International eventing duo Dom and Jimmie Schramm are committed to education for themselves, their students, and their horses.
When Event Clinics caught up with Schramm Equestrian, Dom and Jimmie were coming off a weekend of successful competition at Ocala Winter I Horse Trials with a string of horses. The duo were en route to the airport where Dom would catch a redeye to Denver to teach a clinic.
“I find teaching clinics really rewarding. As somebody who has had to grow up riding not the easiest horses, I’ve spent a lot of time going through the process of figuring things out on tricky ones. I enjoy the variety of helping people with different problems, and I find it really rewarding if I am able to give something that I have learned along the way to get through a problem to a specific horse and rider combination." Teaching clinics “is a good refresher for my riding too, especially when I’m reminding people of the basics and making sure there are no holes in the training."
On his teaching style, Dom said, “I encourage interaction. I like answering questions, and in a clinic it’s always good to have groups with variety. It’s good for riders to interact, I think that leads to a better experience for everybody. I’m fairly laid-back, I think people learn better when they’re not tense and frightened. The horses always have to come first - that’s important."
He admits though, “If I had a pet peeve, it would be if someone is third to go around a course I’ve set, and they’ve watched two riders do the course but stop and say ‘Where do I go?’ before getting started."
“Dom and I share a lot of the same mindset for teaching," Jimmie said. "In the beginning we both talk to the group about what the goal is for whatever we are trying to achieve that day. As a clinician, you’re always in a different venue, so you have to change up exercises to suit the size of the arena, etc.”
Dom added, “People are sometimes driven by wanting to post a good Facebook photo from a clinic, going over a huge jump, but I like to focus on making the horses soft and rideable with the rider in control and feeling confident. That’s going to be so much more helpful in the long run."
“We try to do set something simple - gymnastics or a few single jumps - in the beginning of a session. Basic exercises to gauge where riders actually are and ease people into the way we want their horses to go. The good thing about a simple exercise in the beginning is you can really develop the exercises to suit the needs of each horse/rider combination,” noted Jimmie.
“We teach the way we’re taught. We don’t expect more from our students than we would expect from ourselves, and we both really make an effort to be as methodical as possible."
Dom and Jimmie are surrounded by a great network of professionals who enhance their training and skills in all three phases.
“We both show jump with Richard Picken.” For Jimmie, “he has completely upped my game in the show jumping. It’s been a huge influence for me and my current competition horse. I ride cross-country with Boyd, he’s a mentor for us both, and has really taken us under his wing since we moved to Pennsylvania eight years ago”.
Dom sites his time as a rider for Chris Burton as a major influence, and noted that, “Phillip [Dutton] is as good as person as you can get to give you a hand, especially cross-country”.
“For the dressage, [Australian Grand Prix Rider] Nicholas Fyffe is very kind and welcoming in Wellington. He teaches us eventers amidst his dressage crowd. I also just started riding with James Burtwell who has been coming back and forth from England.”
And of course, they learn from the experiences of their peers. Jimmie recalled, “I was watching Erik Duvander give a lesson, and he said ‘stop practicing your bad habits.’ This just stuck with me, because it’s great to start thinking about everything you’re doing on your horse as training. Be meticulous about the way you ride and what you’re doing.”
From a robust training and clinic schedule to the success of their EventionTV web series, Dom and Jimmie’s efforts to share their knowledge base and encourage their students while continuing their own development as FEI competitors and instructors is no small feat. “It’s a very hard thing to do. It’s a crazy sport. We spend 90 percent of the time doing things to pay for what we do 10 percent of the time. It’s an expensive game we’re in,” Dom said.
“You have to take the time to train and practice and take lessons,” added Jimmie. “Make sure your clients are on board. It’s all intertwined. If you have a supportive crew and good clients they want you to go for it and do the best you can. Be diligent about taking lessons; you don’t get better riding on your own.”
On balancing competitive ambitions and all that it takes to run a successful business in the horse world, Dom admitted, “We haven’t perfected it. I’m a busy clinician, doing lots of traveling. Last year for example, I had some horses with some down time at the beginning of the year. I took a couple of months to back down my teaching and focus on my competition horses. I got great results, and rode a lot better. But then I got to the end of the fall and realized it was high time to get busy teaching again. It had such a big impact on the bottom line. You’ve really got to plat to your strengths and stay busy. It’s really hard work.”
A major turning point in Dom’s career came from a tidbit he received from fellow Aussie Boyd Martin. “‘Schrammo, at some point you’re going to have to stop stocking the fridge with Natty Light and start with Stella Artois. You might not think you can afford it now, but you’ll find a way to make it work.’”
It seems there’s a direct link between the quality of beer in one’s fridge and horses in one’s barn. Dom said, “Boyd was dead right. I realized I had to find a way to get my leg over more quality young horses. Not that I was riding bad horses at the time, but for the goals I had and what I wanted to achieve I had to get serious about it, and put all my focus into finding the best young horses I could.”
EC asked Dom and Jimmie about some advice they might give to younger versions of themselves. “I’ve been talking about this a lot to my students lately,” said Dom. “Find joy in the process of training the horses. Don’t get too results-driven - it’s a crazy sport. There are so many variables, so many things that can happen. If your satisfaction comes only from how well you do in competition, you’re going to be disappointed.”
“We train everything moment to moment. If you can figure out how to enjoy that process, you do a much better job training horses. Plus, you pay attention and become more effective.”
Jimmie advised, “Never take your foot off the gas. Chase new horses and places to teach. Don’t let relationships with sponsors or clients slip. Sometimes we get too busy and forget to take lessons ourselves, then the results slip. You have to make time to train and practice and take lessons. Be sure to give yourself small breaks along the way, too.”
Schramm Equestrian is based in Ocala, Florida and West Grove, Pennsylvania. You can find opportunities to ride with this inspirational team at www.eventclinics.com or head to www.schrammequestrian.com for more details.
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