How many teenagers ever get to sit on an Olympic event horse, let alone compete one? It must be a tiny handful, but Isabel Finemore is one of them, and she knows how lucky she has been to be taught the ropes by a true star in Rutherglen.
Sixth at the Luhmühlen CCI5* with Andrew Hoy in 2012, just before representing Australia at the London Olympics, the handsome dark bay Hanoverian also completed Kentucky, Badminton, and Burghley. How, then, did he find himself on the other side of the pond, guiding a young girl to victory in her first-ever CCI2*?
Finemore explains: “I went to school in the UK and, because Andrew is from a little town in Australia where my Dad’s family is also from, I started having lessons on my event ponies with Andrew. Mum and Dad asked Andrew if he could help find a horse for me, and he said, ‘I think I have got one for you.’”
Andrew, who bought Rutherglen as a four-year-old, says: “‘Kiwi’ loved to have people around him; he was always a kind horse who liked attention. I remember my wife Steffi sitting in his field reading a book, and he’d keep wandering over to her and touching her to check she was still there.
“When I suggested to Isabel’s parents that Kiwi might be available for her, I said she needed to come and spend some time here with him and see how the partnership might develop. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but would our little ‘Formula 1 machine’ take to being a schoolmaster? And their partnership developed in such a wonderful way that I suggested that she rode him in a competition [in March 2018]. I can’t tell you how nervous I was!
“She came back from the cross-country clear and with a smile from ear to ear, and I could breathe again.”
Finemore took Rutherglen back with her to the U.S., where he has stayed for the past three years. He took her to Intermediate level and is now retired to a farm in Virginia.
“Everyone who knows him says it, but he is so loyal - to a level that I have never seen before,” says Finemore, now 18. “He was very loyal to Andrew, and then it was as if he knew when I was riding him that he had to take care of me and had to be a good boy. The better I got to know him the more this developed, and I trusted him to always take care of me.
“Now when I arrive in my car he comes running over. He knows who I am very specifically, which is an amazing feeling. He is the sweetest, most kind-hearted horse.”
But an event horse that has reached the heights that Rutherglen did with Andrew is no Pony Club pony.
“He’s an unbelievable athlete,” confirms Finemore “He was bold, strong, fast, and careful. He was the same with me, but he had such an amazing mind that he settled down and was always with me.”
He loved work and being ridden, Finemore says: “He was such a character to ride, and wanted to be ridden every day. I worked with a dressage trainer, and Andrew said the one thing he’d never done was pirouettes. One day we thought, ‘let’s give it a go’, and he was right there and did it. And cross country he was like, ‘I’ve got it, I’ve seen the distance, you just hold on.’”
Finemore is going back to England to go to university at Loughborough - 20 minutes away from Andrew and Steffi Hoy’s Leicestershire yard, where she will carry on riding. Rutherglen will stay happily retired in the U.S.
“I talk about him constantly – there’s not a conversation about horses that goes on without him being mentioned,” she admits. I feel so lucky, not only to have had a horse of that quality but to have had such a genuine connection with a horse. It’s an experience I would wish upon everybody.
“A horse of his quality comes from a good system and good training and good people when the horse is young – and that is what Andrew did for him, so I am just unbelievably grateful to Andrew. And I want to say thank you to Andrew and Steffi for trusting me with him – to say I am grateful for this experience is an understatement.”
After a one-year gap, eventers from all over are ready to gather together and engage in four days of seminars, presentations, and gatherings at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. This year’s convention begins Thursday morning at the Hyatt Regency Albuquerque Hotel and continues through the weekend.
Over 40 horses competed in the USEA Young Event Horse (YEH) 5-year-old East and West Coast Championships in 2015. The YEH East Coast Championships were held during the Dutta Corp. Fair Hill International in Elkton, Maryland, while the YEH West Coast Championships took place at Galway Downs in Temecula, California. Following 2015’s YEH finale, many of the graduating class of the 2015 USEA Young Event Horse Championships have gone on to make their mark on the upper levels of eventing.
Nicole Brown is joined by a panel of experts including top FEI veterinarian Dr. Emily Sandler-Burtness, five-star eventer Will Faudree, and professional eventer and horsemanship expert Tik Maynard to answer all of your biggest questions.
I’d like to start my Holiday Pressure Proof Tip with an excerpt from my new book Bolder Braver Brighter.
"Imagine leaning against a tree while your horse grazes happily beside you. You feel the warm sunshine and breeze on your cheek, hear the chirping of nearby birds, and smell the fragrance of the grass and wildflowers. Your horse nickers quietly and all you can think about is how lucky you are to have this horse and this sport and this life… right here, right now.