FORMER Olympic rider and coach Heath Ryan has remembered Upper Hunter legend Bridget ‘‘Bud’’ Hyem as a pioneer, innovator and wonderful enthusiast for equestrian.
Hyem, the first female Australian rider to compete at an Olympic Games, died on Monday aged 81 at Tamworth.
Raised at her family’s farm at Kayuga, near Muswellbrook, Hyem (nee Macintyre) went on to ride at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, where she finished 24th in the individual showjumping and seventh as part of the Australian teams line-up.
It was 20 years before another Australian woman rode at an Olympics.
But Hyem made an even greater mark as an owner and breeder.
She bred two of Australia’s most successful Olympic horses, gold medallists Kibah Tic-Toc and Kibah Sandstone.
The half-brothers were both ridden by the the Hunter’s Matt Ryan, Heath’s younger brother.
Tic-Toc won double gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and Sandstone claimed gold in the teams event at Sydney 2000.
Heath said Hyem’s ingenuity was crucial in the breakthrough wins.
‘‘She was really, really tough, and she had to be.’’– HEATH RYAN
‘‘She was a standout character and leader, there’s no doubt about that, but she was also an innovator,’’ Ryan said.
‘‘She was one of the first people to use the Australian thoroughbred crossed with warmbloods [middle-weight horse breeds primarily originating in Europe], and Kibah Tic Toc came from that.
‘‘She would do things other people would not do. She was a wonderful enthusiast as well, so it’s really sad she has gone.’’
Ryan also remembered Hyem, who married fellow Olympic showjumper Bill Hyem at the Tokyo Games before settling in Gunnedah, as a resilient and giving figure in the industry.
‘‘Her husband died early in the piece and she ran the property, which was not a possibility in those days, that a lady would run a property, but she did,’’ he said. ‘‘She was really, really tough, and she had to be.
‘‘She also kicked back into the sport by organising a one-day event at her property, Kibah.
‘‘It was a very serious contribution to riding enthusiasts, and all grades were represented.
‘‘She was involved with nurturing beginners right through to horses that would go on to the Olympics.’’
Her path to Olympic glory started at age nine. She was with her father on the family farm when a cattle drover passed by the back fence.
‘‘Dad wandered over to the fence to talk to the drover and he saw this nice black mare with a few white socks,’’ Hyem recalled in a 2001 interview.
‘‘He was looking for a horse at the time to do stock work on ... he said to the drover, ‘Oh, I like the look of that mare. Is she for sale?’ The drover sold the mare on the spot.
‘‘[Dad] forked two pounds out of his pocket and got me to take the mare back home.
‘‘Taking a liking to that mare was just an absolute fluke ... especially when we bred this wonderful line of horses from her.’’
Equestrian Australia chairman Warwick Vale described Hyem as a pioneer of the sport.
‘‘She will be remembered for her achievements as both a rider and a breeder,’’ he said.
‘‘As a rider Bud was at the forefront of the sport and ... as the breeder of Kibah Tic-Toc and Kibah Sandstone, Bud played a hand in some of Australia’s greatest equestrian triumphs. It is a rare and remarkable accomplishment that will long be remembered.’’