Despite the competition season still seeming a long way off, Katherine Bertram and her performance Arabians at Avonbrook Stud are already preparing for another busy year.
Looking back on it, January felt like a much more relaxed month than it actually was. I began the year by continuing my holiday work for my trainer Erica, which I found immensely rewarding as I learnt more about preparing top class eventers for the upcoming season, as well as the day to day life on a yard so different to my own. Not only was it beneficial in terms of experience and keeping busy, but I lost a lot of ‘winter weight’ that meant that my 12.1hh Welsh pony Alice deemed me light enough to ride her again for the first time in over two years! Although I feel rather under-horsed – she is, after all, a lot smaller than the Arabs and part-breds – Alice is clearly not a child’s pony as she very happily careens around the arena with me and has polished up her mounted games skills, a sport to which she is quite partial. Alice is not the only one practicing her gymkhana; my sister’s ex-race and endurance Arab, Rosie – Avonbrook Green Rose (Vert Olive x Bint Zaehaebi) is proving rather promising as an actual mounted games pony – it’s just a shame I can’t vault! And Marcus Aurelius himself has also been showing off his sheer versatility between the flags.
|Avonbrook Odin clearing a difficult fence over at Hartpury (Rowena Bertram)|
Slightly less whimsically, Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) has once again been representing Part-bred Arabs at affiliated showjumping, at Hartpury College this month for the Blue Chip Joint RLF Power Championship qualifier. Despite arriving a couple of hours too early, Odin showed his professionalism and maturity by waiting patiently, warming up beautifully, and compensating for the nerves I was getting. In all fairness, the course was most definitely up to its maximum height of 1.10m with two fences at 1.15m, and someone ‘in the know’ told the course builder that it was of the same difficulty as a HOYS qualifier. I was inclined to agree, and was lucky to be late enough in the drawn order to watch out for any ‘traps’ that I hadn’t found in the course-walk. Mum has now come up with the phrase to “lighten up” whenever my seat becomes too heavy and ‘driving’ that has the beneficial double meaning of not letting my nerves get the better of me, even when I find out I’m next to go precisely 30 seconds after being told I have three ahead of me. It really doesn’t help either myself or Odin when I look as if I’m about to die from nerves, so I always find comfort in words of encouragement, even when the person giving the encouragement is also a bit nervous.
|Penny (Annia Aurelia) demanding that the fences be raised to a more suitable height (Rowena Bertram)|
Odin, being the utter superstar that he is, jumped a beautiful and confident round that I ruined by not giving him the best approach to the treble combination, where he knocked down the first two parts before miraculously clearing the final element. He has such a quick Arabian brain that allowed him to swap leads to shorten his stride, meaning that he could squeeze two strides in a one stride distance, and his athleticism let him really ‘use himself’ and jump out clear. He then jumped the rest of the menacing course clear and, even with eight faults, finished in the top half of the field; a true testament to his ability and the course’s difficulty.
|Marcus Aurelius making light work of 105cm (Rowena Bertram)|
I was also fortunate enough to fit in a lesson with Erica, where we worked on my seat and sitting lightly to avoid trying to move forward with anything but my legs. Odin was clearly thrilled by this development in my riding, as I was reliably no longer climbing up his neck over fences, which he expressed through a volley of bucks and leaps after each fence – much to the amusement of Erica and those on the yard who had taken a break to watch the lesson. Sadly, this did not amuse, nor impress our resident princess Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi). In order to make it up to her, I jumped her at home where she showed Odin how much more fun it is to buck and leap in front of the fences rather than after them. This was mildly concerning to ride, but my CWD saddle saved my life once again as I did not move while she rehearsed her Spanish Riding School movements.
|My view of the SCD Live Tour (Katherine Bertram)|
Of course, it wouldn’t be Avonbrook Stud if Marcus wasn’t ready and waiting to upstage his offspring, which he – arguably – did when we took him for a play around Gracelands Equestrian Centre. Gracelands is the venue where I first show jumped Marcus seven years ago in 2012 and it showed the difference between the cross-poles classes he once nannied me around to the 95cm-105cm course we schooled over. He never fails to impress me, and was generous enough to let me work on my position and riding without fussing if we arrived too close to a fence, but also kind enough to reward me with a ‘proper’ jump when I got it right.
|The University of Birmingham (Katherine Bertram)|
The start of the year has not just been a learning curve with the horses. The week I arrived back at University I was faced with two official examinations and a workshop report deadline, that was a bit overwhelming after such a pleasant holiday from deep thinking and ‘the University way of life’. Needless to say, I was keen to come home after the first week, but I have since settled back into the cycle of having a week of deadlines and madness followed by a week of recovery and other activities. I am very glad for having such a nice University to study at, and one that is local enough to go home at weekends to see the horses and keep me sane! I did manage an escape from University one night to go and see the Strictly Come Dancing live tour, that some have pointed out as a bit ‘sad’ or ‘weird’ for an 18 year old to enjoy, but those few clearly do not know the joy that ‘Strictly’ brings me! I was sat right at the front with such a great view, and I now have so many lasting memories of what a fantastic and electrifying experience it is live.
|Avonbrook Odin training over 120cm|
Although the competition season won’t fully kick off until April, the build-up to the start of the season is well underway and entries are already being made for bigger shows throughout the year. 2018 is set to be full of excitement as I move up the levels in various disciplines, and I hope that my ‘jumping Arabs’ continue to fly. Good luck to everyone in their endeavors this year and good luck to mum for what promises to be another fantastically busy year.
|Penny (Annia Aurelia) going into orbit (Rowena Bertram)|