The Girl with the Jumping Arabs now balances horses with a full time job. During the tough winter months, most of the horses of Avonbrook Stud let her have a rest, but the aptly named Princess Penny refuses to give up that easily.
The good news is that I now have a job; a meaningful and varied job in which the earliest indicators are showing that I might be quite good at it. The less good news is that it is full-time, challenging, and has forced a complete shift in what I can and cannot do at home. I leave the house at 7.30am and arrive home at 5pm, except for the days when it’s 6pm. Although this shouldn’t be a problem when the days are longer, it is still tiring to finally flop down at 8pm and go to bed two hours later. I have been made fully aware that this new tiredness is called ‘adult life’ but it is taking a little bit of adjustment time so my musings and competition roundups might be short and sweet because of my newfound lack of time… And also, because the horses are not competing as much!
My freshly harrowed arena – when I had the time!
Most of my 2022 so far has been riding after work, schooling at home on the weekends, and the occasional lesson to make sure that I am still developing as a rider. Princess Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – has become my main focus. She considers herself a professional who requires work most days and has therefore become very, very fit! Many horses have what can be described as ‘a look of eagles’ about them; with Penny, it’s more of ‘a look of a velociraptor’. She has been schooling most excellently at home both on the flat and over jumping exercises and has carried this over both into lessons and competitions. Recently, we have had good form at 90cm and Penny has made nothing of the height so I am looking forward to stepping her up to 100cm in due course!
Annia Aurelia jumping at home
Back in December, Penny qualified for the British Eventing Jump Training Championships for the 80cm on her first attempt. I didn’t enter any more qualifiers, so we stayed at 80cm for the final, held in February at Solihull Riding Club. We were the second combination in, which was a bit sad for me as weekends provide my only chance to lie-in – not too late though, as I’m up the barn for 10am – so the early alarm was met with shameless self-pity. Having recently made nothing of a 90cm combined training event where the jumps needed to be much, much higher, Penny eyed the 80cm Championship course with discontent. Sadly, she eyed the judge with much the same expression, not helped by his expression when he asked what breed “he” was and I replied “Arab”. It has been a while since we have had a negative reaction to this, but Arab-skeptics are still clearly alive and well in ever-decreasing pockets. Despite one unlucky pole, Penny jumped two absolutely cracking rounds. Well, they would have been if they were watched in slow motion as there were times I think she was going too fast for the naked eye to see. This was especially apparent in the second round, but she scored higher than her first round so maybe she really was too quick to see and they just assumed she looked great? In any case, I found her quite funny and I gave her a well-deserved pat while saying some of my favourite lines such as “you can’t win them all”, “just not our day today”, and “she was making her own entertainment”. We still squeaked into the top 10 which was super, and we had an amazing morning thanks to the arrival of our friend Diane Volpe who took some amazing photographs and had breakfast with us.
Annia Aurelia at the BE Jump Training Championships
Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) has enjoyed a quieter few weeks with a couple of showjumping outings to make sure that we don’t get too ring-rusty. Odin has graciously allowed Penny to take the centre-stage and is more than happy to receive daily cuddles and carrots instead. Similarly, Marcus is always more than happy when he sees his tack appear, but he doesn’t stare at me from the field gate as I drive home from work like Penny does each day either. From the outings they have had, they have both had lots of fun and cost me hundreds in arena hire costs and fuel. Until my paycheques start rolling in the outings are few and far between, so I try to make the most of them. Odin had a marvellous time at Onley Grounds Equestrian Centre for showjumping hire, and I am learning to jump him how he likes to be jumped instead of constantly messing about with my hands and trying to get him too deep into a fence.
Avonbrook Odin out and about (c) JHemming Photography
Another star of the barn at the moment is young Sammy – Audace Encore (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Green Rose) – who is turning into quite the dressage superstar thanks to our local grand-prix dressage rider Sam Turner. Sammy adores her and I think the feeling is mutual – they have been to their first baby dressage together where Sammy won his first ever Prelim test. We are hoping that Sammy stays small so he can grow up to be an FEI dressage pony. He loves dancing and I love seeing him get stronger and more confident with every visit of his special and similarly-named friend.
Audace Encore at his first dressage competition. (c) Rowena Bertram
Although I am finding it challenging to pack everything I want to do into each day, I am learning the strategies I need and the compromises I need to accept to make it possible. I cannot go to the theatre or competing as much which makes my heart sad but my bank account very happy. I can’t ride as many in a day which means I have to exercise more regularly to not lose what little fitness I have, and I can’t go for as many lessons as I want which means I have to ride with a lot of self-awareness so I can catch my own bad habits. However, what I can do is love my horses just as much as ever and spend some time every day with them all individually for a cuddle and a carrot. I have even started to slowly back the big lad Archie – Avonbrook Beltane Silver (Marcus Aurelius x Caveland Calypso) – something that he is seeming to find good fun!
Beginning to back Avonbrook Beltane Silver (c) Rowena Bertram
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.