Bellamy, an Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding of unknown breeding, came to Tamra Smith’s farm in Southern California with his mane half-way down his neck and filled with burrs. Bellamy had been sitting in a field for a little over a year after unseating several riders in a row and Smith, known for being good with tricky horses, agreed to take him on.
Around the same time that Smith put Bellamy on the market, she met Jimmie Schramm, who was in her senior year of college and grooming for Jennie Brannigan at Young Riders at the time. “We hung out through the week and eventually I told her I was looking for my next horse and she had Bellamy,” explained Schramm. “He had done a Beginner Novice, a handful of Trainings, and one Preliminary level event when I bought him. I actually flew out to Colorado to watch Tamie take him to his first Preliminary, then flew back out later and rode him in a clinic with Tamie and that was that.”
Schramm partnered up with Bellamy the summer of his 9-year-old year and quickly discovered his quirky nature. “He was always a tricky horse, very, very horse shy,” Schramm said. “Rightfully so though – when I ended up vetting him they found a decent sized cataract on his left eye. The vet told me it was like having a bug on his windshield, he could probably see a little bit through it and around it, but it should change, so I left it. I am convinced that is why he was such a good jumper. But he was tough to manage in the early days, he would somewhat use the horse shying as a way to then be naughty and spin and bolt, and the spin was really fast.”
After graduating from college that December, Schramm moved out west to work for Smith and get help with Bellamy. “She taught me so much about groundwork and training horses, it was a really cool experience for me and it was invaluable,” Schramm reflected.
Schramm spent nine months working for Smith, during which time she competed Bellamy at the Preliminary level before moving him up to Intermediate at The Event at Rebecca Farm. Unfortunately, Bellamy broke his coffin bone while on cross-country at Rebecca Farm and it would be a year before he was ready to compete again.
During that time, Schramm married her husband Dom and moved to South Carolina. When it was time to put Bellamy back to work, Schramm took the opportunity to “re-break” Bellamy. “He did his bit of time off, came back, and then at that point Dom and I sort of treated him like a 3-year-old and ‘rebroke’ him,” Schramm shared. “Over the years the horse shying stuff got better – I could eventually ride him in a dressage warm-up and the spinning slow went away as our partnership solidified.”
By the spring of 2012, Bellamy and Schramm were back to competing at the Intermediate level, their partnership stronger than ever. That fall they finished 23rd in the CCI2* at Fair Hill International, and in the spring of 2013 they tackled their first Advanced level event.
From there, the sky was the limit. Schramm and Bellamy traveled all over the country, competing at venues including Richland Park, Plantation Field, Jersey Fresh, Fair Hill International, Bromont, and more. “He gave me all the opportunities I could have ever dreamed of,” Schramm said. “He took me all over the North America and I got to compete anywhere and everywhere I had ever wanted to.”
“Kentucky was a magical experience, even with the deluge on cross-country day,” Schramm recalled. “He had a really hard time with right-handed corners, particularly scalloped brush ones – I think because he couldn't see well out of that left eye he couldn't analyze the fence very well. Either way, I got about five jumps from home and fell off and that’s where our upper level career ended, which was somewhat soul destroying.”
Schramm brought Bellamy back into work after Kentucky, completing an Intermediate and an Advanced horse trials, but Bellamy incurred a small suspensory injury that would sideline him for the 2016 season. When he came back to work in 2017, “he just didn't come back quite the same to do the big stuff,” Schramm said.
Jenni Autry, reporting for Eventing Nation at the time, had gotten to know Schramm and Bellamy quite well in the lead-up to their crack at the Kentucky Three-Day Event, and had remained close friends in the years following. “After she got her final qualifying score at Bromont that year, I started the #ibelieveinbells hashtag and was a proud member of the cheering squad when they went to Kentucky in 2015,” Autry recalled. “During their cross-country round, I vividly remember sitting in the media center next to Roger Haller, who always watched the TV monitors and called in comments over the radio. As Jimmie and Bellamy battled through an absolute downpour, Roger radioed in that ‘she was having a great round and should be very pleased with the way she was riding.’”
