Eighteen year old British Showjumper and Eventer, Katherine Bertram, shares her experiences with Arabian horses as her partners in this tough discipline. Working with homebred horses from the family stud in Worcestershire, England, Katherine is undoubtedly a talented rider and a wonderful advocate for our Arabian horses around the world.
(Emma) Tell us about yourself?
(Katherine) My name is Katherine Bertram, I'm 18 and from Worcestershire, England. As well as studying at the University of Birmingham, I compete my mother's Arabian and Part Bred horses in affiliated National Showjumping and Eventing competitions. I've grown up with Arabians all of my life and one of my proudest achievements was finishing in the top 20 of young riders for showjumping with my 50% Arabian last year with the National Schools Equestrian Association (NSEA).
I am currently competing with British Showjumping at Member's Cup level (115cm-125cm) as well as Eventing up to 100cm around British Eventing courses. I started competing my mother's Arabian stallion when I was 13 years old, and I completed my first 80km (50 mile) race ride with him before turning my attention towards more stadium focused sports.
(Emma) Who are the special Arabian and Half-Arabian horses in your life and why?
(Katherine) At Avonbrook Stud, the family's stud farm, the most special Arabian horse in my life is my mother's Arabian stallion; Marcus Aurelius. He is predominantly Crabbet, but has CMK lines through his grandsire Ben Rabba. He is the sire of the majority of the horses I compete and together we have completed 50 mile races, jumped 95cm-105cm Showjumping classes, represented my high school to Championship level, and Evented around affiliated standard courses. Despite being a stallion, Marcus has a very laid back and trainable temperament which he passes on to his offspring. It has made him an ideal junior’s horse and we have often been approached at competitions and been told how well behaved he is.
My main competition horse is one of Marcus' sons; Avonbrook Odin. Odin is a registered Part-Bred Arabian and we have predominantly competed in British Showjumping affiliated classes. We are currently competing at 115cm-125cm with consistent form in Senior Newcomers (110cm-120cm) classes, despite Odin's comparatively small height; standing at only 15.1hh. Last year, we qualified for the NSEA Advanced Final (110-115cm), where we finished in the Top 20 amongst some of the country's top young riders. During our time with the NSEA, we competed all around the country, including at Hickstead which was an unforgettable experience. Recently, we have dabbled at Eventing where, out of only two starts, we have completed both a 90cm and 100cm event, finishing with a double clear in the latter.
Also worth mentioning is Annia Aurelia, one of Marcus Aurelius' Purebred Arabian daughters, who at eight years old is holding her own in Horse of the Year Show ridden Arabian qualifiers. As a six year old, 'Penny' and I won the Regional trophy for young rider's in Endurance for her novice season before changing focus towards riding showing, with a view to Event and Showjump her in the future. I would love for her to follow in her father's footsteps and compete at the Horse of the Year Show as well as perform to a high level in multiple disciplines.
(Emma) What are your goals short term, and long term, with the Arabian horse?
(Katherine) Short term, I am hoping to be selected to represent British Showjumping Area 33 at the Academy (under 25) Championships in the Advanced Team (115cm/120cm) with Odin, which takes place at the British Showjumping National Championships. With Penny, I would be delighted to qualify for Horse of the Year Show either this year or next, and longer term I hope to affiliate with British Eventing and make my affiliated debut with her. With Marcus, I just plan to have fun and, as he's now 17, let him enjoy his later teenage years doing whatever he deems suitable. In the long term, I'm aiming to expand my 'Marcy baby' empire and find the funds to start competing Internationally in Showjumping and Eventing. In the meantime, I will continue with my studies and training with British 4* Event rider Erica Watson in order to become an established young rider and, hopefully, turn professional in due course.
(Emma) What would you say to someone your age who is thinking of making an Arabian their next horse?
(Katherine) For any young riders looking to make an Arabian their next horse, I would give the following advice:
1. Do your research. Some bloodlines are more suited to the Halter ring and others to Endurance, or to Jumping, or a multitude of other disciplines. I'd suggest figuring out what you want to do and to go from there.
2. Think about what you really want. If one wanted to get to the top of their sport as quickly as possible without thought for their equine partner, the last thing I suggest would be getting an Arabian. Horses are such amazing mirrors, especially Arabians, so they are true partners with incredible communication skills. A bond with a horse is a treasurable thing, perhaps even more so with the intelligent and ancient Arabian breed, so I have found that I climbed the levels with my partner rather than doing it alone.
3. As young people, we are faced with increasing stress from exams, career prospects, and the uncertainty of adult life. During my A-levels, I found that spending time with our Arabians was the perfect de-stresser for my exams. Therefore, I would definitely suggest the Arabian breed, not just for their incredible intelligence and talent, but also for their ability to know how to help us help ourselves.
(Emma) Parent/Guardian, what has your experience of the Arabian horse as a Youth/Family horse been? Would you encourage other families to select the breed for their children/youths and why?
(Rowena Bertram - Katherine's mother and the owner of Avonbrook Stud) There is no better teenager's horse than an Arabian. They
can take a pre-teen right from their earliest competitions through to being a truly competitive mount for an older teenager. Following the death of their (Katherine and her older sister Becky's) father, the Arabs have played equal part in raising them, and I feel no worry setting them off 'out of sight', be it at around an Endurance ride or a Cross Country course.
Congratulations to the Bertram family on their wonderful breeding program and the beautiful, athletic horses it has produced. Their program undoubtedly showcases the sporting nature of the Arabian horse, as well as their suitability as a competitive youth mount across a range of disciplines.
Good luck Katherine in all you do. We will be rooting for you and look forward to supporting you when you make your debut here in the US!
To learn more about Avonbrook Stud, visit their webpage.