spoiler alert! A few weeks ago, he and Bolytair B successfully completed their first CCI5* event. And here’s a fun little tidbit… this year marked the first year that the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event was now deemed a CCI5* and since Dom and Boly were the first pair to complete the show jumping phase on Sunday afternoon (with an incredible double-clear round, no less), they were technically the first CCI5* riders in the world.
After the event was over, Dom said, “Boly felt amazing and it was so cool to finish off the weekend on such a high note! I was glad that everyone got to see how much class he has. I got a monkey of my back too and achieved a goal that I have been after every day since I was a kid! It took a hell of a lot longer than I would have liked, but we got there in the end! I still feel a bit like this nobody from Queensland and it’s kind of crazy how many people knew Boly or told me they came to see us go. It was so inspiring and motivating for me.”
Here a just a few of the excerpts from our conversation which you can listen to in full on Apple podcasts, Stitcher and Soundcloud:
Dom, what are some of your strengths as a rider? And what are some of your weaknesses?
Dom: That's a great question. I think my background and how I got into this sport lends itself to having more of a strength on cross country. I think a lot of us young Aussie boys got into the sport purely as thrill-seekers and then we built our riding around that and then tried to slowly get better at the other stuff. So, I feel confident with the way that I train [horses] on cross country. I have had a lot of experience with tricky and young horses. It helped me understand how young horses learn about, say, ditches for the first time and stuff like that. Having to deal with ones that have had issues has helped me be more efficient now with the young ones.
I think my weaknesses stem from the finer points. For instance, like today in the dressage test. The position and the stuff that will take you from being amongst it to being super competitive. I think that's still something I'm just trying to learn. Getting to the top level, there are so many details that can make a difference.
I feel like I've had a lot of horses where I've been going on the way and something or another has happened and I haven't quite gotten to that last step, to the really big leagues. I feel like I'm very close to that now. It's definitely a challenge--you have to take lots of lessons. I'm thankful I have lots of really good influences in [show jumping trainer] Richard Picken, [dressage trainer] James Burtwell, Boyd [Martin] and Phillip [Dutton]. But it's always a work in progress. At the end of the day, you have to have a student's mindset because you're always open to getting better. The riders that I respect and look up to, all have that quality, so I try to maintain that for myself.
Jimmie, in a recent interview you mentioned that you heard U.S. team coach Erik Duvander say, "Stop practicing your bad habits." How does that resonate with you in your own training philosophies?
Jimmie: Basically, I've become a bit more meticulous about every step that I take when I'm riding. When I teach a lot of students I do this same thing and it's something that I harp on. Let's say you're doing a jumping lesson and you do a transition, even as simple as from walk to trot or trot to canter, and it's not as acceptable as what you'd want in the dressage. If you wouldn't accept it in the dressage, you shouldn't accept it when you're jumping. So, go back and repeat. There's a lot of repeating going on as you try and make your horse understand that you're not trying to be mean or unfair but there is a standard that needs to be upheld and you have to be disciplined. I think that's the only fair way to do it to the horse.
Dom, you do quite a bit of teaching at clinics all around the country. What are some of the key issues you see riders struggling with?
Dom: Absolutely. I see a lot of similar things. It doesn't matter if you're in Seattle or Alabama, I think there are some similar themes. The most common ones I see are when someone has a horse that's a little more forward-thinking and a little more eager--although I say to them, sometimes that horse just has too much of a good thing. The fact that the horse wants to go forward and wants to go to the jump, that's actually a positive. But sometimes what ends up happening is an effort to have control, the riders will go too far the other way--whether it's going up in bits or whether it's losing the idea of riding the horse forward to the bit. It's so easy to just pull and take your leg away on a horse that wants to go forward because that's the obvious thing. But at the end of the day to have a horse that's going to accept your aids, you have to train it whether it's hot or not.
So, in that instance, a lot of the work is not so much jump-related (if it's coming out in the jumping, that's just a symptom)... it's about going back to the flatwork and finding ways to put your leg on the horse. There's a great saying: "Lazy horses need to learn to go from less leg, and hot horses need to learn to go with more leg." It's true--they need to be able to accept it and not over-react.
Another one from a riding standpoint is that a lot of riders struggle with something that is fear-based. They may not think of it that way, they may not think to themselves that they're afraid of getting hurt. But if you really break it down some of the habits stem from a bad fall they may have had or the fear of failing in the arena or something like that. So, if I see something like that happening, I try to explain. Because I think if you have a better understanding of where it's coming from, you have a better chance of working through it day in and day out at home to address it and hopefully improve it.
Don't miss the rest of the interview on the podcast!
ABOUT THE PRACTICAL HORSEMAN PODCAST
The Practical Horseman podcast will run every other Friday, features conversations with respected riders, industry leaders and horse-care experts to inform and inspire listeners. It will be co-hosted by myself and Practical Horseman editors Sandra Oliynyk and Emily Daily. Upcoming conversations are with eventers Allison Springer, Selena O'Hanlon and Matt Brown, as well as hunter riders Liza Boyd and Shelley Campf. You can subscribe and listen to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher and while you’re there please rate and review the show.