As the competition season reaches full swing, the Girl with the Jumping Arabs receives her exam results and welcomes a new arrival into Avonbrook Stud.
Despite my second year uni exams finishing at the start of June, the wait for results lasted until the final few days of the month. Although I eventually found out that I had passed everything with flying colours, the tension of the wait was only dulled by keeping my mind occupied with horses. Luckily for me, this was quite easy to do as we had a brand new arrival early in the month. Our racehorse and advanced endurance purebred mare Avonbrook Green Rose (Vert Olive x Bint Zaehaebi), Rosie, gave birth just after midnight on 4 June to a stunning and very flashy filly. By our multi-disciplined Premium stallion Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica), the newly-named Aurelie Rose, or Lily, is a full sister to four-year old Audace Encore – Sammy – and looks very similar to Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi), our Princess Penny. Our barn has become such a family maze where everyone is related to almost anyone else, and Lily fits right into the family ‘look’: chestnut with a white face and some very snazzy white socks! Rosie seems to produce some really cracking foals with Marcus and it looks as though Lily will be finer than her brother. She is already bearing much resemblance to Penny at a young age, something that, looking at the Princess now, has us all rather excited!
The new foal, Aurelie Rose, playing in the sunshine. Credit Rowena Bertram.
King of the barn Marcus Aurelius is one very proud father and recently celebrated his 18th birthday. Although Marcus has now allowed his offspring to take precedence for competitions and the hard work that comes with it, he appears to have no intention of resting on his laurels. Like the performance stallion he is, he keeps on performing and, despite not competing this month, has been jumping in 90-100cm ‘clear round’ schooling outings and the odd 110cm fence at home.
Marcus Aurelius admiring his conquest. Credit Rowena Bertram.
In between showing his kids how it’s done and having a slice of ‘stud muffin’ birthday cake, topped with sour dummies, Marcus has been chatting up his visiting mare – an Imad daughter who has captured our hearts during her stay. I think Marcus rather wishes we were willing to sell more of his offspring to make room for more visitors like her!
Happy 18th birthday Marcus Aurelius! Credit Lisa LaPorta.
Marcus has also been made very happy this June for two more reasons: galloping and food! As we are hoping to let him have a ponce at the Arab Horse Society National Championships in July, we’re letting him have a bit more of the ‘good’ pony nuts to keep him in a more show-ring condition. The reason? As well as being King of the barn and various other places, Marcus is also our resident ‘King of the Gallops’ and has become rather fit escorting his eventing and showjumping extraordinaire son Avonbrook Odin (ex April) up a very long and climbing gallop track. He is still just as fast as he was five years ago when he was a very fit endurance horse, and it will only take a few more trips for him to have the stamina to match pace with his exceedingly fit son for the entire hill! He really is the perfect partner up the gallops, our very own Rocketman.
Marcus Aurelius and Avonbrook Odin walking down to the start of the mile long gallops. Credit Lisa LaPorta.
Near the end of June, Odin had his second event of the season where we stepped him back up to 100cm around the BE course at Sapey. After a lot of preparation that included visits to the gallops and some serious nailing down in the dressage, Odin and I had an absolute blast and a very successful day. A much-improved dressage mark sat us in a very useful place going into the jumping phases, where a fence down showjumping around a tough course did little to dampen our spirits as we soared around the cross country clear and inside the time for 6th place. This was the first time where he has set off meaning business and kept his bold, unflinching cross-country machine persona around the whole course and it felt amazing! I couldn’t hear the tannoy through the wind rushing past my ears, but mum told me that the commentator’s most frequent observations were “speedily through….” and “not hanging around”. I have always had trouble making the optimum time as, ever the showjumper, I like to set up for a fence well in advance. On that day, however, my own personal rocket and I blasted up the hills and through the quarries and met a steeplechase fence on such an open stride that we may as well have been running in the Grand National. We were cruising at such a fast speed that, when I glanced down at my watch four fences from home, I took my foot off the accelerator and let him breeze into the finish to avoid penalties for going too quickly! Now I know he runs nearer BE Novice (110cm) speed than BE100 speed, I can try to slow him down at the smaller heights until we’re ready for bigger courses that, judging by his attitude and my growing bravery across the country, might urge me to join British Eventing in 2020!
Avonbrook Odin storming around the Sapey 100cm course. Credit TopShots.
Only a week after eventing at Sapey, we jetted off to Myerscough College with Penny for the Classic Arabian Show. Thoroughly put out at missing an eventing party, Penny was somewhat satisfied to have a whole weekend to herself as we stayed with my godmother in Stoke as a half-way house before completing the journey to Preston early the next morning. With three classes and three tickets, all for different championships, to compete for, the game was on to bring home the best of the beautiful ribbons on offer. Our first class of the day was the Midland Young Rider qualifier, which was hotly contested by four worthy winners. Penny was initially called second but once the top pulled combination had a blip in their individual show, I knew I could pull out all the stops in an attempt to move up the order. With a canter serpentine with a simple change and a rein-back, as well as an extension that – thankfully – didn’t anger the Princess into a bucking fit, we were rewarded with a win and our first ticket of the day. It’s a bit sad but it had been over a year since I last won a showing class, the novice ridden at the TSR Spring Show 2018… Sometimes I think I should have done a full novice season with Penny and maybe won a bit more but I’ve always had a tendency to dive in straight at the deep end if it’s all the same to the horse, and I’ve come close a few times in Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers – just enough to keep me hungry for that golden ticket! Sadly, the golden HOYS ticket remained elusive for me at Classic, although we did win the RASS mares and collect that championship ticket, although there was unfortunately no one to compete against! We did, however, show ourselves off well and put in a good performance in the HOYS, but a slight miscommunication led to Penny giving the judge canter a little sooner and a little longer than they had perhaps wished. Overall, I was thrilled with Penny and the results we had picked up; two out of three tickets ain’t bad!
Annia Aurelia at the Classic Show. Credit Rowena Bertram.
Also rounding out the month was the gorgeous PS Ibn Aurelius (Marcus Aurelius x PS Silvern Silk), Rory, who scored well over 60% in his first three dressage tests, with two being over 65% in tough sections. His owner is now riding him again and the joy that radiates from him when she does is palpable. I’ve enjoyed transforming him into a ‘made’ ridden horse and, at only six years old, he has become so brave about flowers, white boards, and any monsters that he is confident in my ability to protect him from. Hopefully he can keep his underwear clean at the Nationals, but it’s looking good as he seems to be at his absolute best when everyone’s watching…. A strong family trait!
PS Ibn Aurelius on his way to 67% in only his second prelim test. Credit Lisa LaPorta
Lead photo (and below): hugs for Avonbrook Odin after completing his cross-country round. Credit JH Photography.