While October was not as busy as initially hoped, it was by no means a dull affair. There have been several thoughts keeping me awake this past month. Not necessarily bad thoughts, but ever persistent ones as I now face my final year of uni, the ageing of our 18-year old kingpin Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica), and all that lies ahead of his pretty amazing progeny.
The end of the eventing season brought with it an onslaught of pretty horrific weather. Having spent the majority of the summer hoping for rain, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the universe replied by washing us away during autumn. This did, however, prove problematic for my end-of-season plan that involved two day tickets with British Eventing (BE) in order to obtain my minimum eligibility requirements (MERs) at BE 90 level that are needed to step up to BE 100 and Novice level. Sadly for me, both Calmsden and Broadway were abandoned and, although BE were very generous by giving me another day ticket, the last event at Aston-Le-Walls was also abandoned due to the weather and ground conditions. This wasn’t how I wanted the end of my season to pan out as I will now have to do my BE 90 events at the start of next season before I can get going with my BE 100 classes. That is, of course, life. Praise must be given, however, to the organisers of the doomed events who worked tirelessly to try and allow the competitions to go ahead, even moving all of the cross-country fences before yet more rain made it unrideable. The 5am alarms may have been for nothing, but it did mean I was wide awake and ready to start the day at an early time for those few days. Oh well. Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) and I have had a fantastic event season including team third at the NAF British Riding Club National 100cm Eventing Championship, and I cannot wait to affiliate him with BE next season!
Avonbrook Odin eventing in 2019 (c) TopShots.
After seemingly picking up an illness at the British Arabian Championships and taking a couple of weeks out, Princess Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – seemed delighted to be given the all-clear to work again and wasted no time in offering herself up for a lesson with her auntie Erica. My trainer has had a very busy summer – her daughter was a part of the gold medal winning Pony European Eventing team – and so we obviously didn’t have as many lessons as usual in order to let them focus and prepare. This did not sit well with Penny, who was most displeased to be ‘left out of the party’, so it came as a shock to no-one when she had a tantrum when I started taking Odin for lessons again instead of her. We are focusing on Odin’s dressage this winter; he genuinely has a 70 or 80% dressage test in him, he just needs to behave and I need to ride the very best out of him. After a couple of lessons to get him back under the thumb, Penny executed her plan to be at the top of my training list with a thrilling attempted murder one day in the school. In fairness to her, she was rather fresh and very cross at me for daring to spend my weeks at university so really, I probably had it coming. After a few movements that the Spanish Riding School would be proud of, I nobly finished on a less psychotic note and called it a day and rather hurriedly texted Erica to ask for a lesson. Clearly, honour was satisfied as Penny behaved perfectly in our lesson and I haven’t had an assassination attempt since. The Midland Young Rider Champion horse 2019 ladies and gentlemen… Good horses make good riders and there is no better horse than the chestnut mare who teaches you how to sit quietly, not rise to their challenge, and work with the true performance horse temperament that demands both your respect and attention. Both Erica and I are quietly excited about what 2020 holds for Penny in the world of British Eventing.
Annia Aurelia breathing fire in the showring 2019 (c) Sweet Photography.
My one competition of the month was the kind of fairytale that you never quite realise you’re wishing for. It is no secret that the past couple of occasions we have taken Odin to Hartpury College, we have had less than an ideal time. It’s only ever Hartpury we struggle with and it has only happened since Odin injured his neck last summer in a stable accident. I believe we took him back to Hartpury too soon after he was back jumping again last winter and his confidence wasn’t quite back to normal, so of course I saw it as a bogey arena which then unsettled him further in a vicious cycle. When Aston-le-Walls abandoned their event at 5:40am, we decided to stay awake and take Odin to the British Showjumping Area 41 Show held at Hartpury. We set off through the various pockets of flood water for the early classes before the rain got heavier and the roads even more flooded. One of the first to go in the British Novice (90cm-100cm), I had no idea that my schooling round that happened to include a couple of jump-off turns would hold the lead through all 50 competitors and win my first ever affiliated jumping class! I don’t know if that’s a clearer reflection on how little I bother with going flat out around jump-off phases or how little I go show-jumping, but I was almost as thrilled with the result as I was with how Odin performed and gained confidence over every fence! Odin then showed off how happy and confident he was with another classy double clear in the Discovery (100cm-110cm) to finish 8th from over 50 starters. It was a very worthwhile day; mum stayed indoors and as warm as possible with several teas and some food from the cafe, Odin’s confidence in Hartpury was restored, and I stuffed my face with crepes from the cafe and was guided through course walks and warm ups by my long suffering friend and photographer Jasmine.
Avonbrook Odin winning the British Novice at Hartpury (c) JH Photography.
Although the competitions were scarce compared to the madness of the summer months, plenty happened this October. Our horses came back from the summer grazing and the height of the yearlings was fully established as they towered over most of our fully grown horses. My future star Maddie – Avonbrook Winter Queen (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Summer Breeze) – is already lining up to do some ground work over winter and constantly surprising me with just how easy to handle she is including, but not limited to, standing smugly and quietly to have her mane pulled after tangling it with burrs. Maddie, her granny Coca – Caveland Calypso (Winter Words x Cassie) – and Coca’s son Archie – Avonbrook Beltane Silver (by Marcus Aurelius) – have slotted in well with the mare herd and I often spend my weekends shouting at the youngsters when they accost me and try to tip the wheelbarrow over on my way to the muckheap.
Left to right: Caveland Calypso, Blue Delphinium (Shadow Blue x Bey Drachma), Avonbrook Beltane Silver, and Avonbrook Winter Queen (c) Rowena Bertram.
There have been several things keeping me awake this month: the start of next year’s eventing season; facing my final year at uni and the uncertainty of what lies ahead; the excitement for the future with the horses and the youngsters; and how time keeps passing every time I blink. University has started strong this semester but, unlike previous years, I have started strong with it. With just two modules each term plus my dissertation project alongside, the workload is proving tough but more manageable than last year. I am, for example, up to date with my extra reading and I am writing my revision notes alongside my lectures which should hopefully save me some stress in the long run. It has also been fun spending as much time with my friends as possible this year as we know it won’t be the same post-graduation. My well-rehearsed act of balancing uni with the horses hasn’t been called into question yet and is so far proving – dare I say it – an enjoyable mixture. Long may it last!
A very Selly Hallow’een party (c) Jenny Lewis.
Many thanks to Drew Gasparini and the (M)orons, whose performance of Wide Awake both inspired the title of this blog and made me cry.
Avonbrook Odin winning the British Novice at Hartpury (c) JH Photography.
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.