“Jimmie had always told me that once he officially retired from the upper levels she wanted me to take the ride, but it was something I never thought would actually happen,” Autry continued. “When she did make the unbelievably tough decision to retire him in 2017 when he was 17, it was an incredibly bittersweet feeling. I was simultaneously devastated that Jimmie wasn’t going to get one more shot at Kentucky with Bellamy, but also elated that I was going to get the opportunity to compete such an amazing athlete.”
“It was about that time Jenni and I were trying to figure out what she was going to do because her sweet mare wasn't holding up from an old racing injury and wasn't going to be able to compete,” Schramm added. “It seemed like a no brainer to me to have my best friend create a new partnership with my other best friend. It was a little rocky to start, but they figured it out.”
“I will never forget my first ride on him – I couldn’t ride one side of him,” Autry recollected. “He was sensitive and spooky and had absolutely no patience for bad riding. We wondered if he would be able to dial back his notoriously feisty ‘Hells Bells’ attitude to safely pack me around, but he approached his new job with the same level of seriousness even though the fences were much smaller. If I wasn’t riding up to his standard, he would simply take over until I came to my senses again. He also thought it was hilarious to take off with me – during a dressage lesson, in the middle of combinations while show jumping, out cross-country schooling, during trot sets and hacks. He has an amazing sense of humor that only got sharper with age.”
“I took him Novice at Millbrook for our first event together, and our dressage test was hilariously bad,” Autry said. “He was completely on his toes and delighted to be back at the party. I don’t think we technically halted or walked at all in the test. But for as much as he could be cheeky, he was the kindest, gentlest, sweetest soul who took care of me with such an immense level of care and dedication. He would always get wound up going into the box for cross-country, but he was a perfect gentleman on course. He settled beautifully into the packer lifestyle and thoroughly enjoyed the slower pace of life. I spoiled him rotten – Jimmie called me the “Carrot Lady” – and he was fully convinced he was still the top horse in the barn. He would always paw in the cross ties to ensure we were paying full attention to him.”
“Our hope was that Bellamy would stay sound enough for me to take him to a two-star, but it became clear after we came home from Ocala in 2018 that he was ready to fully retire. After taking Jimmie Advanced for three seasons and packing me around for a year, he owed us absolutely nothing. When I look back on that year of competing him, I am struck by an overwhelming sense of gratitude – to Jimmie for sharing her most precious partner with me, and to Bellamy for giving me the greatest gift of all. The look of pure joy on his face when he galloped cross-country will always stay with me, and I am immensely grateful for everything he taught me.”
“It brought me so much joy to watch Bellamy teach Jenni the ropes and at the same time to watch Jenni have so much fun and be so happy with Bellamy,” Schramm concluded. “He handled the Training level packer job better than I expected and he and Jenni have a really special bond, very different than the one I have with him. I was glad that I could let him ease out of eventing while also helping Jenni. It was a special chapter in all of our lives that we won't forget.”
The USEA Horse Heroes series celebrates equine athletes who have contributed to the sport again and again, competing with multiple riders at the upper levels of the sport. Do you know of a horse hero who deserves recognition? Email your tips to [email protected].
US Equestrian is pleased to announce the dates and location for the 2022 USEF Young Rider Eventing Championship. This championship will take place at the Tryon International Three-Day Event November 10-13 in Mill Spring, N.C.
Sidnee Milner and My Valentine did not become partners out of sheer coincidence. The pony and rider combination that took home the 2021 SmartPak USEA Pony of the Year award were a product of the thoughtfulness and generosity of family friend and trainer Tawn Edwards. Milner was, at the time, a young and inexperienced child rider looking for a partner to teach her the ropes of eventing; My Valentine was a well-seasoned eventing pony who knew the job of advancing young riders well and was looking for her next partner. Over their three-year relationship, the duo have accumulated various ribbons and accolades together with 2021 being the most impressive of their seasons thus far.
Updated January 18, 2022: The 2023 Eventing Calendar webinar, originally scheduled to be held on Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. EST, has been postponed and will be rescheduled with an additional commmunication in the coming weeks.