The first few months of 2020 have been unideal to say the least. Breaking my collarbone didn’t provide me with a fantastic start to the year, and the Covid-19 global pandemic has proved to be a much larger hurdle than many of us may have initially anticipated. With the news changing every day, it is imperative to listen to science, look after each other, and look after ourselves during these unprecedented times.
Most of the horses at Avonbrook Stud are content with getting fat from the spring grass, but Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April), who has patiently waited for me to recover from surgery, is still waiting for his eventing season to begin. Although I am close to being considered ‘fully recovered’, I won’t be able to have any more x-rays or see my wonderful surgeon for quite some time. Riding will have to be carefully considered and all of our horses are currently on holiday, although I am keen to get back in the saddle, especially when the demands on the NHS are less severe. One of the truly wonderful qualities about our veteran stallion Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica) and his offspring are their ability to be left for weeks, even months, at a time and still be perfectly rideable, so a bit of time off won’t hurt them. Until I can ride again, I have been occupied through lockdown with the final pieces of work for university.
Spot the Penny! Annia Aurelia keeping an eye on me during my walks
Birmingham has been my week-day home for the past three years so, when the advice we were given changed and asked us to ‘go home’ immediately, packing up and leaving my second and third year home in Selly Oak felt completely wrong. I was the last to leave my house and I spent a long time sitting in the living room, staring at my suitcases. This wasn’t how I thought I would finish my time at the University of Birmingham and if I had known that just another day on campus was my last, maybe I would have sat and taken in the glorious view one last time. I will be back – we have already been given hope for a graduation celebration next March – but my actual graduation will take place online. Unideal? Certainly. The end of the world? Not a chance. My current task is completing my dissertation and coursework pieces to the highest possible standard, and I have just received the news that I will have one final piece of coursework to complete to make up credits due to the cancellation of our final exams.
My temporary study
Having turned my sister’s bedroom into my study due to her living in Toronto, I was satisfied with my working conditions and was even considering where to hang various bits of artwork. Then the UK government urged all British nationals to come home, so we set her bed up again almost as quickly as we took it apart! Luckily, most of my work had already been finished by the time Becky came home so she could reclaim her bedroom with minimal resistance while I finished my work downstairs. Meanwhile, I have finally been allowed to exercise again so I am busy building up fitness in preparation for being able to ride again. As we are confined to our own land, I’ve been walking around the field until I’m allowed to run again, which has amused the mare herd and I often get followed by Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – who has decided to join me in my fitness programme. Exercising in the barn has received a more mixed response. Robbie – Avonbrook Silver Eagle (Marcus Aurelius x Caveland Calypso) – thinks that it’s hilarious and tries to join in; Odin looks a bit concerned as I jump about; and the two stallions, Marcus Aurelius and Sammy, Audace Encore (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Green Rose), are thoroughly unimpressed with all the activity during their naptime!
Audace Encore wasn’t impressed when I ruined his nap!
The next few months may be tough, but every new day is one day closer to resuming with normal life. For now all we can do is sit tight and be there for each other, give our horses a cuddle and count our blessings. If it wasn’t for the fantastic team at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, I would probably still be waiting for surgery! Every cloud, no matter how dark, has a silver lining and this lockdown will not last forever. Finally, it only feels right to end with a thank you to all of our frontline workers during these unprecedented times.
Preparing to clap for our carers in the countryside, where you have to be loud for your neighbours to hear you!
Cover photo – Some of the Avonbrook mare herd enjoying the spring grass
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.