Work… Horses… The Girl with the Jumping Arabs learns to juggle both.
Another quick update from Avonbrook Stud! March was completely dominated by my first full month working as a full-time academic mentor – imagine a teaching assistant but with added drama – at a semi-local high school. I could write endlessly about how funny the students are and how interesting the job is, but that would be of very little interest to anyone who only knows me through association with Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica). Luckily, I have been able to keep riding after work most days, so there are at least a few relevant moments to mention!
Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – Penny – has been my main focus this spring. She is fitter than ever and raring to go eventing. She had her first cross country outing on grass this year under the expert guidance of Tom McEwen, and she once again donned her tiara by making nothing of the bigger fences and more technical lines. When she’s training, Penny is such a capable horse who really should be out at BE90 and preparing to step up to BE100. In reality, Penny is only just fully understanding the cross country phase of eventing and has historically been more interested in the fence judge’s sandwiches than the jumps in front of her… Every event will have to count this season so hopefully it won’t take too many runs to teach her how to run cross country without climbing into judge’s cars or pulling my arms out!
Annia Aurelia at Wayfarer (c) Rowena Bertram
I am supposed to finish work at 4pm, 10 minutes after the last lesson ends. However, I rarely leave less than 20 minutes late – I blame the fact that I clearly need half an hour to tidy up my desk and my mind before committing myself to the outside world again! Usually, I arrive home just in time to get changed and race up the barn to fetch the horses in and feed. The only rule is that I’m back in the house at 7.30pm for dinner, which means I technically have the time to ride two horses each day. So far, this has not happened. I could easily be accused of spending an excessive amount of time grooming, cuddling, and just hanging out with the horses so I only take one saddle up with me and Penny’s just had to deal with not being worked every day. Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) has not complained once about a reduction in working hours which is fairly typical; he’s becoming quite the idle creature, but Penny is livid. I tell her that I need a full-time job to support her eventing habit, and she side-eyes me in return with a look that seems to say: “I was born in the wrong yard, I deserve a professional rider and my very own groom.” Sadly for Penny, she will just have to make do! She is coping admirably though; a hot air balloon recently landed in the field next door to ours and she barely batted an eyelid. Even when it snorted literal fire at her, she just stared it down and swaggered away when it deflated under her stern gaze. Quite some mare.
Annia Aurelia staring the balloon down.
Penny continued to dominate the outings as I took her to Allens Hill for our first ever 100cm combined training. The dressage was a novice test, which she warmed up like a velociraptor for. A strange comparison perhaps, but I genuinely felt like I was sitting on something prehistoric and vaguely carnivorous. The judge must have felt safe in her car because the marks weren’t as bad as I thought they might be (67.9%) and my “this is fine” acting skills during the test are clearly improving. After swapping her saddles so I at least had the security of the CWD for jumping, we quickly warmed up and went in before the jumps started looking big. I needn’t have worried; Penny was on supreme form and made absolutely nothing of the course, including a very long-striding double that she jumped so correctly into that she had to reach for the stride in the middle after landing a bit short. Penny has a very powerful jump, and she certainly wasn’t over-faced by the height of the fences. Watch this space for more higher-level outings!
Annia Aurelia in the 100cm
Despite how it may appear, Penny was not the only horse to be out competing in March. Audace Encore (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Green Rose) – Sammy – has been learning lots with his dancing partner Sam Turner. Sam and Sammy get on incredibly well and it means that I don’t have to worry about producing him alongside my main rides, so it’s beneficial for both of us. I aspire to ride like Sam so watching her work with Sammy is a real treat. Unusually for this family, Sammy loves his dressage so has had his first few outings with some incredible results. On the morning before Penny’s combined training, Sammy went to test the waters in the 60cm and 70cm classes. He grew in confidence throughout the morning and even came home with two 2nd place rosettes – Penny also came second, and it was a blue-ribbon sort of day. Sammy is such a little superstar in the making, and the sky truly is the limit with him.
Audace Encore making 70cm look rather small (c) Rowena Bertram
It has been a slow start to the season, and I have honestly had so little time to myself. Between my job, the horses, and the perhaps-too-frequent London trips – but who’s counting? I’m certainly not – I am being kept almost as busy as when I was writing my dissertation. Luckily, this feels far more sustainable and one of the perks of working in a school is that there are built-in breaks at weekends and half-term. I get a lot of responsibility for a 22-year old, which is a fantastic CV builder, and some of my colleagues are a masterclass on how to work with post-covid students. I am genuinely having a great time and hopefully I can keep the work-life balance beneficial for everyone. Watch this space!
One of the London trips, I’m not even sorry!