The Canadian equestrian world has lost a passionate supporter of horses and sport with the passing of John Rumble. He was 90.
Rumble was just 22 years old when he won a team bronze three-day eventing medal riding Cilroy alongside Jim Elder and Brian Herbinson and finished 16th individually at the 1956 Olympic Games in Stockholm. His mount was an unlikely 17.2-hand coach horse/thoroughbred cross that Harold Crang offered up when Rumble’s own horse became unsound right before the Games. “Cilroy was basically a hunter who had also been well trained in dressage by Harold’s stable manager, Fred Hughes …but he had never jumped in a horse show,” Rumble told the magazine In The Hills in a 2014 interview.
Rumble’s love of horses had begun early and he was a member of the Eglinton Pony Club from 1945-1950. He graduated from the University of Toronto with a bachelor of science degree and worked as a engineer before starting his own company, Nearwest Dynequip, which sold large mining vehicles in BC and Alberta. With his wife Judy, he moved to the United States and remained there for a number of years before the pair followed their hearts back to Canada. They bought a farm in Schomberg, just down the road from John’s close friend Jim Elder, and set out to find and develop an Olympic-potential eventing horse.
A lengthy search paid off in 2007 when they found Foxwood High, a four-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding by Rio Bronco W, bred by Hugh Graham of KingRidge Stables in King Township. Now they needed a rider.
Top Canadian eventer Selena O’Hanlon recalls the day she met Rumble.
“I was at Red Hills competition in Tallahassee and I was riding Colombo for Elaine Davies. John was there; he was friends with Elaine and he was looking for a rider for his horse Foxwood High. Elaine told him to watch me ride cross-country – I think I did really well there. Then my mom [Morag] and I went over to John’s farm and Jimmy Elder rode Woody for us and jumped him a bit. Then I got on him and he gave me a bit of a lesson.”
What was originally just supposed to be a winter in Florida turned into a long, successful partnership when the pair clicked. In 2011 they were members of the silver medal team effort at the Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, MEX, and were on the 6th-placed team at the 2014 WEG in Normandy, FRA. Rumble brought in big guns Christilot Boylen and Ian Millar to coach Selena and Woody, and in 2017 they became the first Canadian entry to win the CCI 3* Fair Hill International in Elkton, MD. Woody is now happily retired at the Rumble’s farm in Schomberg.
O’Hanlon remarked of John’s engagement with horses and riders, “He rides every step with you. He’s very involved. He was a genius in engineering, so he likes to coach everything in engineering talk, he’s always talking about foot-pounds and balance. He came to every lesson that I had with Christilot Boylen. He was very, very kind and encouraging. He loved to see young people in the sport has also helped a lot of our young riders. He lived and breathed horses.”
The Rumbles have been recognized many times for their contributions to the sport. In 2009 John was made a member of the Canadian Eventing Hall of Fame alongside his Olympic bronze medal-winning team and their horses. In 2017 the couple were honoured with the Equestrian Canada Owner of the Year Award. They were also named the first-ever Canadian owners of the United States Eventing Association Advanced Horse of the Year.
Jimmy Elder and Rumble were teammates and inseparable buddies for most of their lives. “He was my best friend for over eighty-five years; not many people can say that,” said Elder “We did a lot of things together, from living on the same street that we grew up on as four- and five-year-olds to going to Pony Club. We went to the same Blythwood public school and Upper Canada College and UofT together and even joined Delta Kappa Epselon fraternity together.”
He continued, “We went to our first Olympics together and won Canada’s first equestrian medal together. We’ve done a lot of things. The last few years we’ve been following his horse around to Badminton and several events in the US and Canada. Even this year we went to North Carolina and Bromont. We have a lot of good memories together, and when you get to our age, they are good to have.”
Rumble leaves behind his wife Judy, children Mike and Betsy, and an equestrian community which mourns his passing. Details of his funeral service will be announced at a later date.