One Horse, Big Dreams: Lindsay Douglass, Butterfly Tibri Z, and an Unbreakable Bond
Ask Lindsay Douglass to describe her horse Butterfly Tibri Z, and she is more apt to show than to tell.
“You have to meet her,” she’ll say.
Never has a truer statement been spoken. While the 13-year-old Zangersheide mare may have a nickname reminiscent of an adorable small palomino pony – “Butters” – she has a personality larger than life.
The dynamic duo, who skyrocketed into the spotlight with their performances at the four- and five-star level this year, has a pretty special relationship. Lindsay is often her own groom, and at the Washington International Horse Show, she could be found plaiting Butters’ mane a few hours before jumping in her first indoor World Cup qualifier. When she stepped off her ladder, Butters rested her head on her owner’s shoulder, and her lips quivered in delight while Lindsay scratched her withers. Earlier in the day, they could be found walking the streets of downtown D.C., where Butters eagerly introduced herself to the young children participating in the morning’s “Kid’s Day” event.
“I’ve always said that her dream job would be to be in a petting zoo,” Lindsay jokes.
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Lindsay and Butters have been partnered for nearly seven years, and it’s that relationship that has brought them to the top levels of the sport. More impressive than their fifth-place finish in the $300,000 Hampton Classic Grand Prix is the fact that Butters is Lindsay’s only horse. The 25-year-old is successfully jumping 1.60m despite getting limited reps in the ring as she manages her star’s schedule.
“My Stanford [University] admission essay was called, ‘The One-Horse Girl’, because I was only allowed to have one horse,” Lindsay recalls.
She is, however, well aware that the one horse she has is a special athlete.
“I’m trying to think of any weaknesses,” she says, laughing after a pause. “The biggest, scopey-est things on course – where other horses have it down – that’s when you’ll hear a gasp from the crowd, because she’ll see it and just fly. She is good at literally everything, except walking down hills and downward transitions!”
Lindsay, an amateur rider and co-founder of the mobile barn management tool PonyApp with her now-coach Lucy Davis, graduated Stanford in 2015 with a degree in engineering. Outside of Lucy, her college best friend was Butters, whom she bought from Germany during her sophomore year. After being brought up by Vincent and Kelly Lambrecht, the mare was sent to Janne Friederike Meyer, who jumped her as a seven-year-old at Aachen.
“When I watched her video, I thought, ‘They’re really going to let me try this horse?’” Lindsay recalls. “It was the most incredible round, so you could tell she was going to be the most incredible horse.”
Butters proved herself quickly in California, taking up residence at the famed Stanford Red Barn. In her eight-year-old year, she jumped her first 1.50m classes, and at nine she made her debut in World Cup qualifying competition at Del Mar. But after that, the mare took on a more relaxed role as Lindsay focused on her studies. The duo took up trail riding and, as they got more adventurous, would ride straight up to the backyards of the houses on campus to visit friends and admirers.
“She’s super brave and is always up for an adventure,” Lindsay says. “The barn was on campus on this dried out lake so every Saturday and Sunday I would bring her on a trail ride around that lake.”
Taking time out of the ring has remained an important part of the pair’s program – albeit in a more physically demanding role.
“Now, we do a little more hardcore trail riding,” Lindsay explains. “In Wellington, we did 14 days straight without going in the ring.”
Dispelling Her Doubts
Until last year, the only thing that kept Lindsay and Butters from taking the leap to the bigger international classes was her mentality. Knowing Butters was her only horse, Lindsay felt that her worry over something happening to the mare held her back. At one point, she stepped away from the sport for an entire year, moving to Chicago to focus on developing PonyApp.
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“I didn’t really imagine that I would be jumping [1.60m],” Lindsay says, “Not because of any lacking of [Butters’] abilities, but jumping four- and five-star grands prix was just never something I thought that I could do with how much I ride.”
When she returned to the saddle, she made changes. Taking up running and triathlons, she became physically stronger. She joined Old Salem Farm, becoming Lucy’s first student upon her return stateside from Europe. She also altered her mindset.
“I’m always asking myself, ‘What if she gets hurt?’ but I kind of just decided that I would stop that,” Lindsay says. “This horse has never let me down, and she wants it. She tries so hard, and when she’s in good shape and in a good program, our results are great, too. I started thinking that it was a cop-out to not ride or not try because it could go wrong.”
Proving that the mind truly is the most powerful part of the body, Lindsay and Butters are now bringing out the very best in one another. Their four-star grand prix debut came in the Upperville Jumper Classic CSI4*, where they kept all the fences up, finishing with only a time fault; they finished 11th. At the CSI3* Ottawa International, they were the runners-up in the RBC Capital Classic. They jumped their first five-star grand prix at HITS Chicago, and they had their best day in the Hamptons.
“Lucy would say, ‘It’s going to be worth it, because you’re going to go clean at the Hampton Classic!’ and it sounded like she was saying we were going to qualify for the Olympics,” Lindsay recalls. “[I thought,] ‘It’s nice for you to say that, but there’s no way that would ever happen.’ As she kept saying it, that just became the goal. The Hamptons went better than I could have ever imagined!”
Lindsay remains a one-horse girl, and Butters seems quite happy to have her rider all to herself. It only takes a quick visit to the barn to understand.
“In the last eight months I’ve really, to myself, thought, ‘She’s really fighting for me,’” Lindsay says. “I feel really good about doing it with just her, because I know it says a lot about both of our talent and our relationship. It’s been amazing.”
All photos by Sportfot.