The past couple of months at Avonbrook Stud have been highly emotive and have marked significant changes in how the herd operates. At the start of April, we lost our foundation broodmare, Coca – Caveland Calypso (Winter Words x Cassie) – the mother of the ‘full brother boys’ that include Robbie (Avonbroook Silver Eagle), Prince (Avonbrook Silver Augury), and Archie (Avonbrook Beltane Silver), all by Marcus Aurelius. Coca was the mare who helped mum get into breeding. Her first foal, Storm (Avonbrook Silver Lining by Whitwell Senator), was born in 2004 and her last foal, Archie, was born in 2018. She was the most excellent mother and the undeniable lead mare of the herd, and she will be so sorely missed by us all. She spent the last few years of her life living with her beloved ‘husband’ Marcus, who was by her side when she died. Once she was gone, he gave her a sniff, a nuzzle, and was content to be led back into the barn. She will live on through her children and grandchildren, both of whom are fillies, and one is my future event horse Maddie – Avonbrook Winter Queen (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Summer Breeze).
Caveland Calypso as we remember her (c) JHemming Photography
Before we were able to turf some of the horses out onto the summer grazing, we decided that it would be wise to have another sit on Maddie and Archie before their spring break. We did a lot of long-reining with Maddie to build her confidence and listening skills, and I sat on her to give her a walk up and down the track. We haven’t introduced a saddle to Archie yet, but I have sat on him with him in a roller and bridle to get him vaguely used to the concept. He is a complete sweetheart and took it all in his stride, I don’t think it will take much work to catch him up to Maddie.
Having a sit on Avonbrook Winter Queen
Near the end of April, we did manage to get a group of horses up the road to the summer grazing, which was just as well because the mucking out was a two-person task between mum’s clinic and Becky’s job. The horses were moved, and the mucking out became manageable only the day before Becky left for London to start her new job in a West End theatre! It is almost as though we strategically planned to make the most of my sister while she was still at home… The gold star of the day had to go to Lily – Aurelie Rose (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Green Rose) – who, after a lot of lorry training, finally had the ramp close behind her for her first ever journey. She was accompanied by her mum and travelled as though she had been standing on horseboxes all her life. The field had wintered well, so the horses were bouncing through the long grass for a few days until it flattened. It was quite a sight.
The first four horses up the field having a nap
One of the horses staying at home was Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – who frankly could not have cared less about the downsizing of ‘her’ herd, especially when the promise of competitions caught her interest. I had become bored of waiting for a 70cm one-day-event to fall on a weekend, so I shrugged my shoulders and entered her for her first full event of the season, an 80cm at Swalcliffe Horse Trials. When Penny ‘gets it’, she could easily pop around a 100cm cross-country course without breaking sweat, but when she’s unsure, 70cm is an ask. Although she did require my most positive and confidence-giving riding, Penny flew around the showjumping and cross-country with a double clear inside the optimum time. Sadly, this was after a disappointing but expected dressage score of 35.75 (64.25%) when Penny tried to put me through the judge’s windshield not once but twice. However, we finished 5th in a competitive section – three of the horses in front of us were ridden by Team GB riders – and qualified for the Horse Events Championships which will be held later this year. I was delighted with Penny’s performance, even if she was a little green at times, and I can’t wait to keep campaigning her through the rest of the season.
Annia Aurelia jumping a trakhener (c) Jasmine Punter Photography
Penny may start admitting to being closely related to Sammy – Audace Encore (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Green Rose) – now that he is becoming a super little dressage horse. On his last outing, Sammy won his Novice dressage test with over 67%, expertly piloted by Sam Turner. Sammy has also been cross-country with his dad and shows a lot of scope over a fence so, who knows, he might turn into a super little event horse too!
Audace Encore learning his craft in dressage
I finally had another chance to compete for my riding club in the dressage to music qualifier. After some last minute decision making, I volunteered both Penny and Odin – Avonbrook Odin (Marcus Aurelius x April) – for the elementary section. This was perhaps slightly ambitious; neither of them had ever done a regular elementary test before and the music does add a certain amount of pressure to remain mistake free. As these music tests happen in 20×60 arenas and I ride in a 20×40 at home, each horse got one filmed run through of the floor plan in a local grass arena so I could create the music, and then one run through to the music in a friend’s surfaced arena. I burned the music onto the CDs at work because our home computer is far too old to cope, and we rocked up to the competition for some fun and some video evidence of the dancing horses. I might have been one of the few who turned up for fun. The competition was brutal, and I was swiftly reminded that there are people who specialise in dressage to music and take great pride in it as both a discipline and an art form. When I handed my CDs in, they were the only plain and unlabelled disks that weren’t clearly created by a specialist company, but I wasn’t worried, I had great faith in my music. Penny danced to West Side Story and Odin to The Lion King – we all know that my heart lies in musical theatre, but I did at least have the decency to choose well known musicals with both classic and modern film adaptations. Penny was tense after a far-too-short warm up – my fault – but remained mistake free for 67.5%. Odin was absolutely dancing but had a jog in his free walk (4.5) and changed legs instead of waiting for the simple change (1) which brought his mark right down 64.42%. However, neither horse came last, and the judge was Maria Eilberg, which I am glad I didn’t know beforehand otherwise I might have become quite nervous. I have a couple of timing issues to sort out in my music, but I am otherwise very pleased with how it all turned out.
No photos so here’s an old dressage photo of Avonbrook Odin (c) JHemming Photography
After losing Coca in April, it was doubly hard to lose our steadfast little Connemara pony Poppy – Autumn’s Child – at the end of May. Poppy completed 80km endurance rides, the highlight of which was 3rd in the National Young Rider Championships 2014 with my sister Becky. Poppy and Becky also had a great time eventing, and Poppy even took me round my first school’s showjumping competition as well as my first ever competitive endurance rides. Poppy was the pony who leapt from one rock slab to another at Mynydd Machen, who regrew several ligaments after tearing them off in a string of field injuries, and the pony who hid a broken shoulder until it was healed enough that there was little point in taking severe action. Poppy’s borrowed time finally caught up with her and I cannot thank Karen, who housed Poppy for her last few years, enough for everything she did for that pony. One of Poppy’s last actions was to break out of her stable and hoover up all of the apples that mum had taken over for her final meal. She lived and died the most loved criminal we have ever known.
Autumn’s Child and Becky a few years ago
As we head for the middle of the season, the infrequency with which I have managed to compete could be seen as disappointing. However, it means that I can truly value each competition as an opportunity to hopefully showcase the work that has been put in at home. Each run has to count and win, lose, or draw, I am determined to make them count.
Annia Aurelia opening out in between fences (c) Jasmine Punter Photography
Lead photo: Annia Aurelia making nothing of the 80cm (c) Jasmine Punter Photography
You can read more from Katherine here.
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.