In between revising and sitting all my remaining first year exams, it was quite incredible to realise just how much could be accomplished in May, the month that was.
After the birth of ‘Archie’, Avonbrook Beltane Silver (pending) (Marcus Aurelius x Caveland Calypso) at the beginning of the month, I was finally free of the restrictions that foal-watch brings. On the first bank holiday
Monday of the month, we travelled to Onley Grounds Equestrian for The Showing Register Spring Show with ‘Penny’, Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) for the ridden Arab classes, which included one of the first Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) qualifiers of the year. We entered the novice ridden class as a warm up for the big one, which Penny won in fine style – all while behaving for the judge. What I didn’t tell the judge was that he was her first ride judge and I was a little apprehensive as to how she would react to him. Luckily, she had just come back from ‘Princess School’ with my trainer and event rider Erica Watson and was, therefore, a much more correct and mannerly ride than she was a month ago. In three short weeks, my Princess Penny had completely changed in her way of going, attitude, and level of professionalism! She really does love to work and I believe she is highly appreciative of finally being taken seriously, as I’m sure she would put it! In the HOYS class, Penny gave me a very classy ride on the initial go round until a pony in the adjacent ring did its gallop right next to her, which she took offence to and dramatically flounced to a halt right in front of the judge… Understandably, we were subsequently placed at the bottom of the line, but it was good experience nonetheless.
After a few days to allow Penny to catch her breath, we took her and her half-sister ‘Rosie’, Avonbrook Green Rose (Vert Olive x Bint Zaehaebi) and mum’s ‘Robbie’, Avonbrook Silver Eagle (Marcus Aurelius x Caveland Calypso) to ACE Cross-country, where we had a play around the huge variety of fences and hazards on offer. Penny boldly negotiated many jumps, water, steps – including those into water – banks and ditches with no hesitation, which was mightily impressive for a horse that has never been asked such questions before; a true eventer for future years! Robbie and Rosie also had a great time, although Penny was a little miffed that they weren’t just there as her lackeys and admirers.
Tensions were beginning to run a little high in our usually quiet and tranquil barn of horses; the re-introduction of Penny did not go down well with Rosie who was getting quite used to the peace and quiet without the resident Princess. Penny was also displeased as none of the horses seemed to particularly care for her triumphant return, nor her stories about how her Auntie Erica took her seriously and treated her like the Princess she is. In an attempt to re-balance the stable dynamics, the ‘we hate Penny’ club leader Rosie had a special solo trip to participate in a sport that no one else had previously done: mounted games. It is very safe to say that she took to it like a duck to water and turned heads for all the right reasons as the ‘white hat band’ rider for the Black Country Flyers. Although all members of the team were just there for a bit of fun, we finished a very credible 6th after progressing to three championship heats! I think Rosie has found another string to her ever-increasing bow, and she thoroughly enjoys her new title of ‘Gymkhana Princess’.
Discontent with the focus being away from her for too long, we journeyed down to the New Forest with Penny for a showing clinic with the esteemed showing producer Stephanie Zebedee. There, I learnt a lot of Arabian-specific showing knowledge, and picked up lots of useful tips to improve both the overall picture and way of going in the show-ring. Although it was a 7½ hour round trip, it was thoroughly worth it for the advice and experience we got from it!
As an unusual break in proceedings, my sister Becky took me to London for a fan convention and, as there were a couple of actresses from Riverdale, I consented to go. While we were in London, we decided to find tickets for any West End Shows that were on and, in two nights, we watched Les Miserables and Matilda. Unfortunately for me, Les Mis involved loud gunfire close to where we were sitting and the opening song in Matilda involved balloons popping, so I was a little jumpy during these moments! Slightly depressingly, the child sat next to me during Matilda didn’t even flinch, which probably made my jumping look rather funny by comparison.
The day after returning home, Marcus and I convinced mum to let us go to Broadway XC to school around their BE (British Eventing) course. Marcus jumped incredibly around the 80cm and 90cm courses, with a few 100cm fences thrown in for good measure, and is now entered for an unafilliated one-day event there during June. Odin, who has suffered a lull in outings recently despite schooling incredibly at home, is also entered for an event in June, something that has created a very happy, if rather poor, rider! Odin did, however, go for an outing with his father around Solihull’s BE course for a school where he jumped most of the Novice fences (110cm) as well as all the 100cm fences. We’re only entered for the 100cm at the event, which used to be called Pre-Novice and was the original lowest height back in the day. Hopefully, after Solihull, Odin will be the first of Marcus’ progeny to complete the same height that was required of Marcus at his NaStA performance testing back in 2008.
May concluded with a fantastic show at the Royal Bath and West with Penny for the HOYS classes. Although it was a challenging trip down through the outskirts of Bristol and whatever Somerset thinks is acceptable as an ‘A’ road, Princess Penny came straight from her booster session at Auntie Erica’s on a mission. Floating over the mud and ignoring all the county show distractions, Penny gave both myself and the judge very grown up and smooth rides to finish 3rd in a strong class of nine. It was only later when I saw the marks did I realise that Penny and the 2nd place horse were on the same marks as the winner, who later went Reserve Champion! I was thrilled to pieces with Penny, as it was only her second ever HOYS qualifier as well as her first ever county show, and the future looks very bright for this young mare. She may very well be in the process of handing down her Princess tiara to ‘Maddie’, Avonbrook Winter Queen (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Summer Breeze), in order to make room for her Queen’s crown, but we shall have to wait and see.
With all of the competitions out of the way for this last month, we also had a chance to plan for future events, especially those with early entry closing dates! Penny is entered for a few classes at the AHS National Championships, as are Marcus and mum for the Crabbet and Golden Oldies ridden! Somewhat disappointingly, the newer ‘intermediate ridden’ class created an anomaly that has since been addressed by decreasing the permitted age for the young riders’ class from 18 (as of 1 Jan) to 17, thereby ruling me out of my last year in the class. Although I am saddened by this decision, I am at least lucky to be old enough to compete in the intermediate ridden class, where the criteria requests riders to be aged 19 or older on the first day of the show. As my 19th birthday is earlier in July, I am eligible to compete, whereas those born between 27 July and 31 December 1999 have no age class in which they are eligible, something that I imagine would be galling, especially in the Arab Horse Society’s centenary year.
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.