{"piano":{"sandbox":"false","aid":"u28R38WdMo","rid":"R7EKS5F","offerId":"OF3HQTHR122A","offerTemplateId":"OTQ347EHGCHM"}}

Horse of a lifetime: Graham Fletcher and Buttevant Boy

Graham, who is from a disciplined north Yorkshire farming background where the ice was on the inside of the windows in a severe winter could have gone to college, university or into farming.

Instead, he went to Wembley and came fourth in the Foxhunter final. He was 16 years old and Buttevant Boy was four, and even by combining their ages, they were younger than any of the riders in the class.

Three years later, Graham Fletcher was high-octane, the Horse of the Year Show’s leading rider and selected to represent Britain in Rome and Fontainbleu the following year.

He owes the dark brown gelding his career and more. From Butt’s winnings, he added another 700 acres to his late father Ken’s 300-acre farm and Graham also named hisown first property after the horse.

Ken Fletcher spotted Buttevant Boy popping over a set of rails with his 75 year old owner while out with the Bedale hunt.”That horse jumps a bit,” Ken said economically, and later bought him for £180.

Butt, 16.3hh and by a Thoroughbred out of an unknown Irish mare, had capped hocks and only one fault, which was smashing up the temporary stables on showgrounds.

Butt went from novice to grade A in a season, and yet, for all his talent, the gelding,named after a village in Co Cork, would not have taken an onlooker’s breath away at an average show.

“He was a true professional and the best friend to have in the ring,” says Graham, who would urge him: “Come on son, we can do it.” He would then feel Butt growing in stature and is sure the horse was saying: “Okay, we’ll have a go, then.”

Graham, an Olympic silver medallist, represented Britain in 32 Nations Cup teams and partnered Butt on seven of them. His worst time abroad made him realise how brave Buttevant Boy was.

It was at Aachen, where the Brits tied with a strong German team and the fences went up for a jump-off.

“The course was so big, it murdered our team. Butt was always a careful jumper, but hit the back bar of a massive double of oxers and went on his head for seven strides. Another horse would have needed a few trips over lower courses to regain confidence, but Butt had a day off and then won the grand prix,” says Graham.

In fact, Butt won grands prix around the world, went clear in the Hickstead Derby and always won a hatful of classes at Wembley.When he was 18, he injured a tendon. Graham patched him up and instead of putting him back in work, gave him a dignified retirement “becausehe had been such a good pal”.

Butt was put down at the age of 30, while Graham went for a long, lonely walk.

“I thought the world of that horse,” he says, and adds, “only the day he died, and onions, have ever made me cry.”

You may like...