During August, The Girl with the Jumping Arabs had some wins, some losses, and finally graduated from her first degree – only 18 months after originally planned!
August was the culmination of a lot of hard work from the academic side of my life. I went back to Coventry to bring home the rest of my belongings and wave goodbye to a very strange Masters course, and I gave one final push on my dissertation while I was there. It was a strange feeling to finally submit my final pieces, but I was glad to see the back of them, even if it did mark the transition between student and unemployed. I also finally graduated from the University of Birmingham, where I achieved my BSc in Psychology. Despite spending the last year as a Coventry University student, my heart will always belong to University of Birmingham, and it was magical to go back with my friends and mess about on campus again.
Graduation at the University of Birmingham. (c) Tim King
It had been a while since we made the trip to Hartpury College, and it was a worthwhile trip for the SWWRC (South Wales and Western Riding Club) Championships in the Style Jumping finals. First up in the 85cm was Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica) who jumped a beautiful clear round to provide an almost unattainable score from the start. Almost. We had left the door slightly ajar with one slightly untidy jump where we were a bit far off, so Marcus put in a classic ‘magic carpet jump’. Last in the arena and the only one who could trouble Marcus’ lead was his daughter Penny – Annia Aurelia (ex. Bint Zaehaebi). The Princess had not jumped indoors at somewhere as atmospheric as Hartpury before, so I was prepared for her to be a little tense. I needn’t have worried. Penny wore the expression of a horse who had finally been allowed to a ‘real’ party with a suitably beautiful arena and pulled out a very stylish clear round to dethrone her father and take a commanding victory, four marks ahead of Marcus. To round off a fabulous day, the Worcester team that Penny was on won the Style Jumping Team competition! We came home with rosettes, a gold medal, a silver medal, a sash, and some fantastic winner’s prizes. Marcus didn’t seem to mind coming second to his daughter, and it certainly meant the journey home was quiet and the barn was peaceful that night.
Annia Aurelia winning the style jumping championship (c) Still Light Photography
After feeling back on track with Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) throughout the first half of the year, we have met some speedbumps this month. We qualified for the British Riding Club National Horse Trials Championships as individuals in the 90cm back in June with a win, but the championships went far less smoothly. We started with a broken thread in one of Odin’s stud holes, meaning that we could only put studs in his hind shoes. Poor Odie was slipping around everywhere that, although fairly unproblematic for the first two phases, meant we had some serious issues in the cross country. Our dressage was the first of the year to put us on more than 30 penalties (34.8) and we had the last fence down in the showjumping so we weren’t in the most competitive position going into the final phase. The course at Swalecliffe Park was beautifully built and had enough testing combinations to make it a fun championship course. I was excited to head to the start box, although I did have to run back across several fields to the lorry to retrieve the correct hat! We started out on a mission, meeting each fence on a forward stride and pushing away quickly towards the next. After storming through the early combinations, we met the skinny fence out of the first water on an awkward stride and slid into the bottom. As my leg was firmly on, Odin dutifully scrambled over and we galloped on to the next few fences. When we approached the next influential combination, the coffin, I steadied Odin up and he slipped a couple of strides before the first element. I tried to pick him up and get him moving forwards, but he skidded into the base of the jump for 20 penalties. No harm done, I turned a circle and he powered through the coffin and almost the rest of the course. A couple of jumps from the finish was the final water, where we met our match with the greasy conditions and slippy going. Odin skidded down the hill into the log going into the water, then again at the log coming out. Although we were only a few fences from the end of the course, I reflexively stuck my hand up to retire and called it a day. He clearly didn’t trust his footing and there was little point upsetting him just to compete for the lowest places. After a quick school around the cross country at Broadway, we were ready for our first BE100 in two years at Sapey.
Avonbrook Odin stabled at Champs.
Sapey has usually been my happy hunting ground, having won the 90cm Riding Club qualifier this year, and coming individual 3rd and team 1st in the 100cm qualifier in 2019. It felt like a good venue to get back up to 100cm, but I underestimated just how tired I was after finishing my Masters and just couldn’t bring my A-game to the competition. We had a safe but pleasant dressage for 31, which I wasn’t disappointed with because stepping back up to a BE100 test means the marks are just that little bit harder to get, and two down round a well-built showjumping track. I can’t remember the last time I jumped a triple bar in an eventing course, but my inexperience showed as we clipped the top rail of the following upright five strides afterwards. We also just tipped the front pole on the last oxer as we just got a little bit underneath it and Odin didn’t quite ‘snap up’ quickly enough. No matter, we hadn’t jumped a 100cm course in a while and there weren’t many clear rounds in this phase. When I walked the cross-country course, I was pleased with how it balanced the more technical questions in a course that was designed to help younger and more inexperienced horses come home safely. I should have been excited to get into the start box, but I didn’t. I didn’t feel particularly nervous either. I just didn’t feel anything, really. Clearly, Odin did not like this one bit. and he stopped every time I wasn’t 100% committed to a perfect stride. Sadly, I clammed up a bit after the first stop, so we entered the stopping cycle and were walking off the course by fence 8. I was gutted but Odin has very clear rules of engagement of the cross-country course and he has always required that I function at no less than 100%, so he just rolled his eyes at me on our way back to the lorry. With the season plan out of the window, we’re having a couple of 90cm runs to finish the season and my mission is to remember that it’s supposed to be fun! I cannot wait to get back out at BE100, but I have been ordered to get some energy back first.
Avonbrook Odin in the showjumping at Sapey (c) Becky Bertram
During August, we had some glorious highs and some crushing lows. I worked harder than ever before and the constant Masters’ lifestyle of working until 2am every evening clearly caught up with me. Before starting the next chapter of my life, it is time to catch up on some sleep, have some fun with some amazing horses, and prepare myself for the months ahead.
Lead photo: Marcus Aurelius at the SWWRC Championships (c) Still Light Photography
Read more from The Girl with the Jumping Arabs here.
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.