As the year passed its half-way mark, Katherine Bertram of Avonbrook Stud found several reasons to celebrate – most notably graduating from the University of Birmingham.
Despite still wearing my university hoodies on a near daily basis I am no longer a student at Birmingham, which had become my “home away from home” for the past three years. Although my time at university did not end conventionally, I was delighted to receive a strong 2:1 degree class with honours in Psychology. I am now free from 17 years of education, but I am determined to make it a round 18 years with one more year for a Masters degree, although the exact location and specialisation is as yet unknown. There were some interesting moments these past three years while juggling assignments and competitions, but I had an incredible time throughout my degree and enjoyed the whole experience; challenging or not.
Avonbrook Odin helping me celebrate my degree. J Hemming Photography
Newly turned 19-year-old stallion Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica) has had a good first half of the year with the arrival of visiting mares for stud season. This is the first year we have had mares visit for junior stallion Sammy – Audace Encore (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Green Rose) but the ever-wise Marcus has so far coped with the new developments without worry – it is still his kingdom after all! Although I never count foals until they have safely arrived, 2021 might just include some exciting arrivals for both us and outside mare owners. Of course, visiting mares always means a reduction in numbers at the barn but I suspect our elected horses have enjoyed spending a couple of weeks at grass. Even I conceded that it’s not like I’m missing a busy competition season or trying to campaign a horse from the field so it hasn’t been an issue to give the horses an easier summer this year.
Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – schooling on the summer grazing. Rowena Bertram photo
One of our early homebreds, Breeze – vonbrook Summer Breeze (Arrow Javelin (connemara) x Caveland Calypso) has come back for a third time after producing both Ellie (Avonbrook Midsummer Dream) and Maddie (Avonbrook Winter Queen), both by Marcus. This time, however, she has come for Sammy and is accompanied by her eldest daughter for backing and breaking. Ellie is now five-years-old and has done a lot of groundwork but hadn’t been sat up on until she arrived. Typically for this family, she took to being ridden like a duck to water and now that we are flying solo instead of being led around, she is reaching milestone after milestone in quick succession. We are taking things slowly with Ellie, particularly given how little point there is rushing her in a year like this. She’s a fantastic little mare with a big stride and an even bigger future, and an absolute joy to sit on.
Avonbrook Midsummer Dream being sat on at home. Rowena Bertram photo
Sammy has learnt a lot through lockdown, specifically since I was able to ride him again after my injury and subsequent surgery. We initially focused on his flatwork and then progressed to jumping where he particularly demonstrates his early talent. We are very excited about Sammy, he has his granny Holly’s (Bint Zaehaebi) movement, working in a beautiful uphill frame effortlessly, and flicky show pony toes in trot that feels like heaven to sit on. When we started jumping him, we kept the heights small but the exercises engaging to keep his confidence high. After some practice at home, a space became available at a local cross country course to take him for some practice over solid and natural obstacles. We jumped strings of little fences, splashed through water, climbed banks and steps, and jumped ditches without any issues. I am very confident in one of his future careers as an endurance horse. Much like his dad, he’s a real “thinker” and, if he was initially unsure of a question (like jumping down a step), he would have a think then calmly get on with it. It is qualities like these that I find so important in a competition horse and hope to breed into both pure and part bred Arabs for high level competitions. There is a morbid confidence in knowing that your horse won’t unwittingly or intentionally put you in any danger, and it’s a confidence I feel when riding this family of special individuals.
Audace Encore schooling at Ace Cross Country. Rowena Bertram photo
I would be lying if I said that my confidence hadn’t taken a knock after my accident – despite it not having anything to do with the jump itself. It was a freak fall that just happened to occur shortly after jumping a solid obstacle on a forward stride. Somewhat ironically, my degree has taught me that events bonded in time and space are easily associated and difficult to break. I took Avonbrook Odin for our first ‘proper’ cross-country school since September during June, and I was glad to have my friend Jazz come and point out that the ‘big’ fences I was nervous of jumping were nothing to Odin. We had a really good afternoon and I got a large bit of my confidence back jumping some larger solid fences with the horse that has taken me round the biggest courses I have jumped to date. Even in a barn full of one in a million horses, Odin manages to stand out as a horse I can always count on.
Avonbrook Odin rebuilding my confidence cross-country. J Hemming Photography
Lead photo: Avonbrook Odin jumping at Lincomb Cross Country. J Hemming 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.