Dom Schramm hails from the small outback town of Charleville, Australia where he developed an affinity with horses from an early age. This ‘country’ influence is evident in his training approach and horsemanship today.
“Historically, Australia and New Zealand have produced more Olympic and World Champions in eventing than any other countries,” Don says, “with most riders getting their start at local pony club or at small starter events.”
Building on his country background, Dom first achieved international recognition as a member of the 2006 Australian Young Rider Eventing Squad, also developing as a rider under the guidance of Christopher Burton, for whom he worked as a working student for two years. A brave and hungry competitor, Schramm gradually gained the patience, experience and knowledge to start horses from the ground up, while his passion for eventing took him all over Australia, England, Germany and ultimately to the United States.
In late 2010 seeking a more internationally competitive atmosphere, Dom made the decision to relocate to the U.S. Since then, he’s built a reputation in American eventing circles for his riding ability, as well as his enthusiastic and fresh teaching style – he’s also piloted both Cold Harbor and Bolytair B to 3* level, and is currently producing a string of exciting young horses with an aim to represent Australia on the international stage.
Dom’s introduction to eventing: Says Dom, inevitably known in Australia as ‘Schrammo’: “Eventing can be held across one to three days and has three phases; dressage, cross country and show jumping. It’s basically a horse triathlon requiring guts, discipline, accuracy and a touch of craziness!”
He also points out that eventing is also a sport with a fantastic, friendly and supportive community. “If you enjoy the camaraderie and fun of catching up with your friends as you travel around to different shows, eventing definitely offers that,” he says. “Mind you, there’s no doubt that cross country – which is what is unique to eventing – is the exhilarating part that will satisfy the thrill seeker in you and basically you either love it or you don’t. In my experience, if you don’t come back from a cross country course with a smile on your face, then eventing is not for you.”
Getting started: Eventing, with its three different phases, is a very demanding sport. “You need to make sure that you and your horse are up to the job,” he says. “To start off, why not participate in the local chicken run to see if it’s for you. Chicken runs give a taste of what eventing is about without ‘ruffling feathers’ – so no high fences to begin.” (You can check out your local riding clubs or pony clubs to see if they have any chicken runs planned.)
What sort of horse do you need?: In Australia, Eventing continues to be a sport mainly for Thoroughbreds as we have a huge racing industry and that’s where the vast majority of retired racehorses go. That said, we are also changing towards using purpose bred sport horses (Thoroughbred x Warmbloods or Irish Sport Horses).
Dom is quick to suggest that breed is not as important as the horse’s desire to compete. “People like Warmbloods because they give a bit of sparkle to the dressage element, but the beauty of eventing is that there is no specific ‘type’ you should have. Australian Stock horses, Draft crosses, Standardbreds, Arabian crosses, and even ponies have been successful at the highest levels. Basically you need a horse that can gallop, jump and take you safely through each eventing phase – although of course it’s a matter of training and the relationship you have with your equine partner that will make you successful.”
What equipment does eventing require?: Dom is a believer in keeping it simple at the beginning. “A good all-purpose saddle can be used for the three phases and it doesn’t have to cost the earth,” he says. “You will also need a good set of horse protection boots for the horse for cross country which can also be used in jumping too. For the rider, invest in a decent helmet and back protector and make sure they are up to current standard. Starting out, you don’t need the fancy gear – you can purchase better equipment as you go.”
Top tips and tricks to get started: The name of the game is fun! If you are young and looking to dip your toe in the water, Pony Club would be one of the best ways to get started in eventing, but as Dom explains, it’s important to understand that cross country is not the same as showjumping at speed over solid jumps!
“My advice is to make sure you get some lessons with an instructor who has some experience with eventing to help you learn cross country basics to keep you and your mount safe,” he says. “Most riders (and horses) find they have a ‘knack’ for one or two phases and have to work at one of the others. Make sure you have a riding routine that gives you time to improve and hone your skills across all three phases.”
And like every other trainer, in every other discipline always says, Dom insists: “Don’t skip the flat work as this will give you the foundation for jumping! I like to be training at least one full level higher than I compete at, so as to ensure that my horse has a confident time at the show. If that’s not quite the case yet for your horse, be patient and get more experience so that you set yourself up for success in competition.”
A sign that you’ve worked hard? “Wet saddle-cloths make good horses,” Dom laughs. “There’s just no substitute for hard work in both riding and in life. I think it’s easy to get focused on the struggles and comparing yourself to other people who have new trucks and expensive horses and nice shoes, but in the end if you can keep finishing on that dressage score and treat your horses and the people around you with respect, then I believe you can get to where you want to go.”
Dom and partner Jimmie teach lessons and clinics all over the country. Their competitive rates and friendly personalities make them a great asset in any farm’s regular clinic schedule. Visit Schramm Equestrian to find out more.