It has been another busy month for The Girl with the Jumping Arabs, from the arrival of their first foal since 2019 to Princess Penny scoring high in her first Novice dressage test.
This month at Avonbrook Stud, we celebrated the birth of our first homebred foal since 2019. Avonbrook Amadeus (Marcus Aurelius x Tilana S) was born in the early hours of 10 May, the day after the 15th birthday of another Marcy-baby, Avonbrook Silver Eagle (ex Caveland Calypso), aka Robbie. Eddie, as we’ve named him, is a very exciting young man with some excellent showjumping lines through his warmblood dam – Farn through Wolfgang, and Ramiro Z to name just three – as well as his sire’s personable attitude and bold presence. He is another ‘thinker’ and already reminds us all of our other Arab x Warmblood, Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April), but looks to become bigger and rangier than my pocket-rocket event horse. For now, I am enjoying every moment with my Eddie the Eagle as a foal. They grow up so fast, he’s already so much bigger, and I am sure it will feel like no time at all until he’s all grown up.
Cuddles with Avonbrook Amadeus – Eddie – at three days old (c) JHemming Photography
May also saw the three-time rescheduled camp at Banfield Equestrian with WEG medalist and Olympic long-listed eventer Tom McEwen finally take place. It must have been a nightmare for Tom and the team at Banfield to keep finding alternate dates but we all got there eventually, even when the original date would have been last December! I went on a solo mission in my 3.5 ton horsebox with Odin and I was glad I had booked accommodation for back when it was a Winter camp, otherwise I would have had some cold nights. My room in the house, although the smallest and cheapest, was beautifully presented and extremely comfortable. I don’t know whether that made the early alarms better or worse to be honest. The early alarms were thoroughly worth it, however, and I learnt so much from one of the kindest eventers on the planet. He seemed to really like Odie and identified him as a horse who had ‘read the manual’ and my job was to push him for 110%, especially in the dressage where some marginal gains will push us into higher marks. During our jumping sessions, Tom balanced asking for brains and bravery from both horse and rider with technical exercises at heights that, although not small, were designed to protect everyone’s confidence and let us make mistakes safely. Odin loves using his brain, so he happily delivered on every front and that allowed me to concentrate on small details in my riding. I felt as though we came away from camp feeling more confident and comfortable in our ability having been suitably put through our paces. We also came away with several new friends, such is the magic of camps at Banfield Equestrian… And a few bottles of wine!
Avonbrook Odin, and Tom McEwen’s elbow, at Banfield Equestrian. Credit Equipassion Photography
Although Odin didn’t have any events booked in for the rest of the month, that didn’t mean I couldn’t practice what I had learnt at camp. We took Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) to Solihull Riding Club for a spot of combined training in the howling wind. Despite the weather, Penny put her best foot forwards and almost scored 70% in her first ever Novice dressage test. There were plenty of improvements that I took from the test, but I was thrilled with how she started to dance and strut around the arena despite the letters starting to blow over. Shortly afterwards, we presented for the show jumping and it was only walking back to the lorry that I realised she had never been in that arena before. She was supremely unconcerned about the banners, cafe, gaps in the wall, and everything else the large indoor arena had to offer, and almost jumped a foot-perfect round. Sadly, I let Penny get a bit flat into a double of uprights and, although she barely touched the first part, the pole fell for 4 faults. Certain that this had knocked her down a good few places, I gave her a pat and mentally kicked myself for chucking away a potentially top place. I needn’t have been so hard on myself. I checked the scoreboard after untacking and saw that, even with the pole down, we were several marks ahead of the competition and posted a convincing win. I was delighted and a bit surprised when I picked up the test sheet and rosette, but Penny completely deserved that victory. She’s such a hard-working mare and it really is a privilege to work with her, even when she tests my patience with her own brand of entertainment.
Annia Aurelia knowing her worth at Solihull Riding Club. Credit JHemming Photography
Having sat on Maddie – Avonbrook Winter Queen (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Summer Breeze) – once before Christmas before chucking her and the other youngsters onto the summer grazing, I decided I should sit on her a couple more times this summer. Well, I didn’t decide anything – Maddie did. It was just as well I had brought my body protector when Jazz was doing some work with four-year old Delphi – Blue Delphinium (Shadow Blue x Bey Drachma) – because Maddie all but picked me up and threw me on to her back when she spotted her tack. We do need a shorter girth, however, as I had to sit very still not to slide off the side, always a fun game with a youngster! Maddie was most put out that Delphi has graduated to trotting under saddle, but we mollified her by having a little walk instead of my proposed ‘just stand still’. Compromises, compromises.
A quick sit on Avonbrook Winter Queen to keep her happy (c) Rowena Bertram
Meanwhile, I am deep in the throes of my Masters course and bogged down in dissertation work. At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel now and only a couple more pieces of work separate me from the finish line. With the promise of a MSc in Business and Organisational Psychology to lure me into working, productivity should be through the roof. A barn full of horses and a new foal to cuddle, however, are giving me the most wonderful distraction. Until my final hand-in, the juggling act will have to favour university work, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun along the way.
Lead photo: Eddie (the Eagle) at three weeks old. Credit JHemming Photography
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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.