‘A long time coming’: persistence rewarded as new British dressage champion crowned

Lara Butler and Rubin Al Asad’s patience was rewarded as the pair were crowned LeMieux National Dressage Champions after years in the bridesmaid spot.

The ever-consistent pair — reserves for the Rio 2016 Olympics, 2017 Europeans and this year’s World Equestrian Games — were also reserve champions here at the nationals in 2017 and 2013.

The combination finished second in Saturday’s grand prix, before producing a stunning freestyle to claim the title.

“It has been a long time coming, I’ve tried three or four times now and have been reserve a few times, so it’s nice to now be in the winners spot,” said Lara told the crowds during the prize-giving.

“I produced a good test so I’m really pleased that the judges were happy with me and rewarded us with the mark.

“He will now have a break and hopefully we will pick him up again for Olympia — with his age [16], we do pick and choose our shows quite carefully.”

The pair performed a technical and expressive routine music by Dire Straits, which suited the Bechtolsheimer’s big-moving bay to a tee.

Double pirouettes, a curved line of changes and passage right on the rock and roll beat were among the stand-out highlights of the test, which received a mark of 77.08% from the judges.

Lara added she felt for Gareth, who won Saturday’s grand prix with Classic Briolinca, but sadly retired in the early stages of his freestyle when the mare became unsettled.

Hayley Watson-Greaves and WG Rubins Nite’s quality freestyle resulted in the pair soaring up the leaderboard to claim the reserve champion spot.

The pair were lying in fifth overnight, but a strong performance to their ethereal soundtrack was rewarded with a score of 75.15%, which pulled them up to second place overall.

Sonnar Murray-Brown and his exciting 11-year-old Erlentanz finished third in both the grand prix and the freestyle on scored of 70.58% and 73.93% respectively.

The pair, both in their first year at grand prix, showed some breathtaking extensions to Charlotte Dujardin’s iconic How to train your dragon soundtrack.

For the full report from the LeMieux National Dressage Championships, don’t miss this week’s issue of Horse & Hound — out Thursday, 27 September.