Lara Butler retires Rubin Al Asad

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Fri, 23 Apr 2021 19:50

One of the most successful British horses of recent years, Rubin Al Asad, has been retired from competition at the age of 19 following a long and illustrious career.

Owned by the late Dr Wilfried Bechtolsheimer, his wife Ursula and daughter Laura Tomlinson, the German-born Hanoverian, known affectionately as Rufus, was partnered by Lara Butler after she started working for the family at their Gloucestershire home. The combination burst onto the scene in 2015, a year in which they made their Grand Prix debut and chalked up their first international Grand Prix wins, at Wellington CDI in Florida.

The big-moving Rubin Royal x Wanderbursch II gelding, always skilfully ridden by Lara, went on to earn an impressive CV of national and international successes. Their list of achievements include FEI Nations Cup appearances and they were reserves for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the 2017 Europeans in Gothenburg and the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon. The sport owes a debt of gratitude to the Bechtolsheimers, Laura and of course Rufus in their generosity to take on the reserve role so readily and generously.

They were also runners-up a number of times on home soil; the national Grand Prix title tantalisingly just out of reach. In 2018 however, two cracking tests at Stoneleigh put the bridesmaid status to bed, giving Lara her first entry on the National Champion roll of honour. “It has been a long time coming,” she said at the time.

Later that same year, they showed their class on an even bigger stage with sixth place at Olympia CDI-W, riding to their trademark Dire Straits freestyle. Rufus always looked at home at the iconic venue, thriving on the Christmastime atmosphere and getting better with each appearance. A year on, almost as if defying his age, Rufus and Lara upped the ante to smash the 80% barrier for a top-five spot. 

Rufus progressed to top level somewhat against the odds. Just before Lara started working for the Bechtolesheimer family, he tore a back muscle getting cast in his stable, which for a while was a worry. Fortunately, he was nonetheless able to resume training and under the tutelage of Dr Bechtolsheimer he and Lara developed into the highly competitive Grand Prix partnership that they were. Along with Andretti H, he was one of the horses to help launch Lara’s senior career.

Rufus and Lara’s final competitive appearance was at the LeMieux Grand Prix Championships at Hartpury last December. They went out on a high scoring just shy of 80% in the Freestyle. 

“It’s so hard to put it into words how amazing he’s been. It was doubtful he’d make Grand Prix due to a big injury but the Bechtolsheimers let me take him on and we taught each other. He was at the top of his game for five years and is certainly proof of what ‘Team B’ can achieve, plus Rufus joins Alf (Mistral Horjis) and Andy (Andretti H) in retiring fit, well and sound. He’s such a special horse – my first ‘proper’ horse really. He’s the first I produced to Grand Prix and always gave me so much. He’ll now do a bit of hacking – he likes ‘escorting’ the youngsters but will have plenty of field time and of course lots of bananas!”

Laura Tomlinson was a vital part of the duo’s success and competition career together, she added;  “It’s such a gift we can give horses to let them bow out in style and at the right time. Rufus and Lara we’re amazing at the National GP Championships last December and we knew it was the right time, while he’s fit and healthy. Watching the pair of them go up through the ranks was amazing and she can be very proud of what she’s achieved with him. It’ll take some adjusting; it’s an odd feeling when you stop riding the horses, you feel like something is missing from your day as they’ve been part of your routine. They had a special relationship – he was the first Lara got to Grand Prix and while it’s the end of an era, the cycle goes on, she can the knowledge he gave her into the youngsters she has coming up, her own horse Ampy [Amiek C] and of course our home bred Kristjan at Grand Prix .”