Blue Barn, Kent, 7 January
Featuring riders Mark Butler, Tracey Neal, Kathy Bruce, Sarah Knight, Lucie Manna, Sue Bottomley, Georgia West, Lois Seymour and Maria Ayiotis 

WITH EYES firmly fixed on a grand prix goal Mark Butler has acquired Portugal-bred, Oldenburg x Lusitano 11-year-old, Bibi (no image yet available). The combination produced a 68.84% advanced medium qualifier with a near-67% PSG encore on only their third outing.

Bibi came home to Mark and Emma Butler’s training base in October and Mark boldly gave him a Keysoe High Profile Show outing in December. Mark said: “It was a big atmosphere for him. At Blue Barn today he was much more confident in the arena, more on-side and focused, so I was able to show off his highlight flying changes and half-passes. His changes are very fluent but I’m now able to play around with the expression, get them more uphill with a bigger jump and to make our half-passes as fluent as possible.

"He can be quite tricky — he’s sharp and sensitive. It means you have to be very consistent as a rider and give him clear and precise instructions, so that he knows exactly what he’s got to do. I’m trying to get his work as secure as I can at home and ride him exactly the same way out — don’t override and control my own movement — otherwise he could misread me and he will spin round given half a chance.”

Investment in the couple's Mark Butler Dressage training business at their Volente yard between Maidstone and Sittingbourne, has taken priority over acquiring or retaining potential top competition horses for Mark to compete. With a newly constructed Softrack-surfaced indoor school, buying this small tour horse has had them “searching down the back of the sofa” for every coin they could find.

Mark, who trains with Emile Faurie, explains: “From a career point of view, being on the grand prix circuit will mean a lot to me and Emma, and give our business a higher profile. Bibi has already got one-time changes, super passage and the piaffe is developing, so it’s a question of getting them grooved in, building a partnership and arena confidence.

"Because of his breeding he doesn’t have a flashy extended trot, but that’s a tiny part of a grand prix and he absolutely has the attributes to be a grand prix horse. And even in the short time we’ve had him his medium and extended trot have improved because he's using his back better. I’m personally relishing the challenge and I like the idea that I can demonstrate that I'm able to change and improve what I’ve got."

Kathy Bruce and Frydendals Delano won the medium 76 qualifier with 68.33% and they produced a respectable 64.12% advanced medium…. which would have earned two more marks if she’d learnt her test! Kathy said: “It was our third attempt at advanced medium. Last time here we got over 67% and our changes came off. It wasn’t our best day today. He was ‘clacking’ his teeth and although he was very obedient, some of the movements suffered from tension. But at least he doesn’t spook like he used to do. His sheet was mostly sevens but the final score included an error of course and his changes weren't as good as last time.”

Kathy trains with List I judge Kim Ratcliffe who holds clinics in Kent. Kathy explained: “Lano has big movement but he wants to go long rather than collect. We’ve been focusing on his canter to help his changes and now we need to work more on the trot gears.” Kathy and Lano have qualified for both the medium and medium freestyle at winter regionals and hope to compete at Merrist Wood.

Frydendals Delano is a De Noir x Matador Danish warmblood that Kathy bought from Kent-based Danish horse importer and breeder Peder Damgaard. (Peder also supplied 2016 Olympic team member Fiona Bigwood’s international GP horse Afrikka and Sharon Edwards' Pipsqueak who also went grand prix)

HOYS star achieves day’s top score...

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