During May, Katherine Bertram of Avonbrook Stud reached some major milestones. Between getting back to lessons and finishing her degree, The Girl with the Jumping Arabs has been keeping herself busy.
Playing with Sammy before his summer at grass (c) Rowena Bertram
After most of the horses left for the summer grazing fields, I was convinced my riding would be mostly put on hold until their return. With only our veteran stallion Marcus – Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica) – and his long-term wife Coca – Caveland Calypso (Winter Words TB x Cassie) – left at home, I hatched a plan to start riding ‘on tour’ by packing the relevant tack in my car and driving to the various fields to ride whoever looked most interested. There have been a couple of teething issues, mostly in relation to needing keys for padlocks chained to gates, but we have since settled into a good rhythm of giving the competition horses the work they need while also letting them enjoy time to just be horses. It has been a rough six months for all of us at Avonbrook Stud, but things are finally seeming to feel normal again – or as normal as things can be when your life revolves around horses!
Sammy having a run in front of the camera (c) Bob Langrish MBE
Before the boy herd went to their summer grazing field, I spent some time with our young stallion Sammy – Audace Encore (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Green Rose) – getting him going properly on the flat and over some jumps too! He’s a super little horse and moves beautifully; he’s our little secret ready for next year when, hopefully, the shows will be back, and we will be there with a full lorry to support them. Now up at the summer grazing, Sammy is enjoying hacking out around the lanes and realising how much bigger the world is than just the barn! He is joined by paternal half-brothers Odin, Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April), and Robbie, Avonbrook Silver Eagle (ex Caveland Calypso), who is predictably enjoying getting Sammy into trouble. Odin initially enjoyed his little holiday but is now following me back to the gate during our twice daily checks. I’ve been riding him on the field, but as both the other boys have to be held so they don’t follow and annoy him, it requires quite a lot more pre-planning than chucking his tack on and taking him for a hack.
Taking Odin for a hack around the village
Possibly the most significant non-horsey related event of the year for me was submitting my final piece of work for my BSc Psychology at the University of Birmingham. It was an odd experience watching my ‘additional assessment’, the replacement for my final exams, disappear into the submissions folder. There was no final “please put your pens down, the exam has now ended”. There was no finding my friends outside the exam hall, no dissecting how we thought we had done, or confessing how many times we cried or “skipped a question to come back to later”. Although it was sad not to have experienced the final hurdle that university had to offer, it was a relief to finish my degree and not have to sit a final year exam. My coursework assignments during my third year had really brought out the best in academic work, and I hope not having to dilute my grades with the unpredictability of my usual exam results will allow me to graduate with a good classification. My current plans involve a master’s degree, although the will to write a personal statement is currently eluding me. However, I suspect I will have to sit down and write it sooner rather than later to make the deadline with plenty of time to spare.
Not quite an exam hall – my study space for my final university assessments
Another milestone I was pleased to achieve during May was having lessons again with Erica. I was concerned that my riding ability had wilted horribly during my time off, but we were all pleasantly surprised when we could just keep working on what we had been doing before Christmas. Odin, who was first to go to Erica’s, was less than impressed with being asked to work properly again and looked martyred when we finally convinced him to show us his dressage moves! Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – on the other hand, was positively delighted to be hacked back home and taken to Erica’s for a lesson. I was thrilled with how well Penny came back to proper schooling after so long away, but now that we have built her fitness back up, it is like our accident never even happened. I have never known a work ethic like Penny’s, and her love for ‘her Auntie Erica’ was evident through our lesson. Although I don’t have any pictures of either of my lessons so far, I do have an abundance of glorious professional pictures that I will endeavour to explain.
The mare herd – minus Maddie – waiting to be asked for another run (c) Bob Langrish MBE
Last year, veteran international photographer Bob Langrish MBE came to take photos of the horses. He came back again this year and his photos are once again incredible! It was a fun day of running around with a feed bucket to get the horses to show off in front of the camera, and most of the horses found the situation funny enough to join in. Odin was a bit concerned and mostly just stood next to me trying to put his head in the bucket, but Robbie and Sammy had a marvellous time running in front of the camera and took it all in their stride. The mare herd got their daily exercise in, apart from Maddie – Avonbrook Winter Queen (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Summer Breeze) – who didn’t get it and seriously couldn’t be bothered with our weirdness. One of the funniest to watch was Delphi – Blue Delphinium (Shadow Blue x Bey Drachma) – who decided it was her time to shine and made sure she was constantly in front of the camera! She is a fantastic little character and makes up the ‘unholy trinity’ with Penny and Maddie; a truly terrifying assortment of mares.
Delphi showing off for the camera (c) Bob Langrish MBE
Three years after my first blog for The Arabian Magazine, it would have been difficult to predict where we are now. We are all still patiently waiting to resume play with the horses at competitions but, until then, we can all polish up our performances so, when we can compete again, we do so in a way that suggests we have never been grounded. Three years on from weekly competitions representing my high school, I have grown so much and learnt a lot. There were brief flashes of panic after my accident where I didn’t know when I would ride again and in what capacity, so to slip back into riding almost like I was never gone was incredible. I am immensely grateful that I am able to ride again and to everyone who has gotten me back in the saddle where I belong.
Even Marcus played nicely for the camera (c) Bob Langrish MBE
Lead photo: Robbie and Odin sharing a quiet moment (c) Bob Langrish MBE