Words by Katherine Bertram
Lead Photograph: Katherine on Avonbrook Silver Eagle. Credit Francesca Carmine
After the sheer madness that was June, mum vowed that we would have a much quieter month and we planned to have an easier and significantly less expensive July. Plans, however, often go to pieces at Avonbrook Stud and festivities began on the second day of the month with an unsuccessful but educational outing to West Wilts… Long story short; I fell off… Twice! Two days afterwards, I begrudgingly celebrated my 18th birthday with less than open arms; my excuse of “But I’m only a child” no longer being valid. I’m sure I’ll change my mind about the perils of adulthood when I next go to the local Wetherspoons and order a drink, or buy an 18 rated horror film, or sign my own forms without mum’s signature. Excitingly I now also have a bank account which I have promised not to use for entry fees without mum’s knowledge as I need to pass my driving test to be able to take the horses anywhere myself…
|North Staffs Penny – Credit Sweet Photography
Mum’s plan of a quiet month began to waver with a rather exciting trip with father/daughter duo Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica) and seven-year old Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) to the North Staffs Summer Show in the Ridden Arabian Star Series (RASS) males and females respectively. Penny was a very well behaved princess in her class, coming third, admittedly out of three, and qualifying for RASS, but the winner was the later Horse of the Year Show qualified Aja Forever Lace (FS Bengali x AR Kioki Lace) with Frances Atkinson in second, so no shame there.
|North Staffs Marcus – Credit Sweet Photography
Then came Marcus… After having not rolled in his muddy field the night before, nor having rolled on the showground, we should have smelled a rat. He had no issue with the quick change between classes, nor being ‘buzzed’ by another rider in the warm up and walked into the ring beautifully, not at all out of place in a strong class of seven. He went into trot beautifully and just as I thought that we may actually have a chance of doing rather well, we trotted in front of the judges and Marcus stuck his head in between his knees and passed rather a lot of wind! Oh dear… I knew that he had already blown a chance of a qualifying place so laughter seemed the only worthwhile option. Additionally, most people had only seen my serious showing concentration face before so cracking a smile may have come as a welcome surprise! Canter was also quite interesting as Marcus bounced around and the gallop was a series of dolphin leaps and wind breaking. I believe every eye was on him during his gallop, the naughty curmudgeon spurred on by my laughter and mum’s sigh of acceptance that this is what he thought of showing. Although very safe and actually rather comfortable, I think the judges were quite glad not to have to ride Marcus and instead watched from a safe distance as he replicated his cheekiness on the go-round during his individual show and cemented his place at the bottom of the line up, spearheaded by another Diana Whittome bred horse; Incandescent (Psalm x Illaria). His rosette read ‘Special Award’, which I thought was quite apt…
Penny then went on to represent the Heart of England team at the EGB Inter-regionals the following weekend at the glorious Cirencester Park. Continuing her perfect princess streak, she won the performance formula for her class despite unleashing her inner brat during the final vetting for an unusually high heat rate. By this point, mum’s dream of a quiet month was entering a downward spiral that only continued on its descent into madness.
|Odin – Credit J Hemming Photography
A mere four days afterwards, three of the Avonbrook boys took to the stage once more, this time at my last ever NSEA qualifier and my first attempt at JwS (jumping with style) as part of my school team. Marcus was up first as part of the elite team of four in the 80cm, where an over-enthusiastic performance placed him as the team’s discard score. Avonbrook Silver Eagle (Marcus Aurelius x Caveland Calypso), or ‘Robbie’, blew us all away in the team of three for the 80cm with a smooth clear round, as did the other two riders, meaning that both teams finished on a jumping score of 0 and style and time decided the placings. We can’t remember the last time that Robbie had jumped a clear round so we were quite astonished when the underdog team of three finished 5th and qualified for the NSEA Championship Plate, and the ‘odds-on’ favourite team of four finished 7th, just missing out on a qualifying position! Due to the long wait between classes, we took the boys home and brought Marcus back a couple of hours later for the 90cm, where his team had a difficult time and came away without a placing. As the evening drew closer, we returned for a third time with Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) as an individual for the 100cm and 110cm classes. I’m not sure exactly where we finished in the 100cm as the results still haven’t been published but he jumped clear and my main concern at the time was a very rude man who obviously wasn’t used to women standing up to him when he crossed swords with mum in the warm up arena. All because he refused to let mum put the upright down to a cross pole, despite me being in before any of his riders, and then put it down when I was later approaching it as an upright… Just as well Odin can pull up quickly! As the evening drew to a close, the entries dwindled to 10 for the 110cm Advanced qualifier. Luckily, my ‘personal photographer’ and close friend Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Hemming was on hand to take photos and warm me up, which was much appreciated and hilarious as the mean man literally ran into the warm up when he saw me go in, possibly for a potential round two with mum! We would not permit such childishness, however, and Jazz, who stables her ponies at Allens Hill and is very much part of the furniture, was ready to report him for unsuitable behaviour which he quite sensibly gave up on. Despite being terribly explosive, I managed to negotiate the up to height track with Odin, who only managed to kick out a couple of fences along the way. The judge clearly liked him as we had one of the lowest style penalty scores (4.5/30) and finished 4th, so another ticket collected for the Championship Plate.
|Penny at Cirencester. Credit agc Photography
The plan for the month took a serious beating while already down when we took dearest darlingest princess Penny for yet another outing, this time to the prestigious Arab Horse Society National Show at Malvern. I spent the first two days grooming for Natalie and Mark Tindall with Darees (Spearmint x Dallua) and fellow Marcus baby PS Aurora Silk (ex Imperial Silk), who is possibly the most relaxed five-year old I have ever met. I nipped back home on the second day to get Penny ready and help Becky celebrate her 20th birthday and then back to Malvern bright and early on the final day. After a credible performance in the endurance horse to riding horse class, Penny had her first main ring experience for the Performance Horse Awards, where we collected a plethora of rosettes for the stud as well as the Farenza Cup for Best Junior Rider of 2016. It was only fair that Penny collected the award as she took the lion’s share of the points for her highly successful novice endurance season, supplemented by the boys in affiliated showjumping. After cantering around the ring one handed and standing like a rock for her sash – her third in four shows! – we had to make a quick exit for the ridden pairs with Natalie and Aurora. Penny’s little sister was beautifully behaved and initially keen to make friends with the cross princess, devastated to be taken away from her adoring public, but Penny brought her metaphorical handbag out and sent Aurora skittering away… Therefore, a suitable distance was maintained in the class as Penny truly thought Aurora was stealing her spotlight. Perhaps not the ideal pairs horse!
|Marcus – Credit Top Shots
As if that wasn’t enough, the plan was truly begging for mercy when we took Marcus and Avonbrook Green Rose (Vert Olive x Bint Zaehaebi) to Sapey Cross Country for a school around. Marcus was legendary – you could almost see him saying, ‘See? I told you I wanted to be an eventer…’ – and jumped several of the BE 90cm fences, while Becky and Rosie had a great time charging around and jumping whatever took their fancy! A couple of other riders on course also stopped us to tell us how much they loved Marcus and how lovely it was to see a classic Arabian type going out and actually *doing* things, which is what we’re all about at Avonbrook Stud. This also had the effect of boosting Marcus’ ego considerably and led to me jumping my first ever owl-hole, and his first since 2009!
I suppose we could keep hoping for a quiet month to come along, but August is so far filled with A-level results day, the last ever RASS Finals, which is also my first, and a trip to Canada to visit my best friend of 14 years for the first time since she moved there two years ago. So all in all, I don’t think that a calm month looks possible! Maybe September?
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.