After a quiet February, the performance Arabians of Avonbrook Stud were itching to get the competition season well and truly underway. With competitions and university deadlines both looming, Katherine must once again juggle work and play this March.
Having not consistently jumped courses of 110cm since the early summer of last year, Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) and I were keen to get back up the showjumping heights. After a rehearsal at Hillview arena where we practiced around a course of 110cm fences, Odin was feeling ready to go out competing again. With the onslaught of frozen arenas and equine flu, we were a little ring rusty but our British Riding Club area qualifier was fast approaching and we had no time to lose in preparing for the team competition that lay ahead. The 110cm qualifier was hosted as two separate rounds over different courses in different arenas and required an army of volunteers to keep both rings running to time. Two teams were entered in the qualifier but only one team could qualify for the BRC Intermediate Championships. With our pathfinder jumping a double clear but other team members running into trouble, the pressure was on to jump two good rounds for any chance of qualification. In the first of two rounds, Odin clipped one pole for four faults but otherwise maintained a clean sheet. After a quick breather and another practice fence, we headed into the second arena to jump the 115cm course where the time would split equally placed teams. Odin stormed around the more technically demanding track for a clear round which, along with our pathfinder, put us into a competitive position. Sadly, our other team members did not have luck on their side and, even with our drop score, we were well beaten into second place by our fierce opposition. With a quick time and one fence down overall, Odin finished 5th individually out of both teams and a dozen or so combinations not on teams. Although I was gutted not to qualify for the finals, I was so proud to represent my riding club and jump well across both rounds.
Avonbrook Odin jumping clear around the second course. Credit TopShots.
Later in the day, we returned armed and dangerous with the rampant stallion. I’m joking of course, his Lordship barely walked off the ramp before stopping, dropping, and rolling – much to the amusement of the onlookers. It was an ideal afternoon out for Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica), he grazed near the lorry while we waited for his jumping times, then he warmed up in 15 minutes, then he meandered into both arenas ready to jump. He jumped a careful clear round over the first 90cm course and, after a couple of minutes to be fed sweeties and wait for the other arena, jumped a fast clear over the second 95cm course. So fast, in fact, we were narrowly beaten into 2nd place which, although gutting to miss qualification again, was one of my proudest moments with Marcus as he gave me his everything in that arena. The team also came second so, although a frustrating day of playing the bridesmaid, one has to be near the top to just miss out.
Marcus Aurelius jumping into 2nd place. Credit TopShots
Although the boys did me proud this last month, one of the horses I was proudest of was Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – Penny. Early in the year, Penny developed a lump on her cheekbone. Having lost Penny’s dam Holly to cancer that originated in her cheek, we couldn’t risk not investigating it in her daughter. With everything crossed, we sent Penny into the vets for a biopsy which unfortunately irritated the lump more and it ballooned in size. It was fortunate, however, that the lump tested as not cancerous and it seems to be behaving much like a splint – she probably banged it head-twirling – so that is a very large weight off my chest. Although I’m nervous for the Horse of the Year Show qualifiers just around the corner, it has driven me to produce her to the highest possible standard to give the judges every reason to look past this temporary blemish. It is shrinking and is back at a size where I don’t think it’s too noticeable so our sights our firmly set on our ‘golden ticket’, a dream I silently thought might be over a couple of months ago.
Annia Aurelia coming back into work. Credit Rowena Bertram.
On a brighter note, I took Robbie and Marcus to a TSR Showing Clinic during March. Neither were my initial choice of ride – I had miscounted from vaccination dates, so my original rides were too close to their previous vaccinations and having a short holiday – but both were good in their individual ways. Much to his disgust, Sarah Chapman actually made Marcus work properly and against his will. Unfortunately for Marcus, we were talent-spotted for the TSR training pathway anyway; perhaps the show-ring schoolmaster is still visible under the many layers of grumpy old man and showjumping superstar! Avonbrook Silver Eagle (Marcus Aurelius x Caveland Calypso) – Robbie – had a rocky start to the clinic when he spotted a wooden pig and ran backwards for half the width of the arena but redeemed himself beautifully. Sarah looked hesitant to ride him initially, perhaps his signature arm-ography put her off? Once onboard, she didn’t want to get off again and remarked how “comfortable and well-schooled” he is. Oh Robbie, that might spell out a showing season for you!
Avonbrook Silver Eagle extending well. Credit Rowena Bertram.
As usual, my month wasn’t all about playing ponies as I had university deadlines to contend with. Although I’m now on Easter break, March was packed full of deadlines and big decisions regarding the modules I want to take in my final year and my options for my dissertation project. Among the various workshop reports, exams, and essays, I still had time to reflect on one of my more pressing thoughts during mid-March. On the 15th, we remembered my dad, Dr Douglas Bertram, on the 15th anniversary of his death. My friends were very supportive during my wobblier moments and I was thankfully distracted on the anniversary itself. It’s become much easier as time has gone on, but 15 years is quite a milestone in my mind. It was great, however, to dedicate some time to remembering him, learning more about him, and hearing stories from when he and mum were at the same university I’m studying at now. With March now out of the way and the horses of Avonbrook Stud all back on form, 2019 is shaping up to be a fun year!
Me and Dad. Credit Rowena Bertram.
Katherine Bertram is an English young rider who competes in a variety of different disciplines on her mother’s homebred pure and part-bred Arabians. Having achieved advanced rider status in Endurance after her first season at age 14 on Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica), Katherine turned her attention to showjumping with his progeny, at which she currently competes at Senior Newcomers (1.10). As well as also delving into showing, eventing and, occasionally, dressage, Katherine juggles her studies while attending the University of Birmingham.