Oct 19, 2021

Horse Heroes: Rutherglen

USEA/ Leslie Mintz photo

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.’”

USEA/ Leslie Mintz photo.

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.

USEA/ Leslie Mintz photo.

“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.’”

USEA/ Leslie Mintz photo.

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.”

The USEA Horse Heroes series celebrates equine athletes who have contributed to the sport again and again, competing with multiple riders at the upper levels of the sport. Do you know of a horse hero who deserves recognition? Email your tips to [email protected].

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