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Utter Madness!

Utter Madness!

Words by Katherine Bertram

Photography unless stated by TopShot Photography. Lead Picture: Avonbrook Odin competing in the NSEA Advanced qualifier (110cm) at Rectory Farm

Our young rider Katherine Bertram continues her monthly column and shares how she has managed to juggled competing on her mother’s purebred and part-bred Arabian horses at their Avonbrook Stud (http://www.avonbrookstud.co.uk/index.html) with her A-levels. Happy 18th birthday Katherine and good luck with your results!

In a month that saw my impending A-levels of doom, many people may have dialled back the competing and general madness that having horses brings… Not this teenager!

After a quiet first weekend of revising and riding for my sanity, Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica) soon kicked off proceedings at Hartpury College as part of my school’s showjumping team for the National School’s Equestrian Association (NSEA) Novice (80cm) and Intermediate (90cm) showjumping qualifiers. As a team of three, we didn’t have the luxury of a drop score so the pressure was on me and Marcus to produce fast double clears in order to stand a chance of qualifying for one of the NSEA finals; either the main finals by being in the top two, or the ‘Championship Plate’ by placing in the top six. Two speedy double clears later and Marcus was acquiring pats on the nose from the Hartpury staff and students and even better, our little team of three had come fifth out of 16 teams and qualified for the NSEA Championship Plate to be held at Keysoe in December. Impressively, out of 82 competitors, Marcus came ninth individually in the 80cm and ninth again out of 48 competitors in the 90cm where we hadn’t managed to pull a team together.

Marcus Aurelius at Hartpury College helping Team PHHS qualify for the NSEA Championship Plate as well as individual top ten placings in both his classes. Credit MH Photography.


Avonbrook Silver Augury competing in the NSEA Advanced qualifier (110cm) at Rectory Farm

Being the ambitious teenager that I am, poor mum was driving me around in the lorry again the next day, this time with two ‘Marcy babies’; Avonbrook Odin (ex April) and ‘Prince’ or Avonbrook Silver Augury (ex Caveland Calypso) to give him his full name. We were on our way to more NSEA showjumping qualifiers at Rectory Farm, where the competition was fierce in the Open (100cm) and Advanced (110cm) classes, and my trainer, 4* event rider Erica Watson, was there with her daughter’s school team. Despite some competitive rounds, none were quite good enough for an individual placing, putting the pressure on for the next weekend which saw my last chance to qualify for the main NSEA Showjumping Championships which had so far eluded me. Erica was, however, really pleased with my progress as a rider and I think we were all surprised with Odin’s rather astonishing speed in the jump off phases of both classes!

Avonbrook Odin, second in the Advanced 110cm class at Kings Equestrian to qualify for the NSEA National Championships 2017 to be held at Addington Manor.

The next weekend brought us to Kings Equestrian Centre, which greeted us with 30 degree heat and rat-sized horseflies. Sadly, I’m also allergic to the not-so-little beasts so I spouted an attractive pair of ‘bingo wing’ arms just weeks before my high school prom! It proved worth it however when Prince finished fifth in the Advanced qualifier, securing another Championship Plate ticket, this time in the biggest and most star-studded class of the finals. The pressure was well and truly on Odin, the last in the 110cm horse section, to put in a good performance and beat his brother as well as some highly competitive ‘names’ to place in the top two. The atmosphere was electric; the indoor arena that is home to the British Arabian Championships and the British Amateur/Home-produced Arabian Championships eerily silent. What can I say? Daddy’s boy that he is, Odin excelled under the pressure and jumped into second place, meaning that we had qualified for the NSEA National Championships at Addington in October! I was beyond emotional and checked and double checked with the lovely but increasingly exasperated secretary that we had indeed qualified and it wasn’t some awful mistake. It was a real dream come true and a day that I won’t soon forget, not least because of the sore and itchy horsefly bites!

Annia Aurelia, third Midland Young Rider Final and Highest Placed purebred Arab. Credit Rowena Bertram.

It would have taken a lot to blow the boys’ grand slam double weekend out of the water, but this is exactly what ‘Princess Penny’ – Annia Aurelia (ex Bint Zaehaebi) – set out to do. Being daddy Marcy’s perfect princess, she put her best hoof forwards at the Midland Arab Group Summer Festival, qualifying for the Midland Young Rider Finals on her only attempt. After a spot of naughtiness and a wrong leg in the pre-novice, we had words before the final. Evidently, she was too taken with the dashing three-year old colts in the adjacent ring to take much notice and produced an individual show that was at times both stunning and rather cheeky. What a show off! As a young rider class, mum and I agreed that she would be placed at the bottom of the line due to her unsuitability for a child despite my seemingly successful attempts at making it all look very manageable. One can only imagine my surprise when we were called in third and Highest Purebred Arabian behind two stunning part-breds, the second of which had apparently only been backed the previous year and the winner was the epitome of a junior rider’s horse. Due to the generous sponsorship, Penny the smug princess won a rose garland – the first I’ve ever received – and took great joy in parading it in the lap of honour and on the way back to the lorry!

Of course, June was not only utter madness due to the horses; I also sat my A-levels which mostly went really well, and so begins the tense wait until results day that will decide my immediate future. As Avonbrook Stud’s resident control freak, I already have several options lined up depending on the grades I get, something that is providing both mum and me with some sense of security! As we head further into July, I will finally become the adult that I have pretended to be for a number of years and wave my truly brilliant childhood goodbye. I look forward to seeing in the adult version of myself with Marcus and his kids by my side and enjoy the last couple of months of binge-watching TV shows on Netflix and riding as many horses as physically possible before the responsibility of university or whatever path I choose takes hold.

I must thank everyone who made this utterly mad month possible, especially my long suffering mum who facilitates my ambitions, and my teachers who prepared me as well as humanly possible for the new specification A-levels! But most of all, I thank Marcus and his talented progeny, without whom I would still be running round the garden jumping over flowerpots and only pretending to be the rider that I am becoming. For them, I am truly grateful.

Avonbrook Odin training at Broadway Cross Country course on 3 June. Credit Rowena Bertram




Katherine Bertram
Katherine 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.


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