Words by Katherine Bertram
Lead Picture: Katherine on Avonbrook Silver Augury at Addington earlier this month. ©Spidge Photography
I got my first taste of jumping Arabs when I moved up from my 12.1hh Welsh section B mare onto our Arabian stallion Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica). Although he stands at barely 15hh, he has the jump of a giant, but his intelligence and caring nature made sure that he was always underneath me and he saved his ‘balloon’ jumps for when I was a little more confident.
Marcus took me from trotting around tiny courses on Alice to jumping my first ever 1 metre square oxer at the Crabbet Convention in 2013 to a barrage of camera flashes and applause, having knocked it down on the first attempt for dramatic effect! Those who know Marcus understand that he became the horse of my pre-teen and teenage years, taking me to Cricklands – where he was consistently fast enough for placings in open competition – winning the Overall Championship at the 2014 Performance Horse Awards, and jumping in front of hundreds at multiple stallion parades over the years. We started by receiving funny looks, the hairy ginger Arab stallion and the small child – “but Arabs can’t jump!” Well, we certainly proved them wrong! Before long, Marcus had a following of small children wherever he went, people laughed in joy as he showboated around the arena, and gasped in disbelief as he jumped many important rounds clear despite rattling every pole.
|Marcus Aurelius. ©Anthony Reynolds|
|Marcus Aurelius and Katherine at the 2013 Crabbet Convention, the first time she had jumped a 1 metre square oxer. ©Ivy Media Productions|
At the start of 2016, I first became affiliated with British Showjumping riding one of Marcus’ part-bred sons, Avonbrook Odin (ex April). This was a huge step up from unaffiliated competition! Not only did the fences seem utterly enormous, but the courses were technical and most certainly designed for more experienced combinations. Odin, however, provided me with a steep learning curve of how to jump a horse that wasn’t Marcus and, with the help of family friend Abi Brain, jumped his four double clears that qualified us for the British Novice second rounds. 2016 also saw my first trip to the Alexanders Horseboxes SCOPE Festival. Again with Odin, we qualified for the 95cm championships while at the Wales and West Amateur Show, and jumped consistently all week among some of the top riders in the country, including Geoff Billington and Chloe Winchester to name just two! Odin fit in perfectly with the ‘big boys’, only distinguishable by his proud Arabian tail, which he held in the air as a flag as he proved what the oldest breed in the world was capable of.
|Avonbrook Odin cross-country schooling at Lincomb. ©Rowena Bertram|
Odin continued jumping on top form throughout the rest of the year, jumping up to 1.05m, with a 1.15m jump off, and my riding improved every lesson with my trainer, Erica Watson. Erica, who has developed a fondness for our Arabs and recognises their talent, started competing Avonbrook Silver Augury (ex Caveland Calypso), another of Marcus’ part-bred sons known as ‘Prince’, in unaffiliated eventing and affiliated showjumping before handing the reins to me in the autumn of 2016. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel any pressure when I started riding Prince. He had, after all, been competing very successfully with Erica, winning a competitive one day event at Aston-le-Walls among other successes. However, with careful tuition, Prince and I began to gel as a combination, qualifying for and competing at the Cherif Championships, as well as competing in one day events and 1m arena eventing competitions. We’ve never really been sure how high Prince can jump; he jumps 1.20m just as he jumps 90cm, but he really is a prime example of a jumping part-bred Arabian!
|Avonbrook Odin on his way to winning at Addington earlier this month. ©Spidge Photography|
After renewing my British Showjumping memberships for 2017, I took both Odin and Prince to their first overnight competition at Addington Manor on the 4/5 March. Again, we were in the proximity of and warming up with the likes of Tim Stockdale, who was there with his son Joe, Clark Glasgow and Laura Collett. All are massive idols of mine, especially Joe Stockdale’s enviably soft hands! Mum swore that Tim Stockdale was looking – in a good way! – at Odin while I was warming him up, and my part-bred boys certainly were not to be sniffed at! They were jumping in the Discovery (1m-1.10m) and 1.05m classes and jumped brilliantly all weekend, with just some green and nervous mistakes costing us clear rounds, except for Odin’s exemplar Discovery double clear on the Sunday; I hope Mr Stockdale was watching! I can’t wait to see how this experience has brought them both on and I look forward to stepping up to Senior Newcomer classes (1.10m – 1.20m), the first class that culminates at the Horse of the Year Show for its final!
|Mellway Precious Rose. ©Curtis archives|
Of course, the Avonbrook Boys are not the only Arabians and part-breds proving their worth on the performance circuit. Sasha Melia’s Mukhtar Ibn Eternity (Eternity Ibn Navarroné-D x Monsoon)) recently qualified for the 2017 BE Arena Eventing Championships with 3* event rider Julia Fairbank. Dante’s Inferno (Master Design x Azteq Joha) also flies the flag for jumping Arabian horses in Scotland with Katharine Mieras, having competed up to BE90 level, while Imogen Peace and the formidable Carmalisk (Vasilisk x Bint Carmen) are almost unbeatable in unaffiliated 90cm and 1m classes ; believe me, I’ve tried!. The part-bred Grade A showjumper Mellway Precious Rose (De Beer x Alcina) is another impressive example of a jumping Arabian, having recorded results up to 1.15m with British Showjumping and has retained the Part-bred championship title at the 2016 Performance Horse Awards for another year.
Whether they are looking after their young jockeys in unaffiliated competitions or representing their rider’s schools, riding clubs or even countries – I am looking at you, Tamarillo (Tarnik x Mellita) – in team competition, whoever said Arabian horses can’t jump is clearly mistaken.
|Avonbrook Odin cross-country schooling at Lincomb. ©Rowena Bertram|
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.