Welcome to our second annual Rolex Rookies series! We're thrilled to be profiling the new faces on the entry list for Rolex this year, and we couldn't be more excited for these riders taking their first crack at Kentucky. We'll be bringing you exclusive profiles on each Rookie pair, so keep checking back to learn more about the competitors you'll see in Kentucky this year. Go Rolex!
The chance to gallop around the Kentucky Bluegrass at the CCI4* level is a goal that has been a long time coming for Jimmie Schramm. This year, the stars have finally aligned for Jimmie and her 15-year-old Oldenburg/Thoroughbred gelding, Bellamy, and the bubble wrap is in full use as the big event rapidly approaches. Jimmie and “Bells” have been competing at the FEI levels since 2012, but their partnership began long before they reached the international scene.
“(The upper levels) were always the idea in my mind when I got him,” Jimmie said. “When I bought him from Tamie (Smith), she told me then and there that this was going to be a four-star horse. He had all the attributes, but until you really get to the Advanced level and feel them get around and be confident, you just don’t know for sure.”
When Jimmie purchased Bellamy, he’d completed one Preliminary event with Tamie Smith. Jimmie spent the first couple of years getting to know him, hammering out the fundamentals at Preliminary until reaching the CIC* and, eventually, the Intermediate level in 2012. Bellamy has by no means been the easiest horse to ride, but Jimmie points to this as a reason they’ve cultivated such a strong partnership.
“Once upon a time, I couldn’t do a warm-up with him at all,” she recalled. “The first few shows, I would trot or canter as I was going around the (dressage) arena — he just couldn’t handle the warm-up. He’d spin or buck, and I’d be lucky to get five or 10 minutes of work in. My strategy worked alright at Prelim and maybe even Intermediate, but there’s just no way you can do that at the Advanced level. He’s come a very long way in the last few years.”
Their move up to the Advanced and three-star level was not without growing pains, and after the pair’s attempt at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International CCI3* in 2014 went awry, Jimmie set her jaw and began working to correct each and every issue.
“Derek (di Grazia) demands that you ride forward and don’t pick, which is something I’ve had trouble with in the past,” she elaborated. “I’ve actually changed a lot from the fall. Plantation and Fair Hill didn’t go to plan for me, and I knew there had to be a big change if I was going to make this work.”
Jimmie revamped her training as well as her nutrition plan for Bellamy, who in the past had recurring episodes of tying up. “We’ve been jumping more often — nothing difficult or hard, but more often. And every jump school I’ve had has been with Boyd (Martin) in a lesson-type atmosphere.”
“I’ve completely changed his diet,” she continued. “I’ve taken him off every calming supplement he was on. For me, it’s a bit tricky because he’s naturally anxious. I used to try all sorts of things, and I’ve stopped doing that so every test this year has been without any supplements, which is great because it means I’m riding a trained horse and not getting help from anything else.”
Indeed, it seems that Jimmie’s new plan has been working. A look at their recent dressage scores seem right on par — and perhaps even trending better in horse trial divisions — with what they were earning while using calming supplements, which is a testament to the hard work Jimmie has been putting in within the sandbox.
As far as Bellamy’s issues with tying up, Jimmie is pleased to report that he has not done so since she went back to the drawing board. She’s also been able to modify his dressage warm-up to the point where she can actually get in a good warm-up, a huge change from the nervous days of avoiding the warm-up ring at all costs.
Coming into Kentucky, Jimmie and Bellamy have jumped clear at both Red Hills and Carolina International — and made the time at Carolina. They have one blip on their cross country record at The Fork where they got in too deep to a corner early on course. Aside from that, she’s been thrilled with her prep events as she hopes to peak in Kentucky.
“I’m not going to take anything for granted,” she said. “Cross country is not our weakest phase but I definitely have to really be on it. He’s little and catty and does not have a super long stride, and I have to be really accurate as far as distances are concerned.”
“Everything went according to plan at Carolina. That was also a big problem in the fall — I didn’t run many events last year. I can cross country school as much as I want but it’s going out and making those decisions quickly that makes a difference. I’m still taking everything one event at a time, but the vets are on him every two weeks checking his soundness, and he’s been so confident and happy.”
Jimmie is looking forward to seeing her closest friends and family cheer her on in Kentucky. “I have three older sisters, and they don’t get to watch me ride much. I think all of them are going to be there, as well as my parents.”
“They’ve watched me sacrifice so much to get here, and to see it finally all come to a head — it’s a goal I’ve been striving for since I was 5. I think the whole experience will be great; I’m just trying not to have too many expectations or put too much pressure on myself. I just want to go and try my best in every phase and finish the event.”
When asked what she’ll be thinking when she goes down the chute for her first Rolex dressage test, the answer came easy: “The lyrics to “Dressage Skillz,” of course!”
And on a more serious note, she said: “You want people to remember who you are, and I want them to remember my test. That’s what I’ll be thinking going down centerline.“
To learn more about Jimmie and Bellamy’s journey to Rolex, check out their website here.