By Ann Bullard

From a virtual unknown to a four-time world champion - in less than four years. For a youth rider, one who didn’t start showing until she was 14, that’s quite a leap. And it’s one Kathryn Ramsbottom, daughter of Bob and Linda Ramsbottom of Norris, Tenn., has made convincingly.

Bob and Linda have been horse people for a long time, initially with quarter horses and paints. Then Bob bought Linda a Tennessee Walking Horse for trail rides.

“We sold every other one and moved into walking horses,” Bob said. “Our next purchase was a little racking horse for Kathryn. We would trail ride in Big South Fork and for miles in the mountains.”

When Kathryn began taking her mare to one night walking and racking horse shows… it soon was evident that she and the show ring were made for one another. Bob and Linda found an East Tennessee trainer who recognized Kathryn’s ability, bought some horses and began to hit the show circuit.

Whether it was Kathryn’s riding ability and/or her parents’ ability to buy her a nice horse that led to the next step, Bob couldn’t say. But when the trainer put her on a padded pony, it set the family on their present path.

“The trainer, being very astute … well, shortly thereafter we bought two padded horses: Extra Ordinary and Beam’s Eclipse,” Bob said.

Kathryn was no overnight sensation; she learned to lose before picking up blues. Before long, both horses were in the winners’ circle and earned other good ribbons in East Tennessee. The August trip to Shelbyville was another story.

“We took three horses and took the gate three times,” Bob recalled. A friend brought him to visit barns where Bob got to see other operations. At Belfast Bob was introduced to Link Webb.

The road to championships

“Link was showing,” Bob said with a smile in his voice. “Jim (Baum) asked him if he knew Bob Ramsbottom. Link said no and walked off. He was busy and didn’t try to woo me. I told myself ‘that’s him [my trainer] right there.’”

Two weeks later, the Ramsbottoms moved the horses to Webb Stables. It was a perfect match; Kathryn gained confidence in herself and her mounts.

“At first, I had no idea what she would become. I had seen her show, but had never met the family. Kathryn isn’t timid; she is one of those –a go getter. She’s just an all-round competitor, who wants to win,” Link said of his champion rider.

September. October. November. Kathryn showed her horses in the Tennessee State Championships at White Pine, the International and Decatur. Then they headed to the Southern Championships in Perry, Ga. By then, Link thought Kathryn was ready to step up.

“James Vernon showed Pusher’s Special Design. Link turned to me and asked, ‘do you want Kathryn to wear roses at the Celebration? There’s the horse. Kathryn and that horse can win it,” Bob said, adding he took Link at his word. After a winter’s work, the new team made the trip to Jackson, Miss.

“They got beat both nights,” Bob said, looking back on a pair of yellow ribbons from that first show. “Kathryn realized that she had to do more than ride around the ring on an experienced horse to win the blue.”

Eight straight blues and tricolors followed. The first Saturday night of Celebration 2003, Kathryn and Special headed to the big arena. If that weren’t enough, beating the three-minute clock was more than enough to add to big-show nerves.

“We had about 2:30 on the clock when the grooms ran with the saddle and bridle to the warm-up ring. With about 30 seconds left, Link put Kathryn on; she made the gate by about two seconds,” Bob said, looking back on one of their more nerve-racking performances.

“She had no warm-up. I don’t think she was freaked, but she rode with the tears running down her face. She thought she wouldn’t make it. Link told her, ‘dry your eyes, get yourself together and go out and win this thing,” Bob said, adding Link used a few more adjectives and adverbs than he when recounting the story. “He was as wired as she was.”

It takes a special kind of youngster to handle the pressure and pitfalls of riding in front of 20 to 25,000 people, particularly when things don’t proceed in perfect order. Winning that class took even more.

Spirit and Fortitude

“Some kids have the ability not to crumble; they have an inherent strength,” Bob said, describing his daughter. “Most people look at Kathryn and think we have totally spoiled her. What she has is a spirit – if she were a horse, she would be a little wired, bug-eyed – a little crazy. But if you beat that out or take it away, you don’t have the same kind of horse…”

Link added some comments. “When she loses, she wants to know why; when she does good, it’s the same. It’s really serious to her. Some kids her age don’t take the horses quite as seriously as their parents do. It doesn’t matter which horse she is on, she’s a competitor.”

Just who is this 18-year-old who took her division by storm? A senior at Anderson County High School, Kathryn began showing in 1999 and was on padded horses a year later. She is a family person – and, like her parents and trainer, an animal person. The Ramsbottoms share their farm with four dogs, nine cats and 25 horses.

The youngest of four children – with the youngest of her three older brothers 11 years older than she, Kathryn has had the best of both worlds. “My dad is one of my best friends,” she said, adding that she and her parents spend a great deal of time together. Last summer, they spent only two weekends at home. What makes her tick? “Adrenaline,” she confessed adding pride, happiness – the bond with a mare that has a personality like her own.

With her 18th birthday in September, Kathryn had a few more months to show in the juvenile division. Instead, she chose to move into the amateur ranks at the November Perry, Ga., show. They walked off with the Amateur Mare Specialty blue.

So what lies ahead? College? Probably, although Kathryn hasn’t decided on a course of study. Certainly there will be horses; the family has five in training with Webb today.

They plan to harvest embryos from Special and use Bob and Linda’s pleasure mares as recipients. They will teach the babies their basics at home, with promising youngsters going to Webb.